Monday, July 15, 2019

Family Reunion 2019

We have just returned from a wonderful family reunion with my husband's side of the family. It was great to see everyone. My sister in law hosted the entire family at her home. Wow, she is an awesome hostess. We did tons of fun events. We ended up taking Faith (Dean's) girlfriend at the last minute because of a family crisis going on in her family. She just needed a break and to be away from all of that. It was a bit more work for me to chaperone and keep line of site 24/7, but we were delighted to have her along. She fits so well into our family. I can't believe that Dean and Faith have been courting for 2 years already.

We went on a beautiful hike.

We went rafting down the James river on a party float that had to be towed by the uncles in kayaks occasionally when the wind and current was strong enough to move us along.

We spent a few lovely hours at the Science Museum in Richmond. The highlight was the Pompeii exhibit. This traveling exhibit is amazing. I strongly recommend going to see it if it comes near you.

bread from was excavated from the site.
We had so many marvelous meals both at home and in restaurants. The conversations were wonderful too.
Oh, the desserts were to die for. My poor diet. 
When the reunion was over, we decided to travel a few hours further north to see my stepmother and take Faith around Washington, D.C. She had never seen D.C. before and it was so exciting for her. It was fun rediscovering my home town through her eyes. We started with a morning at the zoo.

The pandas slept through our visit, but were great to see anyway.

Then we walked around the Vietnam memorial and the Lincoln memorial. We wrapped up our tour by driving by as many of the sites as we could.

Lastly, we attended the ballet, Swan Lake at Wolf Trap. It was performed by the American Ballet Theater. We hoped to see Misty Copeland, but she wasn't performing that night. It was absolutely fantastic anyway. We had seats in the orchestra. AMAZING! 

We had a lovely trip and are now home for awhile.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Our Attempt to Improve a Chartreuse Bathroom

We have a 1950's home which came with a chartreuse bathroom, a color we despise. Unfortunately, it goes all the way around our tiny 4 foot by 6 foot bathroom. There has been no money in the budget to replace the tile, so we have struggled to change the appearance of the tile as best we could. In the past few years, we have painted the walls different colors, but it has never been satisfactory. This time, we decided to embrace green and white which seems to make the chartreuse less glaring. We had a budget of  $100 for this makeover. Fortunately, this makeover coincided with my birthday, and my mother was happy to buy the rug and new lighting fixture as my birthday gifts. Their costs were not counted in my budget.

Before pictures ~ The walls were a blue gray and very dreary. The mirror and light fixture were old, rusting and about to fall off the wall. The hinges on the door were also rusted out, and the door wouldn't completely close anymore without slamming it.

We replaced the door hinges and shaved the door down. Then my husband painted the bathroom walls and ceiling in Behr Ultra Pure White high gloss paint. That immediately made the room less dreary. 

We then added a white shower curtain. It has a nice textured pattern on it, which gives it a bit of class. We still need to paint the window frame...hopefully, that will happen before the summer is done.

We also added two mirrors. The mirror over the sink came from a local thrift store and the mirror on the opposite wall came from TJ Maxx.

We changed out the old switch plate cover with a festive llama switch plate cover my mother got us. It goes with the rug she also gave me.

She also gave us a new light fixture, which really pulls the room together.

Here is the view from the bathtub.

Another view from the doorway.

Cost for our bathroom update ~
Paint and supplies $30
New Mirrors $50
Hinges $10
Shower curtain $18

My mom bought the switch plate cover, rug and light fixture, which were probably another $100 (she won't say). So we updated our bathroom for about $200. It is still simple and tiny, but we are very pleased with a space that feels so much cleaner and less chartreuse!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 5, 2019

Teens and Work Life

Anne has been in the workforce two mornings a week for just over six months now. She still loves her job at the consignment shop and hopes to stay there for years to come. The women are lovely, and they all have a great time working and laughing together. It is a perfect fit. Anne's current main job is organization of the store. She dresses the windows, dresses the mannequins, pulls clearance clothes from the racks, keeps all areas of the store organized and "pretty". She also tags clothes, but they quickly figured out that she is an organizing genius and patient with untangling messes. It is now her job to keep the hundreds and hundreds of empty hangers untangled, in order by style and size and ready for use. She also has the assignment of repairing American Girl Dolls that come in damaged. She has removed their heads and restrung their limbs, done lots of hair repair and generally cleans them up for sale. She is in her element and can't wait to get to work each day!

She has picked up a few tiny odd jobs here and there. Recently, she was asked to be a one day substitute counselor at a ballet camp for 3 and 4 year old kids. She agreed, even though she has very limited experience in child care and doesn't particularly enjoy working with very young children. As she left for work that morning, she told me that she hoped they were all potty-trained. I told her I would be more concerned with any of them being biters. The look of horror on her face was priceless. I almost laughed -- but I didn't. As it turned out, indeed one child was a biter. This child also threw many tantrums, spit, kicked and generally caused tons of disruption. The teacher of the class put Anne in charge of this particular child as a one-on-one. During one of the little girl's 10 minute tantrums, Anne was holding her and said to her, "how are we going to get you calmed down?" The little girl instantly stopped crying and licked Anne several times. Despite all that, Anne said she would be happy to go back and sub again. That is my brave girl!

Dean has been a camp counselor at two different camps this summer. He has struggled with co-worker relationships and much else that I spoke about in the previous blog post, but he has pushed on and completed what he set out to do. He enjoyed the second camp much more. It was new and filled with new games to teach. The second camp was all about monks during Medieval times. He liked all of the history teaching and large variety of activities. He did struggle with changing up his approach to counseling. At the first camp, the counselors were expected to use more drill sergeant approaches to encouraging kids. It was a much more pull yourself up by the boot straps kind of environment. The second camp required a much more gentle, loving and encouraging style of counseling. Dean made the adjustments necessary and ended up enjoying himself. He has expressed being exhausted and has a desire to just be at home for a while. Four weeks of working seven hour days was a hard transition into the workforce for him, but he did it! I am proud of him. He will do a bit of counseling in August, but can rest for now.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, June 29, 2019

An End of an Era? Dean's Camp Years

2019 -- Dean is running a game and the fog machine.
Dean wrapped up three weeks of camp counseling on Friday. This theater and stage combat camp has been a part of Dean's life for eight years now. He has looked forward to it every year. He started as a young camper in 2012 and rose through the ranks to junior counselor last year and full camp counselor this year. This feels like an end of an era to me, as I suspect that this was his last year. He found the camp a bit boring this year and very repetitive from years past. They basically change the theme each year, but the games and activities stay the same. That has never mattered before, but this year he felt bored and like there wasn't enough work to do to keep him busy. The camp was different this year because there were too many junior counselors to the amount of campers. In addition, one counselor whom Dean has had issues with for many years was very controlling and grabbed the lion's share of the jobs. That counselor was very bossy and did not share responsibilities. This person got very emotional if  Dean or other counselors tried to negotiate more jobs for themselves. So Dean felt like he was standing on the sidelines at times.

The camp has a different theme each year, such as pirates, Greek warriors, Mayans, and Vikings. This year the camp's theme was Japanese Samurai. Dean taught/guided campers through woodworking, painting models, and playing many games that involve stealth, patience and teamwork. He also just generally helped the campers with their issues, working on costumes and keeping them safe.
On the Friday of each week of camp, they headed for the camp owner's home, where they put all that they had learned into action. This was by far Dean's favorite day each week. They spent hours out in the woods playing all kinds of games. Then they walked a mile or so back to the owner's house and cooked meat over open fires and had a huge feast. Lastly, they had lots of swimming time in the owner's pool. But this year, Dean did not even take his bathing suit and just sat poolside as a lifeguard or ran other games in the backyard. (It is a small pool that you can see in the pirate photo below.) 
This year was a very emotionally exhausting camp experience for Dean. Due to the tension between counselors, the lack of work and the repetitiveness of the activities, he wanted to quit in the middle of the second week. A pep talk and reminder of the importance of completing what you set out to do did the the trick and he finished that week. By the Tuesday of the third week, however, he was insisting on calling in sick. He said he wouldn't be missed since there were plenty of counselors and a smaller amount of campers then the previous weeks. Again, I reminded him of the importance of completing commitments and how helpful a recommendation letter for future jobs would be. Unfortunately, this camp does not pay its counselors. Even the 20 year old adult wasn't paid for his help. Dean was struggling to see the long-term benefits of a recommendation letter and was frustrated with the lack of pay or reward for his time. I thought about what I could do to propel him on with a positive attitude through the last three days and decided to pay him in a gift for his perseverance once he completed the job. Now, some may see this as a bribe, but I don't. Dean has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and this population struggles to see into their future and understand the benefits and consequences of current actions on the future. Dean is very high functioning and understands the impact he is having on the world more than many with this diagnosis, but he needed some motivation and a concrete reward for his work. The promise of a $40 gift and lots of compliments about how I was proud of him for pushing on and completing his commitment did the trick, and he finished out the week successfully. I am sure no one else at camp even knew how unhappy he was with how it went this year.
I am so grateful for the experiences this camp has provided through the last eight years. He has learned about acting and stage combat, how to make metal swords, woodworking, teamwork, different art types and cultures, a few other alphabets from different languages, independence, responsibility, rope climbing and so much more. As a counselor, he has learned about putting others before himself, leadership, showing kindness to scared/upset campers, teaching activities and games to new campers in bite-size chunks, encouraging others and working with difficult co-workers. These are all invaluable skills that will serve him well in the future. It will even serve him next week when he goes off to be a camp counselor at a different day camp that is new to him.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Field Trips Galore

We are having a lovely summer so far. Dean has been busy being a camp counselor for the past two weeks. He has one more week to go at his current camp. He is doing well but is so exhausted each night that he can barely do anything but his pet care chore. He did not participate in all of our field trips, because he was at camp or was too tired to go along at night. We also had Grandma Sue in town for the week, so we did lots of sightseeing kinds of things.

A Puzzle Walk ~ We discovered a website that had puzzle walks for our city. It is kind of like a scavenger hunt. We purchased and downloaded the link. The link would last on my phone for three days and led us on a walk around the downtown of our city. There were three walks to pick from and we picked the ghost walk. At each stop we had to solve a puzzle before getting directions to the next location. We were also told a bit of history at each stop. I really thought I knew tons about our downtown, especially about ghost stories, since that is a common interest in our family. But I learned more ghost stories and more details about the ones I already knew. We even learned a bit of Latin while interpreting our city's motto. It was definitely a fun evening, and we will do another one if I can get another discount code. It was a bit pricey for our family at full price.

Levo Oculos Veos In Montes ~  I lift my eyes to the mountains

Greenville Zoo ~ We also had a lovely few hours at the zoo in a nearby city. The zoo was small but had giraffes, so it was absolutely delightful to me. I love giraffes. There were tons of storms racing through the area so the zoo was almost empty. It didn't rain while we were there, and we were blessed with the place almost to ourselves. Dean did get to go along on this trip, because it was on the weekend.
My girl has the wingspan of a turkey vulture.

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The giraffes were so close!

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Timothy loved the giant tortoise in the background. He has always loved turtles.

A Salt Cave ~ We visited the man-made salt cave in our city this week, while my stepmother was getting a massage. There were no pictures allowed, but I got a stock photo off the web. We were led into the salt cave where there was soft music playing and comfortable chairs and blankets. We went to a public session and almost every seat was filled, but everyone there was calm and whispering.  Anne and I fell asleep during our 45 minute session. It was that relaxing. The salt is supposed to help with allergies and increase general health. In 45 minutes you are supposed to get the benefits of breathing four days of sea air at the ocean. I don't know how beneficial it truly was for us since neither of us were suffering, but it sure was a nice nap and a new experience.
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Father's Day ~ My dear husband was sick on Father's Day and spent most of the day in bed.  We got him all kinds of barbecuing stuff which he has been delightedly using this week. We decided to climb a mountain while he rested and lay part of my Father's ashes to rest. He loved the mountains so much that my stepmother wanted a portion of his ashes left here. We picked the Rattlesnake Lodge trail because it sounded adventurous, had lots of history and was picture perfect. My father loved history and was very adventurous. He was also a professional photographer so picture perfect was a dream come true for him. The trail proved to be much more strenuous than we thought it would be and my stepmother and I needed some encouragement from my mountain goat children to keep climbing to the ruins. We made it and it was worth the sweaty, stumbling hike.
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With my stepmother being in town, we ate out a few times, played miniature golf and wandered through several thrift stores. It was a super fun staycation week. Now I need a rest!

Blessings, Dawn