Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye, 2012 ~ What An Incredible Year!

It has been an amazing year!  If you had told me last year that I would be moving into a home I had admired for years and that my former home would be sold in an incredibly short 10 weeks ... well, I would have laughed at your funny joke.  Yet, here we are!  Our blessings this year have been so abundant.  I can't count them all.  I am so thankful for all that has transpired in this year. 

Here is a fun review of our last year.  You take the first sentence or two from the first blog entry of each month.  Then you add a photo from that month.


In the final hours of 2011 we were blessed with the opportunity to fulfill a wish my husband has had for many years (a visit with to my husband's Godmother's horse farm).

For those who are new here ~ My son is allergic to ALL grains (photo of grain-free chicken nuggets).

The kids were in a science fair hosted by our homeschool group last week. (Tom Sawyer did his science project on volcanoes.)

We decided to make melted crayon butterfly sun catchers for Meals on Wheels this month.  (We did many little gifts for Meals on Wheels this year.)

A few months ago, my kids won first prize for their joint project for the state's Festival of Knowledge.  The prize was a science party put on by Hightouch Hightech.  (The science party the kids won was out of this world.)

The past two weeks has been a whirlwind!  (My theater loving kids enjoyed performing in Sleeping Beauty.)

We are entering our 14th year of homeschooling this fall.  Every single year of our homeschooling has been with special needs kids.  (Pictured here is a lovely break in the sand box at a local park.)



Our Homeschool ~ In the midst of everything else, we did manage to do the bare bones of our Olympic Unit Study. (Life skills are a real priority this year in our homeschool.)

I generally plan our school weeks around a literature unit study. (Lots of outside time helps my kids learn.)

On My Mind ~ We still do not have an offer on our current home!  (I tried to keep some of our normal fun activities going while we were in the process of moving.)

We make the big move this weekend.  Yikes! (We did so much painting on our new home during Halloween week.)


What a blessed week we had. I can hardly count all the blessings that were bestowed on our family.  (We had a special day out with Grandma at a tea house.)

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012!

Our Christmas started at 3:00 am with Tom Sawyer crawling into our bed and telling us he couldn't sleep.  He had already enjoyed looking through his stocking and sampling half of his foot-long Belgium Dark Chocolate Santa ~ goodbye, sleep!  He did lay still in our bed until 5:15 in the morning.

The kids are allowed to open their stockings when they wake up.  Some of them woke up a bit early!

It was a Lego Christmas for all of the younger set!  They spent hours putting together Lego sets.  I took advantage of the hours of quiet to take a short nap with my buddy. What a luxury to be in bed at 10:00 am!

This straw making set was very popular, too.  Yes, many of us stayed in our PJ's all day.

We enjoyed a feast of ham with pineapple, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, cranberry sauce and mulled apple cider.  We then had an angel food birthday cake for Jesus.  Instead, Tom Sawyer had grain-free molasses sugar cookies, which tasted so good.

The evening was spent organizing Lego's into tubs for Tom Sawyer, taking bubble baths with our new Nativity rubber ducks, and decorating Goldilock's room with horse decals.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas. 

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 21, 2012

Week 17 ~ The Fun of Giving!

On My Mind ~  The children and I have had many conversations in the past week about what is truly important to us and what our purpose is here on Earth. In the wake of last week's tragic events it seems doubly important to review what our purpose is and make sure we are spreading joy, love and kindness daily. The kids are always asking people what holiday they love best.  I think the days leading up to Christmas are mine.  I love all of the giving, decorating, Christmas reading, baking and sneaking around hiding secret gifts. (The Norman Rockwell plates in the collage were a present to myself this year.  I found them in a thrift shop for a steal.)

The Fun of Giving ~ This year we decided to do a Secret Santa mission.  We picked a friend who we know is having a hard time right now and we are gifting her each day.  She caught us on day two, but we are having lots of fun sneaking up to her house every day anyway.  Tom Sawyer takes the days he is assigned to deliver the secret gift very seriously and commando crawls all the way to the house from the curb! LOL  I am sure this will become a new family tradition.  The kids are having so much fun.

We also delivered cleaning supplies and dog treats to the local no kill animal shelter.  We enjoyed visiting with the animals and doing some training exercises with the dogs.

Lastly, we delivered food to the local food bank Christmas tree.  I was happy to find out that all of my kids are old enough to volunteer there now.  We will look forward to doing some of that this year.
They used to all fit inside this train at the food bank tree!

What we are Reading ~
  • The Crippled Lamb
  • An Irish Night Before Christmas
  • Grandfather's Christmas Tree
  • The Dog Who Found Christmas
  • The Legend of the Poinsettia
  • Night Tree
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier
What We Did for School ~ We had a gentle week.  We mostly did lots of baking and charity work.   We also kept up with math and language arts (mostly Christmas worksheets).  We enjoyed a special Polish/Jewish meal to finish off our study of the FIAR (Five in a Row) book Mrs. Katz and Tush.  The latkes in the FIAR cookbook came out great. 

We will spend this blustery day cleaning and preparing for Christmas.  I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas!

I am joining homegrown learners.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 14, 2012

Week 16 ~ Advent Delights

UPDATE ... Our hearts go out to the families that are suffering so much today.  What a tragic event!  Children should be safe in their homes and schools!!!  There are no words ...

On My Mind ~ I love this season.  Who says waiting isn't fun?  I am so happy to see the joy in my children over shopping for gifts for each other.  They are delighting in making gifts for the neighbors and giving to charities.  It is wonderful to see the gift of giving taking seed in their hearts.  It wasn't always this way ~ waiting for their own gifts on Christmas morning used to be such a burden to them.  The pain of waiting trumped all else.  Now they are seeing the true meaning of the season and enjoying the waiting.  What a blessing!

Parties and Field Trips ~ 'Tis the season to go to parties!  We attended our favorite party of the year at the local children's hospital.  It is a party for special needs kids, and we have attended it for many years.  This year the hula hoop was very popular with the kids and Mommy.

We also enjoyed this unique ride and the famous face painting lady.  It was a fun, fun, fun party, as always!

We also attended a Christmas open house of two historic homes at the college my son attends.  I didn't get any pictures.  The Madrigal singers that performed Christmas carols were wonderful.  Plus, we attended the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn.  This is a family tradition and the displays are always remarkable.  All of the pictures in the collage are gingerbread creations.  Except for the base, everything is 100% edible!

The Grand prize winner was truly extraordinary. Can you believe one actually could eat this?

Giving to Others ~ We made breads for all of our neighbors (that is, the six who live nearest to us).  The kids made them with almost no help from me.  We even got all six into my tiny wall oven.

We also took a book to the library for a little girl we got off the library giving tree, plus donated money to a needy teacher.

Books We Are Reading ~
  1. Mrs.Katz and Tush
  2. Gingerbread Baby
  3. The Baker's Dozen
  4. The Chanukkah Guest
  5. The Other Wise Man
  6. The Legend of Papa Noel
  7. Winter's Gift
Homeschooling ~ We started a FIAR unit study on Mrs. Katz and Tush.  What a lovely book with so many possible things to study.  This week we focused on loving thy neighbor and learning different ways one can help the elderly.  The kids did several math and language arts worksheets from  You can print up to 10 worksheets a month for free.  Our big craft this week was making snowflakes out of plain paper.  This is one of our favorite Advent activities each year.

Around the House ~  We had two great days of construction this week.  The new hallway floor is down and the bath tub is refinished.  I should be able to take that Christmas bath I have been dreaming about.  Next week we will turn the doorway that is between Tim's room and the library into a wall.  This will provide more wall space for both rooms.  Hopefully, the tile work will be fixed in the bathroom and the attic will be insulated as well.  We will also have a chimney sweep out to make the necessary repairs to the wood burning stove.  It is going to be a busy week before Christmas!

I am joining Homegrown learners .

 Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 7, 2012

Week 15 ~ Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

On My Mind ~ It is so nice to have an entire week that concentrated on hearth and home and school!!  I am hoping to continue this trend for the rest of December.  I didn't get any painting done this week (big surprise ~ LOL), but we did get our favorite contractor on board and he starts work next week.  Maybe having renovation work going on around me will get the painter in me to work ... maybe.

Our School Week ... FIAR ~ We had a great week.  We enjoyed the FIAR book, Another Celebrated Dancing Bear.  This is a sweet fictional story about two bears in Russia before 1917.  One is a famous dancer and the other a doctor.  The doctor becomes jealous by his friend's fame.  They resolve this issue in a wonderful way.
  • We used the lap book from Homeschool Share.
  • We learned about the freezing point and boiling point of water.
  • This led to exploration of the freezing point of all kinds of household products.
  • We watched YouTube videos on St. Basil Cathedral, Russian dancing styles, Russian Orthodox high church music, the Russian ballet, and a tour of Moscow.
  • We had a tea party.
  • We played All Things Russian Bingo and Russian Vocabulary Lotto.
  • We played with nesting dolls.
  • We studied Russia on a map.
  • We learned about onion torrents and made our own buildings with them!
  • We listened to lots of Tchaikovsky. ♪♪
Our favorite activity with this FIAR book was going to a tea room in our city and trying some unique teas.  We picked the seating on the floor in what I would call the India room and looked through a whole book of teas to choose from.  There were more than two hundred choices!  We chose Plum tea, a plain, hearty black tea from India; Golden tipped tea, which tasted a little like chocolate; and East Winds herbal tea, which smelled so good.  Everyone received their own tea pot.  They also carried lots of gluten-free and grain-free tea cakes, so Tom Sawyer was able to have lots of lovely treats.  We will be going back again!  We were able to have Grandma along for the field trip, which added to the fun.

The Rest of School ~ We also enjoyed an Advent book each day.  The kids' favorite books this week were The Legend of St. Nicholas, complete with waking up to shoes filled with new socks and the book, Amazing Grace, leading us to set up our nativity.  My favorite Advent book was The Last Straw. We started our Jesus character Advent and did a drawing page in Draw to Learn: The Life of Jesus.  There was plenty of math and reading going on as well.

Places We Are Going ~ Besides going to the tea room, we attended a special library program about card making.  We had lots of fun making cards.  The kids also did shoe boxes for Meals on Wheels this week. Everyone had dance this week, and Tom Sawyer tested out a ballet class.  He is hoping to add it to his schedule this coming spring.

Family Health ~ There is a tummy bug going around our family.  It hasn't stopped most of us in our tracks but is making us feel a bit yucky.  Timothy is feeling much better and now is just itching all the time.  This is part of the healing process and should pass soon.  He started back to his special needs college class this week.

What a complete week.  There is actually more going on, but I think that is enough for this wrap-up.  I am joining Homegrown Learners.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Fun Charity Idea

With all of the craziness of moving and Tim's surgery, we missed doing Operation Christmas Child this year.  The kids really wanted to make shoe boxes, so we made boxes for Meals on Wheels instead.  It was fun thinking about what would be useful and delightful to the elderly.  If you are interested in doing this project, check with your local Meals on Wheels to see when they require the boxes be dropped off. Here is a list of ideas:
  • Lotion
  • Sun screen
  • Shampoo
  • Tea bags
  • Hard candy
  • Chocolate
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Decorative purse or wallet
  • Nail kit
  • Candle
  • Place mats for two
  • Stationary
  • Warm hat and mittens
  • Christmas music CD
  • A cute stuffed animal (that would look good on a shelf until the grandkids visit)
  • Fun colored pens
There is a constant need for pet food as well.  Pets are wonderful for seniors, but their care and upkeep can be cost prohibitive.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Very Busy and Blessed Week

On My Mind ~ Oh my!  What a blessed week we had.  I can hardly count all the blessings that were bestowed on our family.  The biggest blessing is that Timothy made it through surgery safe and sound.  Another huge blessing is that we sold our home 17 days early.  We didn't have to pay a double mortgage for a single month!  We got a call on Wednesday (while we were in the hospital 200 miles away from home) that, if we could make it home and get the piano out of the house, we could close on Friday.  It didn't seem possible, but the doors opened and we were able to make it happen!  We are now the proud owners of only one home ~ a much more comfortable position.  During the move we had decided to sell the piano, since I had to face the facts that my kids were theater kids, not piano kids.  There is only so much time we have with our children, and when they have lots of special needs, there is even less time for teaching all of the extras.  Music is very important to me, but they get lots of exposure to it through dance and theater.  I just had to let it go.  I spent several desperate hours our first day home trying to sell/donate the piano.  In the end, it went to a family I had spoken to years ago who is raising a child with similar issues to Goldilocks.  They had a very limited budget and had been looking for a piano for a long time.  Miraculously, we were able to find professional movers and get it moved to their home in less than 24 hours!  This is the studio piano my Mom bought me when I was 16 years old, and it is such a blessing to know it went to a good home.

The Hospital ~ We arrived at Duke University Hospital on Monday and did all of the pre-op tests.  All went well and he went in for surgery Tuesday morning.  The surgery went very well, amazingly with no surprises.  After surgery, we teased Timothy that he must be losing his touch.  He is famous for surprises in the operating room.  Timothy wanted a hamburger almost as soon as he could form words.  The recovery nurse thought he was a riot.  Within hours he was eating Jalapeno chips and a large Angus burger.  That boy has a stomach made out of steel!  He was released in the afternoon on Wednesday, and due to needing to get home to close on the house, made the long, uncomfortable trip home that night.  He was a real trooper.  He can't lift anything for a month or walk his dog, but otherwise he is well on his way to a full recovery.

Left to right ~ Timothy being wheeled out of surgery, front of hospital, Timothy's old pacemaker (the kids new favorite "Show and Tell" item), Moving to the short stay unit, Siblings hanging out with brother at the hospital, A happy young man who just finished a soda and hot fries.
At Ronald McDonald House ~ Ronald McDonald house was a great experience as always.  It was fully decorated for Christmas.  I think I am ready to get in the mood now.  Little Red Riding Hood fell in love with one of the therapy dogs who visited.  The dog could do all kinds of tricks and loved to lick her face.  We were treated to a luxury room this time, complete with our own kitchenette and bathroom.  That was such a treat.  Tom Sawyer lived in the room, watching Cartoon Network (yuck).  This is why we will never have cable television.  He loved it all and got his fill until next year.

The Nutcracker ~ We made it home in time for the Nutcracker.  I am really amazed it all worked out.  The kids went to dress rehearsal and are in the process of completing the three shows.  They are a bon-bon, a puppet, and a mermaid.  My show kids love it all. 

As you can imagine, we are a tired crew ~ or at least Mommy and Daddy are tired.  We did a lot in the span of six days!!  I am looking forward to a fun and relaxing December. 

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Favorite Christmas Tradition

We love our Advent book tradition.  Every year I wrap up 24 Christmas books and we open one each day.  I try to match the books up with an activity or event that we are doing.  It is a fun way to count down to Christmas and share a great story time together. We are having a Victorian Christmas this year so all of the books are wrapped in brown paper, as will be all of our gifts. Here are our books and activites for this year. 
  1. Christmas Farm ~ Cut down tree and decorate it
  2. Amazing Peace ~ Set up Nativity
  3. The Last Straw  ~ Make shoe boxes for Meals on Wheels
  4. The Cricket on the Hearth ~ Make Victorian crafts
  5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas ~ Make Christmas cards at the library
  6. The Legend of St. Nicholas ~ The kids will get new socks and candy in their shoes
  7. The Christmas We Moved to the Barn ~ Go to the live nativity, Return to Bethlehem
  8. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree ~ Christmas at Carl Sandburg's home
  9. The Chanukkah Guest ~ Make Latkes
  10. The Legend of Papa Noel ~ Deliver books to kids in need (got names from the library tree)
  11. The Other Wise Man ~ View window decorations and give coins to street musicians
  12. The Baker's Dozen ~ Make and take bread to neighbors
  13. Gingerbread Baby ~ Visit the national gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn
  14. Winter's Gift ~ Make snowflakes
  15. The Crippled Lamb ~ Attend the hospital children's Christmas party
  16. An Irish Night Before Christmas ~ Take a ride to look at Christmas lighting
  17. Grandfather's Christmas Tree ~ Take food to the foodbank Christmas tree at the mall
  18. The Dog Who Found Christmas ~ Take dog toys to the Humane Society
  19. The Legend of the Poinsettia ~ Sibling shopping and gift wrapping
  20. Night Tree ~ Clean the house for Christmas
  21. The Steadfast Tin Soldier ~ Host a Victorian nutting party
  22. Woodland Christmas ~ Decorate a tree with food for the wild animals
  23. Grandfather's Christmas ~ Drink hot chocolate under the stars
  24. The Legend of the Stocking ~ Set out stockings and attend church

Blessings, Dawn

Week 14 ~ Parades, Thanksgiving and Reality

On My Mind ~ It seems everyone is instantly in holiday mode now.  I am not there yet.  I still have to get through Tim's surgery before I can enjoy the season with a more relaxed state of mind.  We leave for Duke early Monday morning.  He has pre-op Monday afternoon and surgery Tuesday (we do not know the time yet).  Tim is really uncomfortable and taking naps during the day.  It is so strange to find him in bed reading.  I look forward to having my energetic son back.  Even our very short Thanksgiving walk was exhausting for him.  He says his heart hurts all the time now.  He is not one to complain so I am one worried mother.

Everything is still moving along on the sale of our old home.  We have a back up contract now.  I never imagined we would have two contracts on our home. It is such a blessing.

Out and About ~ Our city holiday parade last week ran perfectly between our kids Nutcracker rehearsals.  The parade route went right past the studio so we were able to see much of the parade.  It was a mixture of bands, strange sights and companies advertising themselves.  The girls loved getting a little bit of candy and Tom Sawyer loved hanging out with his theater friends.

The kids are ready for the Nutcracker.  We hope to make it back from Tim's surgery in time for them to make dress rehearsal and the three shows.  The dance studio says they are welcome into the show whenever we get back.  This year the kids are a bonbon, mermaid, and little puppet boy.  I did not get a picture of Tom Sawyer or the Little Red Riding Hood in her costume, but here is Goldilocks.

Homeschool ~ We are enjoying The Secret Garden and finished watching the 6 hour documentary of The Manor House on YouTube.  Tom Sawyer finished his current level of Teaching Textbooks and is ready for the next level.  I plan on having him practice the multiplication tables for a few weeks until he is really quick with them.  Goldilocks wants to do more workbooks and to do them in her bedroom.  She finds her siblings and my fun teaching style to be distracting.  I had some workbooks and gave them to her.  So far she loves the workbooks but isn't staying in her bedroom much.  I am not terribly surprised.  She is very social and wants to know what everyone is up to at all times.  She is also our most disruptive student, so it drives her crazy how quiet it is when she is not in the room. LOL  She has to find out what the rest of us are doing.  All of the kids are doing more workbooks right now.  It is just easier on me and they seem to be enjoying the change of pace.  Workbooks don't take very long so they can go play outside faster.  We plan on schooling straight through Saturday since we are not going to get much done next week with Tim's surgery.

Around the House ~ I love this house!!  I love that I can see the kids from any back window.  When I see them being too wild, I just knock on whatever window I am near.  It is funny to seem them looking all around to see from where Mom is watching them now.  The below picture is from one of my kitchen windows.

Counting Blessings ~  We are so blessed to have a great hospital to go to next week.  I have total confidence in Tim's doctors.  We know that he will receive the best of care.  We are so thankful to have a reservation at Ronald McDonald House.  In addition, we are leaving Goldilocks with her wonderful mental health caregiver who has taken care of her for the past eight years when she needs to be away from the family.  Goldilocks is being crushed by her RAD and PTSD right now and is not up to dealing with hospitals and someone besides her being the center of attention.  She needs to be in a very stable environment where good quality RAD behavior modification can be provided.  I cannot do that at Duke, so she will stay with her caregiver for a few days.  Her behavior has been hard to manage for weeks now, and I am so blessed to be getting the break.  I really need it.  We were in a minor car accident this week and I am glad that no one was injured.  We also had a lovely non-traditional Thanksgiving.  Tom Sawyer can't eat all the good stuff (pumpkin pie, stuffing, gravy and rolls) so we made a special feast of our own.  It was very good.
mashed potatoes, fruit platter, spare ribs, green beans, organic rolls, London broil, butternut squash casserole, and chocolate milk
I am joining Homegrown Learners.

Blessings, Dawn