Friday, March 27, 2020

Stay Home, Stay Safe...Counting Blessings

I am writing a counting blessings post this week. With all that is going on in the world, it is important to find the silver linings in this dark cloud. This certainly is a time of worry. I am trying to stay positive, and counting blessings is always one of the best ways to see all that is good even when there is so much bad.
Everyone needs a cute cat picture!
We are now under a Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate in our state. It has really struck me how very blessed we are in our family that we are safe at home. Everyone gets along peacefully, and there is no fear that harm will come to us from each other. There are so many families riddled with violence that place children and adults in physical and emotional danger every day in their homes. My heart goes out to all of them!

The roads are increasingly empty in our city. I am taking this opportunity to encourage Anne to drive more. She really doesn't like driving at all, so far, and really would like to stay in parking lots for forever (her words). We even drove in the rain one day this week. We practiced social distancing and didn't get out of the car. Now we are under the Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate, she can only drive if she is driving us to the grocery store. I am glad I had her do a bit of driving on actual roads so she will be more comfortable getting us the three or four miles to a store. Of course, we don't need to go to a store for several weeks, so she won't get to drive much anyway.

Dear husband is still at work. All hospital employees are essential. He did have to do lots of training of a new employee this week and one staff member was sent home with Covid-19 symptoms over the weekend. He is done training the new person and is blessed that next week he can spend most of his time in his office and hopefully won't have much close contact with other people. For the most part, all outpatient appointments have been cancelled and rescheduled for June. The Veterans Hospital is a bit of a ghost town, which keeps him safer.

I am really enjoying having time to cook. I always have made many if not most of our meals from scratch, but I was always rushing. Now, I actually have time to cook what I want. Cooking is enjoyable again instead of being a chore.
Veggie beef soup and biscuits

Chicken pot pie

Breakfast for dinner
We also accomplished a goal we have had for a long time. We got a floor laid down in the back shed. It is now a dance and gym room. The guys are putting weights back there and Anne put her dance bar on one side. Now she can kick and leap without hitting the ceiling in our main house. Everyone took turns learning the skills required to lay a stick and paste floor.

Anne's homeschool spring formal for late April was cancelled, and we do not know yet what will happen about Dean's graduation party. We received his cap and gown in the mail this week. Since we had such lovely outfits ready and nowhere to go, we decided to have a photo shoot under the cherry blossoms.

Lastly, we are moving right along with schooling. It is amazing how much you get done when you have nowhere to go. Dean completed Industrial Arts this week. His last project was making a coin sorter.

I hope all of you are healthy and finding peace and safety in this difficult situation.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 20, 2020

Finding Our New Normal

Sunday night brought the first wave of coronavirus cancellations into our lives. All of the kids' out-of-the-home classes have stopped. Anne's performances for the next few weeks have been postponed. Anne also was laid off from her job on Tuesday. My husband works in a hospital so his job is secure, and he is still going to work every day. We are adjusting to our new normal. There are lots of feelings of anxiety and stress associated with this disease. However, we are making the most of our time at home together. I am trying to have one planned "special" event each day. Many of the events are super simple, such as a movie, craft or board game. We are thinking of trying to play every board game we own, if social distancing goes on for a long time. We also have an extended chore time and outdoor time in our yard each day. I am rationing the special foods like chips and dessert.

Highlights from our week ~

Anne has wanted to learn how to sew on a sewing machine for a long time. She has pulled out the sewing machine and learned how to load bobbins, how to work the machine and made a tank top for a dance costume out of a pillowcase. She also made a wraparound skirt out of another pillowcase. We plan on exploring other sewing projects in the coming weeks.

The guys are missing their physical classes. I went out and bought them some axes so that they can chop down all of the weedy trees that are invading our backyard. They are pretty happy with the project.

We had a wonderful time with our Yum Yum subscriptionbox this week, which featured snack foods from Brazil. We made a real event out of it and watched a few documentaries about Brazil on YouTube.

Dean finished three workbooks this week. He only had a few lessons left in Geography Volume I. We have all three volumes and he has jumped around it, depending on the country or region that he was studying. He was close to being done with Volume I and decided to just wrap it up this week. He also finished Reading Detective RX

We also watched more movies than usual. We watched a three DVD set of Poirot stories, The Chicago Musical (that was a racy show...yikes), and a host of nature and earth documentaries. Math is going at a much faster pace, now that Anne and Dad can sit down together every night.
Here is a bit of cuteness for you.
I pray that you all remain safe and sound. We are hunkering down for now. We don't have to leave the house for weeks if it comes to that. We want to take the best of care of our adult son Tim. He is considered to be in a very high risk group for this pandemic.

Lastly, our dog is holding steady. We hope the steroids continue to make his life pleasant for a good long time.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 13, 2020

Facing the Unknown

I am sure we are all wondering what the coming weeks will bring with the Coronvirus  rearing it's awful head. It is always hard facing the unknown. Of course, none of us can look into the future on any given day. However, we are used to most of our days and weeks going somewhat to our plans. Now we just don't have any idea what the next week will bring. This is especially hard for kids. My kids love routine and right now their out-of-the- home routines are very much in jeopardy. We have a very, very full spring schedule this year. There are two productions with five shows in the next two weeks, sign language classes, Belegarth classes, appointments, concert tickets, relatives who planned to visit, birthdays and so much more. Will any and all of it be cancelled? As of today, nothing has been cancelled yet in our city, but I think that is just a matter of days. There is certainly lots of talk going on in all of our life circles. Oh, and the stores....they are mad houses! People are going crazy over toilet paper, of all things. Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes are long gone. We also have an unrelated concern that is causing much uncertainty in our lives right now. Our sweet Boomer (dog) is struggling with the cancer that is riddling his body right now. He is too old to survive treatment, and we are providing palliative care (steroids) to make his final days comfortable and enjoyable. We do not know if he has weeks or months left. With the steroids, he is eating again and appears much happier and more comfortable. How long will the steroids help is completely unknown. So how are we coping with all of this unknown territory?

We are working to remain calm and keep our at-home routines stable. I am also actively thinking and planning at-home events to give us a sense of normalcy and fun if we find ourselves quarantined or without any out-of-the-home activities. I went ahead and bought birthday cake mixes for our family's three April birthdays, plus Easter candy in case we find ourselves homebound. We are adequately stocked with food. It is really all we can do. I am concerned for our son with cardiac and lung issues. He is at especially high risk so we are not taking this lightly. As for our sweet doggie -- we are enjoying him and spoiling him rotten. We thought there was going to be lots of stretching for our family this spring. We didn't think it was going to be in the way of death and disease. :-(

Highlights in Homeschool ~ School is going fairly well. Our latest Misfit Box  of vegetables came. Dean gets so excited about the fruits and vegetables each time. He is really enjoying learning to cook with different fruits and vegetables. This week, he learned how to use the food processor and made rainbow coleslaw.

This is just one of about four layers of lovely organic produce.

Dean finished U.S. History II this week. He really loved the last book he used in his history course. The book, Terrible But True Awful Events In American History, was a perfect wrap- up of American history for my teen. He found all of the "mistakes" and disasters were fascinating. He also completed another math workbook, Budget Math, by Remedia Publications.

Anne is dancing as much as she can right now. We don't know how soon her classes and shows will be cancelled. She is working hard to learn the different parts of her Grade 6 Cecchetti exam that she hopes to take in June.

Anne got stuck in Geometry several times in the last few weeks. She finally made it through the unit that was killing her. Hopefully, the next unit will be easier. She has just three units to go to wrap up math for the year.

Both teens did a unit study on The Old Man and The Sea this week. We read large excerpts from the book and then watched the movie from 1990. We also watched a documentary on Earnest Hemingway. It was an enjoyable study and just low key enough for us this week.

We shall see what next week brings. I suspect that Tim will be home with us much more in the coming weeks. His day program hasn't closed yet, but they have cancelled all field trips, volunteer opportunities and visitors. They will be doing mostly crafts, in-house movies and hanging out in the gym.  It sounds like it will probably feel like a glorified day care (Tim's words) in the coming weeks. Tim thinks he would rather be at home avoiding illness and enjoying family. I am fine with that for now.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 6, 2020

Stretching and Growing

We have had an amazing last couple weeks. A week ago last Thursday Anne and I took off with 13 other teens and their dance teachers to attend the NC Dance Festival at The North Carolina School of the Arts. It was an incredible experience for all. The girls were challenged with eight classes that exposed them to a diverse palette of dance. The girls were divided into three different leveled groups which kept the chaperones hopping, getting everyone where they needed to go. The girls got to take classes in jazz, several ballet classes, musical theater, contemporary, pointe and character dance. Anne loved the jazz and musical theater classes the most. Each girl also had the opportunity to go through an official audition for the upcoming summer camp 5 week intensive. Anne took the ballet audition with the understanding that she would not be able to attend camp, even if she is selected. It is way out of our price range, and she can't leave her part-time job for that long. However, it was  a great experience to go through an audition.
Anne and her friend L were in the most advanced level for which our dance studio participants qualified.

Our whole group in the lobby of the hotel.
To keep costs down, we decided to stay in two hotel suites, which meant two chaperones and seven girls in each suite. We had three sleeping on the floor in each room. It was super crowded, but everyone got along great. We also brought our own food for dinner and lunch. The kids had sandwiches, fruit and juice boxes for lunch. For the dinners, we used a slow cooker to make loaded baked potatoes,spaghetti and a variety of sauces plus salad, and pizza on the last night. We made as much food at home as we could and warmed it up in slow cookers in the hotel room. 
Ballet Tech class

Jazz Improv class

My Leaping Daughter

We also had the delight of seeing two performances. We especially loved the winter showcase put on by the college. It was fun getting all dressed up and going into the city to a beautiful theater. It was a long and exhausting weekend...but so amazing. It was totally worth the long hours and lack of sleep. 

We got home after midnight on Sunday (Monday morning). My husband and boys did great on their all guy weekend. They followed the schedule and menu plan that I left them. They also had a wonderful time going to Target and buying all the snacks of their dreams! We spent Monday through Wednesday trying to chase off illness and doing a bit of school. I also went out to dinner with a friend who I haven't been out with in years. It was a lovely adult night.
My amazing dinner out
By the time Thursday rolled around, it was time for my sons and husband to head out for a long weekend in a neighboring state at a Belegarth competition. They are having a wonderful time sword fighting (with foam weapons), camping, cooking over open fires and generally being guys. Thanks to cell phones, I can keep in touch with them. The weather is a bit rough, so I have encouraged them to go to a hotel tonight since it might snow. But they haven't decided to "wimp out" yet. If they stay in the field overnight, they first will go to Walmart and get an extra sleeping bag or two to use as comforters over their existing sleeping bags. I hope they continue to have a great time. 


Their tents

There are moments in life when we get to stretch and grow a great deal in a short amount of time. This is one of those weeks. We are so blessed.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thrifty Thursday ~ Reduce Food Waste

One way we reduce costs is to keep food waste to a minimum in our home. This week it was time to take care of a few foods that were lingering. We have been doing Misfit Market for a few months now. They send you a box of produce that is at risk of being thrown away. All of the food is fresh and organic, but it is often the wrong size or there was too much of it produced and the stores won't buy it. We have really enjoyed our boxes, but we do end up with some odd things (at least unusual to us). This week we really needed to use up some kale. I decided to pull out the dehydrator and make kale chips. They came out pretty good and will hopefully be eaten up quickly.
Kale Chips
I found a box of gingerbread mix left over from Christmas in the cupboard and we had three very soft apples. I made gingerbread apple streusel. It came out well and got eaten up quickly.
We also had some left over cranberry sauce that no one was eating. I used it up by making cranberry sauce muffins. Yum.
I also had a bag of chili mix that was about to expire. It made a wonderful dinner of chili.
We used up some organic chocolate pudding mix that had sat in the cupboard for more than a year.
We had a spaghetti squash from our Misfit Box. My crew hates spaghetti squash, so I hid it in a cheesy sauce.
We also made a beef stew with some strong Medieval spices that were left overs from last year. I didn't get a photo of it.

We rarely have food go to waste. If the kids don't like it the first way it is presented, I recreate it into something else. That usually works.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Touch of Snow and Graduation Update

We had a touch of snow this week. It is the first real snow we have had this year. It was lovely for the 24 hours that we had it.

There are so many shows coming up. Anne was just cast for the Fables show in the Spring. She has the role of a camel and will be dancing on pointe (we think). She is continuing to learn all of the choreography for the Grade 6 Cecchetti exam that is in June.The picture below is a practice session of her solo in the Junior Showcase in March. She is doing a variation of the Arabian dance from the Nutcracker.
She is also preparing for a show with the Adult Company in March. There is so much choreography in her brain. I have no idea how she keeps it all straight. 
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Adult Company
Anne is making some great progress with her school work, too. She completed Health and U.S. History I this week. She is almost done with Earth Science which is a carryover from last year. We took this course really slow. She also passed the written part of the driver's test this week. She got 100% on the test. She now has her learner's permit, and we will start practicing her driving skills on a regular basis.

Dean had a great week, too. He completed U.S. History II. He also accepted a paying job to be a camp counselor for a week or two this summer at the camp he worked at last year. He committed to one week, but if he does not have a permanent job by then, he will b able to work the second week at the camp, too. The director of the camp is fine with that. We are picking up speed on completing Physical Science. It is going well. Dean has taken the lead to build the machines for our experiments.

His latest Eureka kit came out great. It is a table tennis robot. We are going to have fun trying to figure this one out. We aren't as coordinated as one might think. HaHa.                       

Anne and I had a bit of fun doing a snowy photo shoot. My girl is growing up so fast. The years just fly!

I put in Dean's paperwork for graduation this week. It is getting real! Our state issues a diploma to homeschool students who are enrolled and have followed the state requirements. They also provide a graduation ceremony a few hours drive from here. It is a huge affair that our oldest went through. Dean really didn't want to do the ceremony and requested to just have a party. We talked it out for weeks and decided to go with his desire to skip the ceremony. They will send him his diploma, and we are going to purchase a cap and gown for his party and present his diploma to him in front of family and friends. My husband is disappointed that he is skipping the big ceremony, but it is really Dean's experience. What he wants is of primary importance in this situation. I have some great ideas for his party. I am sure it will be a very special experience. The picture and bio below are what will appear in the statewide North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) magazine (graduation edition) for homeschoolers.

Dean, son of David and Dawn, is graduating after 12 yrs of homeschooling, with a double major in PE and Fine Arts. He is passionate about music and Belegarth medieval sport. He has been a camp counselor for several years and is a role model for youths. He is a compassionate young man with a heart for those less fortunate. He plans to enter the workforce while exploring other opportunities. We look forward to watching his light shine!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day ~ Our Week in Pictures

We had a tough week filled with little annoying obstacles. Thankfully, there is almost always lovely moments sprinkled between the tough ones. Dean had his wisdom teeth out last Friday. He has been an incredible trooper. We are so proud of him. I didn't pick up the narcotics that were prescribed, because I didn't want them in his body. He has managed with just an increased dose of ibuprofen. He is tired of pain but is turning the corner and not asking for his ibuprofen anymore. We are almost out of the woods!

We had a sweet Valentine's day with Tony's Chocolate, which is 100% slave free. We also had Mac and Cheese Pizza for dinner. It was pretty good. Dear Husband and I went out to dinner to eat Mexican food on Monday. We hate crowds and decided to celebrate early. I am glad we did because the rest of the week was pretty difficult.

We finally made it on a field trip I have had planned all year. We went to the Moogseum and learned all about Robert Moog. He invented the first commercial synthesizer and lived right in our fair little city. His synthesizer factory still operates here, but the museum just opened this past summer. It was a very modern and hands-on museum. There were theremins to play and lots of touch computers that allowed you to learn everything you could possible want to know about Robert Moog and his famous workshops. There were even video lessons on how to use a synthesizer and then you could try your skills with a synthesizer. I wish they had had the Grandmother Semi-modular Synthesizer, because it is much easier to use for new students. We had an opportunity to play with one at a record store once, and I wish this museum would add one. My kids were not super excited about this field trip. It was overstimulating to their ears and they are not the biggest fans of electronic music. They preferred the factory tour that we took a few years ago at the Robert Moog factory. I am glad to have it off our local bucket list.

My sink and faucet gave out mid week. The faucet started spraying from all the wrong places whenever it felt like it. My husband attempted to replace the faucet and found that the sink had a crack in it that would grow with time and that some of the washers were rusted to the sink. We decided to replace the whole thing. It was a huge headache for my dear husband, who isn't a natural born handyman. Replacing the sink and faucet really stretched him out of his repairman comfort zone. It took a couple days, but he accomplished installing all of the plumbing and a new sink. Whoo-hoo! I only had to wash dishes in the bathtub for two days. My new sink is so deep, and I really like it. 

Boomer is a very attentive babysitter of his little rat sister, Willow. He is very gentle with her as he is with all of the creatures in the house. He constantly amazes us with his sweet personality.

Anne made a small terrarium for earth science. She loves terrariums and has wanted one for awhile, but they are expensive. She found the container at a thrift store, and we bought the plant, dirt and moss from a hardware store. It came out great.

She also made Dean's Eureka kit from the month of January. He just didn't want to do this one at all. I told Anne if she followed the instructions from Eureka to create it, it would prepare her for making her own furniture someday. She hated the project. She said making cribs at work was much easier; she has helped put several of those together in the past year. She also informed me that her home would be filled with antiques and not furniture that had to be put together! LOL

We weren't able to get Anne's learner's permit this week because her birth certificate and Social Security card were missing from our fireproof box! We spent a morning at agencies ordering new copies. They gave us her birth certificate on the spot, but we have to wait for the Social Security card to be mailed. Ugh.

We watched two good movies in the past week to add to our U.S. History studies. First, we watched Remember the Titans, which is a great movie about desegregation. It also is about the high school and area that I grew up in, so I was extra excited to share it with my kids. We are not football fans, but that didn't take away from our enjoyment of the movie. It was great. 

We also watched the movie, Dick. It is about the Watergate scandal. It was pretty good and, once again, fun to point out neighborhoods and places where I grew up. I even heard the kids shout out a few times, "I've been there." I did think it was a bit confusing if you know very little about the Watergate scandal, so we will be following it up with a documentary or two.

I am hoping for a calm and productive weekend. A few of us feel a bit under the weather. I want to turn that around this weekend if we can.

Blessings, Dawn