Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Year in Review 2009

I did this meme last year and it was fun. You take the first sentence from the first entry of each month of 2009 and a picture from that month. The picture does not need to go with the sentence., but it should be from the same month.


Sometimes living with a special needs child is so hard!

(The parting of the Red Sea)


I looked out the window this morning, hoping for major snow.


An amazing event has taken place in our home this past week.

(Goldilocks got the flu and slept without meds.)


Everyone has talents that help them stand out in his or her family.


Today is "Gotcha Day" for my ds, Tom Sawyer.


My dd performed in her dance recital this past weekend.


I buy some books brand new and some books used.


One of our main goals this year is for everyone to become a good reader.


Can a gluten-free, mostly dairy-free, organic meat, locally grown fruit/veggie family of six eat for $75 a week ... without Mom going crazy and dh or the teenager starving?


After much thought and prayer over the last year, we have decided that our current home is the "forever" home.


We keep moving on in construction.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Well, there is our year in review. It was a very exciting year. I hope this next year finds all of you blessed and at peace.

Blessings, Dawn


I decided to try out a fun science experiment on meteorites with the kids to kick off our studies on astronomy. I used a Janice VanCleave experiment which can be found in her book, Help! My Science Project is Due Tomorrow. I found it in an old Practical Homeschooling magazine. The goal was to show the kids how a meteorite impacts the earth. The kids put 8 cups of cornmeal mix into a shoebox. Then they made clay balls about the size of a walnut.

We measured the cornmeal depth with a toothpick and marked it. Then they held their "meteors" and dropped them into the cornmeal.

Then they measured and marked their toothpicks to see how deep a crater the "meteorite" made. They did this over and over again. (Yes, dd is still in her sleeper!  They were so excited to do an experiment during school break that they raced straight down without dressing! LOL)

The kids had so much fun. Did you notice that I called the ball a meteor when it was being dropped and a meteorite when it had already hit the ground? That is because the space rock is called a meteoroid when it is in space, a meteor when it is falling through the earth's atmosphere and a meteorite once it has hit the ground. Cool, huh?

Tom Sawyer (7) stretched the project farther, of course. He decided to build a forest out of toothpicks to see how the meteorites would destroy a forest. He had an unexpected result.

He tried it four times with the same results. Perhaps the clay ball would have done something different if it had been dry? He suggested we set the ball on fire and try again. However, I am just not that cool of a Mom today. Poor boy!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy 9th Birthday, Goldilocks!

Wow! Goldilocks is nine already....  In keeping with tradition, here is a list of nine words to describe Goldilocks. I like this exercise, and it is an especially  nice reminder of the good times with my most difficult child. Living with a child that is dealing with serious mental illness and developmental issues is very exhausting and often the days seem way too long. However, there are bright parts in almost every day, and it is good to remember Goldilocks' more positive character traits. The following list describes Goldilocks on her emotionally healthy days.   
  1. Physically healthy
  2. Spirited
  3. Helpful
  4. Outgoing
  5. Detail oriented
  6. Super cleaner
  7. Pretty
  8. Animal lover
  9. Loquacious

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Time for the Room Reveal ~ Part 1

I promised I would show you all the new rooms after Christmas. Well, that day has come. We decorated the kids' rooms this year for Christmas in lieu of toys. 

The first room up for show and tell is Tom Sawyer's room. He got the brand new room. It is an attic type room that is small but just perfect for him. It's very quiet and has one wide, bright window. He wanted the room painted two colors of green, and it came out great. His room really shows his personality with a little boy's toy area and a very serious artist area. (He spent about 6 hours of Christmas Day working with his new art supplies.)

His Legos and Lincoln Logs are in drawers under his bed.

His artist area. He loves to do art and is really serious about it. My Mom found this great student desk at a thrift store for him to store art supplies. It's a good place for an artist to work. 

This is his toy area for his big toys.

The next room to show is Little Red Riding Hood's room. Her room is a nice sunny room that is made more so by her floors being painted antique white. They are proving hard to keep clean but look nice when freshly mopped. It is totally a girly room. You can tell that she is glad she doesn't share with a boy anymore. Her closet will be painted pink but is still the pumpkin color of her oldest brother whose room it used to be. There is a pink shelf sitting on the bookcase that still needs to be hung.

The best part about the rooms is that they speak to the kids' desires but did not cost us that much. Most everything was either repurposed from other rooms, handed down from relatives, or found at thrift shops, especially Habitat for Humanity Store. In Little Red Riding Hood's room, I took several different pieces of furniture and painted them all the same color. It really pulled them all together. My Mom dyed an old matelasse cover the perfect pink. Also, Mom didn't have room anymore for the wicker armoire in her house, so we moved it to Little Red Riding Hood's room. It holds a lot of toys and the drawers serve as a chest of drawers for her clothing.

Hopefully, I will be able to show you the next rooms in a few days.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Snow Pics and a Merry Christmas to All of YOU!

I think we are going to have that White Christmas I have dreamed of for years. Well, at least a slushy Christmas. LOL! We got at least 13 inches of snow and there is still plenty on the ground. It is supposed to warm up a bit today and will probably melt a bit.

Here is the children's first full-size snowman EVER! His name is "bicycle man" (note the bicycle helmet), and he has sun dried tomatoes for eyes! How much more southern could he get. LOL!

The slide off the back deck.

Me in my Pillsbury Doughboy coat and snow pants. I finally know what I want for Christmas ... snow boots and more gloves. Please note ~ I have a sock on one hand.

I want to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas ... I hope you have a day filled with love, joy and peace.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 18, 2009

Now, this is more like it!

Woo whoo! My northern blood is doing the happy dance! It is snowing like crazy outside. About an hour ago, we measured 9 inches of snow in our backyard! This is AMAZING for our area! 

The meteorologist says we may get up to 12 inches! There is also snow forecasted for most of next week, including Christmas Eve. Dare I wish for a White Christmas?!? If the snow keeps up for much longer, it will be more snow than I have seen in 10 years, which is when we moved to this area. 

The kids rushed through their schoolwork and chores this morning so that they could get outside right after lunch. I would like to say that they had a great time in the snow. However, there were many tears out of Goldilocks. She cried and cried about how cold the snow was, that the snow touched her and about how she didn't have the sled she wanted, and on and on. After about 10 minutes of melting down, she got used to the idea and started having fun. There was enough snow for real sledding and to make two tiny snowmen. At the time we went out, there was about 2 inches.

The girls had loads of fun making snowmen. 

Everyone loved sledding!  I even got in a few runs.

Of course, Tom Sawyer had to eat just a little bit of snow!

They finished off their time with a good old snowball fight, which caused more tears! Sigh...

We went out one more time when Daddy got home. By that time, there was about 6 inches. The sledding wasn't as good, but the snowball fights were great, with no tears this time.

The one downside to this storm is the effect it is having on our Southern Magnolia tree. It is dropping lots of branches because of the weight of the snow. It is considered one of the historic trees in our city because of its height and girth, and I am afraid we may need to get an arborist to take care of it when all is said and done. Several of the branches hit the minivan, but no damage done. 

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday ~ The Biggest Snowman Ever

I'm happy to be getting back to Muffin Tin Monday. This week's theme is Christmas books.

We read The Biggest Snowman Ever for our Muffin Tin Monday activity.

I decided that it would be fun for the kids to make marshmallow snowmen for their muffin tin treat. I only used what we had on hand. It would have been nicer to use white frosting. However, my Southern children never see enough snow to cover the dirt so all snow gets muddy quick. The "mud" on the snowmen seemed normal to them. LOL!

Clockwise ~ chocolate kisses, big marshmallows, toothpicks, sprinkles, frosting, mini-marshmallows.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Embracing Advent and Christmas

Years ago, when we were training to become foster parents, one of the social workers told the class that, if we loved the holidays, we may want to reconsider being foster parents. I thought that was the strangest statement. She went on to explain that Christmas stirred up all kinds of birth family memories and troubles in the child and then the child would act out. In my naivety, I thought that love and a really magical Christmas would wipe all those concerns away. Shortly after we became foster parents, we got our third placement, a little girl (20 months old) who was cute as a button. She was a Christmas baby (born just three days after Christmas)! We did the holidays up in a huge way that year! All the trimmings! Because we had two foster children that year, we were given many gifts through a foster angel tree as well as by our family that were excited that we finally had our long awaited babies. There was a sea of gifts that took up half the room!

But the magic of Christmas scared our little girl. She became even wilder than usual. The next two years were a bit more toned down but much the same. Our dd acted out more and more. We would "lose" her around Thanksgiving and not get back a reasonable child until February. As the years passed and we adopted our foster daughter, things continued to be very difficult around the holidays. We started to drastically play down all holidays and hide from the mall, TV and people and their joy at Christmastime. Sometimes we postponed her birthday for weeks, hoping that we could get her behavior under control enough to celebrate her birthday in peace. We became prisoners to her drama and chaos and began to dread the holidays. My Mother and I would start planning how to survive Christmas in September each year. It was a sad time indeed.

Last year when Goldilocks was nearly 8 years old, I felt that we had to establish a gentle routine for Christmas that allowed the rest of us to enjoy Christmas and left room for Goldilocks to enjoy or avoid, depending on her ability to participate on any given day. Instead of hiding from Christmas, we would embrace it, starting with celebrating each day of Advent in December. It was a radical move. Somewhere on the Internet I saw the idea of opening a Christmas book each day of Advent and reading the story to the children. Of course, being a bibliophile, I loved the idea. I added the idea of a special activity that the kids could do each night. This plan would be similar to our regular routine. We have story time every night of the year, and the activity would be considered school time with Daddy (something the kids love). The same routine, just different packaging. To our relief, it has worked wonderfully. Advent books have given us many lessons. It has allowed Goldilocks to get used to the process of waiting for the surprise (now daily instead of waiting weeks for the big event). She has learned to deal with the disappointment on a small scale of it being a story she did not care for. She has learned that a flat package is not going to hold a live unicorn! It sounds funny, but this truly has been a problem that has caused major meltdowns in the past. Because there is something to open each night, the UPS man stopping often at our home with packages that must wait is not causing endless crying. She is getting used to secrets being okay and even fun when the parents are in control of them. Every night, she is learning the true meaning of the season: compassion, sharing, learning about Jesus, family togetherness, magical wonder, peace and joy.

The days are still rougher than usual. Goldilocks is on a slippery slope. She is having trouble getting through each day, and her behavior is getting pretty hard to deal with. Even her one-on-one worker and my friend who helps with her for a few hours a week are having a very hard time controlling her. But my family is enjoying the season in between Goldilocks' blow outs, and sometimes she is enjoying it, too.

Some photos from Advent ~

Setting up the nativity after hearing The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

Trying tamales after reading Too Many Tamales.

The kids made marshmallow snowmen after listening to The Biggest Snowman Ever.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Cookies

We are having fun baking around here this week. We started off with our favorite Christmas cookie, Chocolate Surprise Cookies.

(bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees ~ makes about 8 dozen)

Purchase and unwrap
8 dozen Hersheys Chocolate Kisses

Cream Together
1 1/2 cup of butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
Beat In
2 eggs
4 teas vanilla
1 teas almond extract
Add and Mix Thoroughly
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teas baking powder
1/2 tea salt
1 cup very finely chopped blanched almonds

Refrigerate dough to make it less sticky. Form balls around each kiss so kiss is completely enclosed.  The thinner the dough on each kiss, the more kisses can be covered. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet until starting to turn light golden color. These taste better when cool.


We made a DOUBLE batch (200 kisses) so that there would be plenty left over for Christmas gifts.

First the kids counted out 200 kisses using a tallying system.

Then the kids peeled the foil off the kisses.

Next we creamed the butter and sugars.

Next the kids chopped the blanched almonds.

Then they took a break for a sensory moment. Ahhh...feel the blanched almonds.

Now we mixed in the rest of the flour and such. This was about the time Mommy realized that she really did not have a big enough bowl for a double batch and she really NEEDS a Kitchen Aid mixer. The kids started getting really messy, and the dog started waiting for flying food to land at her feet.

After giving up on the mixer and Mommy mixing the dough with her hands, it looked like this.

The kids rolled kisses into dough and put them on a baking sheet.

Yummy loveliness! You can dress them up with some frosting and sprinkles if you wish, but we never do this. They are sweet without any icing.

Blessings, Dawn