Friday, April 13, 2018

Week 30 ~ A Mixed Week

April...Why do you so often mean illness to our family? Sure enough, we came home from vacation and promptly got sick, and not just a little sick, but some of us have spent the week bedridden sick. My mother and husband were struck down the worst. Dear husband only made it to two half days of work this week. Thank goodness he has loads of sick leave and a very understanding boss. The rest of us are at varying degrees of illness. Anne still managed to get to all of her dance classes. She had no fever so was allowed to go. Still we managed to get lots done. I suppose it isn't a big surprise that I didn't take tons of pictures this week.

Home Economics ~ It came to my attention a few weeks ago that Anne thought that, if everything wasn't made from scratch, then it was substandard. She seemed to have some guilt and judgment associated with boxed food. Now, it is true that we make the majority of our meals from scratch, but that is because of the dietary issues in our family. I certainly do not think that way of cooking is the only way to provide good quality meals. So this week our lessons revolved around stretching a ham into as many meals as possible and taking lots of short cuts. After all, being able to provide healthy "box meals" when your family is in crisis is very important, too.

Our first lesson was how to create a holiday meal when time is very limited. Anne made our Easter meal this week using pre-made food whereever possible. She planned the meal with the only rule being that the food had to come in a bag or a box. I helped her find safe ingredients with her meal choices. She made bagged Caesar salad, canned pineapple (she baked it), store bought prepared organic mashed potatoes, chocolate silk pie (she just had to thaw it) and nitrate-free, cooked ham that she only had to glaze and warm up. The meal was delicious, and she could have been proud to put it out for guests.

Her lessons on how to stretch a ham into many meals continued with a "boxed" meal concept. She made homemade mashed potatoes with ham; boxed organic mac and cheese with ham; canned biscuits with ham and cheese sandwiches; rice, broccoli and ham dish; and Crockpot bean and ham soup made with canned beans and boxed chicken stock. In total, she stretched a 6 pound ham into six different family meals for our family of five.

Biology ~ We only managed one biology lesson this week. The kids looked at the 35 slides we own and picked their favorite four to draw. They both were impressed with the slide of frog blood, of all things.

The Chore Guy ~  Dean got the least sick and so he got to do extra chores, poor guy. He mowed the yard and started painting his closet. He also kept up with the dishwasher and carrying anything heavy (like overflowing laundry hampers) around for me, plus folded lots of laundry. The house is still standing, albeit a bit cluttered.

The School List ~

Anne is very motivated to be done with all of her 8th grade classes (hopefully, next week), so she can just concentrate on her 9th grade classes.
  • 8 math pages math
  • Finished the fourth Harry Potter book
  • 6 lessons in home economics
  • 4 English grammar lessons
  • 1 biology lesson
  • 18 hours of dance classes
  • Listened to the family read aloud, The Westing Game
  • 6 math lessons
  • Illustrated and studied two poems by Longfellow
  • 2 Earth Science lessons about coral reefs and rocky shores
  • 9 grammar pages
  • 3 history lessons ~ immigration and the Statue of Liberty
  • Two hour art class with Miss Laura ~ painting self-portrait with watercolors
  • 1 Biology lesson
  • Listened to the family read aloud, The Westing Game
Birthday ~ Tim (our adult disabled son who lives with us) celebrated his birthday this week. Those who felt well enough went out to dinner with him and we had cake at home. He has some big goals this year. He is finishing the training to be a dog companion at the Humane Society and is taking up boffing at the Wandering Swordsman with his brother. He is also continuing four days a week at the brain injury program he has gone to for years. That is a busy schedule for him. We are so happy he is finding contentment and meaning in his days.

Hopefully, we will all be completely recovered by the end of the weekend.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring Break Vacation ~ Road Trip of the Deep South Day 4-6

We did lots of walking around the French Quarter on days 2, 3 and 4. We even braved walking down Bourbon Street at night. I must say the noise and extreme amount of alcohol flowing out of every doorway was not at all to our taste. We quickly retreated to the calmer, more family-friendly streets of the French Quarter. However, I can honestly say that we never felt endangered in any way.

Day 4 ~ We decided to drive about 45 minutes outside of New Orleans to go on a swamp tour. Boy, am I glad we went at the beginning of the season when the alligators were still waking up! They were sluggish and mostly sleeping. However, one did come over to the boat for a marshmallow. Although they are wild, they are fed marshmallows at the beginning of the season because it is the only thing they can digest when they are coming out of hibernation; and then later in the summer, pizza or chicken once their digestive systems are warm enough to digest food. They sometimes die if they eat turtles or birds straight out of hibernation. We also saw a Cajun village that was only accessible by boat, as well as lots of turtles, birds and snakes. It was an incredible and totally new experience, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Day 5 ~ We packed up and made one last stop before leaving New Orleans. You can't go to New Orleans without visiting a cemetery. My family knows I love cemeteries! We visited the Lafayette Cemetery #1. It was pretty beat up. We found that a large percentage of the graves were people who had died in April or May of different years. I made a quick search of coroner reports for the area in the 1800's and found that yellow fever, tetanus, malaria as well as accidents were major causes of death in the spring and summer months.

We left New Orleans and headed for Folsom, Louisiana. There is a wonderful Global Wildlife Center there that allows their animals to roam completely free over 900 acres. We were able to feed and get very close to dozens of deer, antelope, cattle, beefalo, buffalo, zebras, ostriches, and llamas. There were giraffes, but they refused to come over and see us. (Note to self...the next time we go on a safari where you can feed animals, buy more feed. I ended up crawling around on the floor of the wagon gathering up fallen food so the kids could keep feeding animals.)

We drove on into the night and made it to Montgomery, Alabama, which was a good half way point to home for us. 

Day 6 ~ We decided to spend the morning exploring Montgomery before driving the seven or so hours home. We enjoyed the Rosa Parks Museum and the Fine Arts Museum. The Rosa Parks Museum was wonderful. It had a "time machine" ride that took you through history leading up to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Then you were led through the bus boycott, which lasted 381 days in 1955 and 1956.

We finished off our grand tour of the Deep South with a visit to the Montgomery Fine Arts Museum. We saw paintings and sculpture by Auguste Rodin, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Edward Hicks and many more. I was impressed with the quality and amount of artwork they had in a rather small art museum. The Fine Arts Museum also has a wonderful kids section for kids younger than mine who want to explore art through hands-on interaction.

It was a wonderful, well-rounded trip.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Spring Break Vacation ~ Road Trip of the Deep South, Days 1-3

We just got back from our great Deep South adventure. We spent six days on a road trip that took us through five states (two of which were new to all of us) and three hotels. We decided to make reservations right before leaving home for our hotel in New Orleans but searched for deals online for other hotels on the road. When we got tired of driving, we looked for last minute deals at It worked out great and we saved hundreds of dollars by snagging last minute deals. We even got to stay in a mid-range hotel for 28% off in the French Quarter. This will become our new way of travel for sure. Tim (our oldest son) decided to stay home. He hates long car rides, and the planned activities didn't seem worth the headache of travel to him. Grandma did come with us.

Day 1 We started our journey by traveling to Montgomery, Alabama where my husband was born and lived for a few short months of his life. We had been here once before when the kids were under 6 and they remembered very little. We only stopped for a few hours to break up the drive. We had a lovely dinner of delicious pizza, took a walk in the park and harassed the fire ants. Dean was enamored with them, since we don't have them in the mountains. Before leaving town, we decided to stop by The Southern Poverty Law Center to take a photo of the kids' hands in the Civil Rights Memorial fountain so we could compare this photo to the one I took of their little pudgy hands in the fountain from our last trip. We continued on until we were tired and stayed just outside Mobile, Alabama.
Fire ants

Mellow Mushroom Pizza
Grandma with the crew

Southern Poverty Law Center

Dr. Martin Luther King's name was so faded.
Day 2 Easter ~ In the morning, we got up and traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi. I had planned a day at the beach knowing that most things would be closed for Easter. We enjoyed a few hours exploring the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. The kids had seen it before from the Florida side when they were very young and barely remembered it. Dean really missed the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The beach wasn't very crowded and the public bathrooms/changing rooms were open, much to our delight.

After three hours of play, two sunburned guys despite putting on sunscreen every hour, and very hungry children we packed up and headed on. We could only find fast food or very fancy restaurants open in Biloxi so we settled on Wendy's. We arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana in the late afternoon. We gave up our mini van to the hotel valet because parking is impossible in the French Quarter and settled into the hotel. Then we headed out to explore the French Quarter and find dinner. 

There were still plenty of Mardi Gras decorations.

Jackson Square

Red Beans and Rice


Most of us picked appetizers to save money and leave room for dessert. We found them plentiful and hardy. By the time we finished dinner, darkness had descended on the French Quarter. We found the night life to be robust but not overwhelming. We headed for Cafe Du Monde where there is always a line but well worth the wait for the best beignets in the French Quarter, so they say. We waited in the take out line for about 20 minutes and had wonderful melt in your mouth beignets. (For future reference ~ they come three to a bag for $3. We only needed one a piece.) 

We wandered back to our hotel taking photo opportunities when we found them.

Day 3 ~ We decided to go on the steamboat Natchez. We purchased the tickets that included lunch so that the kids could try many of the foods famous to New Orleans in an all you can eat buffet. We tried gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, fried catfish and bread pudding. Anne, who is not a fan of seafood, lived on fried chicken, salad and French bread. Once we ate, we went out on deck and listened over the intercom to the history lesson about the Mississippi River, how to identify the nationality of the cargo ships passing us and the history of the steamboat. We also visited the engine room and stood behind the paddle wheel.

We spent the evening riding streetcars around the Garden District and getting ice cream. Unfortunately my camera died right at this point in our vacation. I should have brought a back up. My cell phone takes awful pictures, so I used my Mom's cell phone for the rest of the trip. I need to borrow her phone to download the pictures. I will have to post about days 4 through 6 later this weekend in a separate post.

The kids have now seen 16 states (32% of our nation). I don't think we will meet my original goal of seeing all fifty states before they grow up, but we are making progress. Maybe we will get to 50%.

Blessings, Dawn