Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Look Back at 2014 and Looking Forward to 2015!

This is a fun way to look back at the year. You take the first picture and sentence from the first blog entry in each month. It gives a surprisingly good recap. I did take a few extra sentences from a few entries. This was such a year of change in our family. It was filled with some of the biggest trials of my entire life and some amazing blessings. We are working on recovering from the years of living with a child with mental illness and the loss of our daughter from our daily lives. She is safe and we are safe. That is the most important thing. Goldilocks is stable in her very structured new life, and for the first time in years, we are breathing a sigh of relief and resting. I am not sure what 2015 has in store for our family. I suspect there will be great joys and deep sorrows. It is very unlikely that Goldilocks will return to our home in the year 2015. It looks like she may need to be in special placements for the rest of her childhood. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are thriving and are blooming in new ways weekly. They are filled with life and fill my days with joy. Tim has made so many improvements in the last month. I finally can see the healing begin to happen in him. My husband and I continue to be strongly committed to each other and enjoy our time together. Life goes on and we continue to move forward. I am so thankful for my life and family.

January 2014 ~ 
When I sat down to think of a word for our family to focus on this year, many came to mind.

February ~ For the remainder of the school year, we will be studying World War II. 

March ~  This week went better than the last few weeks have gone. The adults (Dad, Grandma and I) in the family decided to make the boundaries around Goldilocks (13) smaller and tighter.

April ~  Goldilocks (13) is still safe and in respite care. She has made it very clear that she does not want to come home. The professionals also agree that she should not be in the home until she gets some intensive help with her emotions. She has stated that she thinks she will hurt someone if she comes home.

May ~ Goldilocks' therapeutic caregiver has decided to go through the extensive training (which she already has but needs to take the classes anyway) and licensing to be a very specialized mental health foster parent.

We had a wonderful birthday celebration for Tom Sawyer. 

June ~ We are in the last few days of school and my mind is thinking about summer fun.

July ~ An attitude of gratitude makes all the difference, don't you agree? Do you look at the cup half full or half empty?

August ~  Our son Timothy recently passed his first anniversary at the brain injury day program he attends four days a week.

September When I looked at all that was on the schedule for this week, I knew it was going to be a tough week and that we were going to have to adapt and tweak our usual style of schooling to make it through.

October ~ We have attended two major meetings about Goldilocks in the past few weeks. 

November ~ Snow in the first week of November ~ unheard of in North Carolina!

December ~ We are in full Nutcracker mode this week in our home. We will be at the theater for 20+ hours this week.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week 20 ~ It Feels Like Christmas!

Thanks for the support last week. This has just been a rough year. However, I am embracing this wonderful season. We finished school this week and are at the halfway mark for the year. That is a good place to be before a two-week break. I do think I will be rethinking how to do school in December next year. Perhaps I will stop school a bit earlier.

This week, we attended some really fun events.

A Nativity Show ~ This was my favorite activity this week. I love nativities, so this show was perfect for me. I could possibly become the crazy nativity lady with 100 nativities if it were not for my Quaker roots that stress simplicity. I really do like a clean and uncluttered home. I am really driven crazy by commercialism and the abundance of stuff our society expects us to own. It was the first time to have this nativity display in Asheville, but I hope it becomes an annual event. There were more than a 100 nativities from all over the world.

A Christmas Party ~ We attended the annual special needs holiday party. Even though the organization has experienced budget cuts this year, the party did not disappoint. They did a lovely job again. The kids especially enjoyed the llamas, face painting, craft making, mining in the gem mine area, lunch, and lots of dancing. There were many other activities that our kids have either outgrown or that didn't peak their interest.

Out and About ~ We wrapped up all of our usual appointments and classes this week. The kids attended the last of their dance classes until the new year (insert a giant, sad moan from Little Red Riding Hood). Tom Sawyer finished his physical therapy appointments for the year. We also enjoyed December Lego Club. The challenge this month was to make a Christmas scene. Little Red Riding Hood made a Christmas tree in a room.

Our Five Week Review Night ~  We had a show and tell night of our last five weeks. We had a Christmas tea-themed dinner this time. We tried to make all of the food red, green and white. Considering that we were all a bit under the weather, it went well. The kids are doing a better job at grasping map skills. Tom Sawyer needs lots of work with public speaking ~ he mumbles. I have lots of thinking to do before we start back to school. I think we need to really dig into math and language arts and drastically reduce other subjects so we have time to create a stronger foundation before junior high next year. I have really seen this year that, although the kids both have learning challenges, they are not as challenged as I had thought. I really want to let them bloom and catch up so that the rest of their school years will be smoother for them. Here are the highlights from this unit.
  • Seabird by Holling C. Holling was a wonderful literature approach to geography. We are using the Beautiful Feet geography and literature approach to the Holling C. Holling books this year. I really see the value in this curriculum. 
  • Tom Sawyer's Homeschool Writing Class outside the home has been a great asset to him. He is learning to manage all of the homework and get it done on time. He is also working on reading his weekly report or story to that class. 
  • Audio books in the car is such a great way to have time for literature. I think we will only learn literature this way in the coming semester, so there will be more time for writing and math when we are at home. The kids enjoyed Doll Bones, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Amahl and the Night Visitors this unit.
  • Teaching Textbooks for math is still the way to go around here. I just need to get Tom Sawyer doing more lessons each day so he can catch up. He is getting scores above 94 on almost every lesson so he can do more lessons in a day.
  • Art with Grandma is still fun even though our friends have not been joining us this year. Their schedule is just crazy. We learned about Georgia O'Keeffe this unit.

tea, water, green beans, brisket, cherries, celery, raspberries, crackers, soft Swiss cheese and apple pie.
I think I am going to set journal time aside next semester. I told them that the journals would not be corrected, but the spelling in Little Red Riding Hood's journal is so bad. I just can't see how it is helping her learn. I think the spelling portion is just giving her bad habits. It would be better to use that time to write a writing prompt and then correct and rewrite it. We have been doing that anyway, but I want to do much more. For now, I am looking forward to a restful Christmas.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 12, 2014

Week 19 ~ Taking Christmas Slow and Easy

I have been struggling with getting it all done this week. It seems like I am reacting to life instead of being prepared for each thing as it comes along. I really like to be prepared. I've also had my fair share of struggles with motivation for a few weeks now. I thought I was sick or maybe depressed. However, neither really fit my feelings or physical state. Finally, my Mother, who should have been a research librarian, hit upon my problem ~ BURNOUT! The description of burnout fits me perfectly. It make perfect sense with all that I have been through with Goldilocks in the past few years. I am just 100% spent and exhausted. But I am still filled with life and joy for the season. I want to do so many things, but can't find the energy or focus to get it all done. I need to rest and heal. So, we are looking at priorities and deciding carefully if each event is really important to this Christmas season. It has been slower and more relaxing so far and that is a good thing.

Gingerbread Show ~ We had a lovely time going to the Grove Park Inn to see the gingerbread show. We love it every year and it is doubly special now that Tim's day program enters a display each year. We chose to park on a public street and walk in this time instead of paying the rather expensive, on-grounds parking fee. It would have cost as much as a gift for someone. The walk was all uphill but not nearly as bad as we thought it would be.

The display that Tim helped to make.
Our favorite one front and back ~ Narnia
The back of the Narnia display
Christmas Baking ~ We baked all day one day this week. We made dozens of our two most important Christmas cookies ~ Molasses Sugar and Chocolate Kiss Surprise. We are still hoping to make gingerbread cookies some time during our Christmas vacation. We packed up bags of cookies and gave them to our dance teachers, therapists, and physical therapists.

Christmas Cards ~ The kids and I managed to get half of them out this week. The rest will hopefully be done next week. It has been hard this year because of the need to inform people or update people who are already in the know about what has happened to Goldilocks. 

Homeschooling ~ This is our second to last week before a well needed break. 
  • Tom Sawyer did several hours of writing homework for his last writing class until after the New Year. 
  • Literature ~ The Invention of Hugo Cabret! We loved this story and watched a DVD interview with the author. We look forward to seeing the movie this weekend. 
  • CNN Student News each day
  • The kids researched "Holi", the Indian Spring Festival. Then we realized that we were studying the wrong country for Culture Club so had to change gears!
  • The kids researched the platypus for the country Australia and created a presentation.
  • The kids presented their platypus paper at Culture Club in front of about 30 people. 
  • 22 pages of language arts work sheets were completed.
  • Tom Sawyer did seven Teaching Textbook math lessons and Little Red Riding Hood did five lessons.
  • The kids did two Christmas writing promps.
  • Journal and reading time was accomplished each day.

On the Blog this Week ~ My Christmas Book Picks!

It was a good week. I didn't get everything done on the list, but I got the important things done.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Favorite New Christmas Books

In years past I have posted a long list of our Christmas Advent books and projects. I loved this tradition. However, it was a bit overwhelming as the kids got older and school/dance/social demands became greater. Reading a special book and doing a related project each day on top of our regular stuff was becoming more of a hassle than a joy some days. This year the kids and I decided to pick out just a few special books from our collection to read as a family. The rest are there for independent reading.

The majority of the books we chose were from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas show. We love the quality of these books. They have beautiful illustrations and come with a DVD. I love sharing gorgeous music with my children any way I can. As a person with a strong foundation in music, it has been a small heartache that my children have not enjoyed music very much over the years. I now realize that this is because our home was so noisy and stressed out for many years (and the noise was not often a joyful noise). Living with a mentally ill person changes the dynamics of everything, and when Goldilocks left our home, everything changed. One of the changes is that the kids now enjoy music much more. Music doesn't grate on their nerves anymore, because their nerves are not frayed from the get-go. I am getting sidetracked!

Tabernacle Choir Books ~ 

Good King Wenceslas ~ The story of Good King Wenceslas is one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time. This book is illustrated beautifully and narrated by Jane Seymour. I think I will go read it again!

God Bless Us Every One! ~  We loved this one. We are great champions of the Christmas Carol and I love anything Charles Dickens. This is the story behind A Christmas Carol and talks about Charles Dickens struggles at the time he wrote this epic Christmas story.

A Christmas Bell for Anya ~ This is a bittersweet story about a small village in northern Russia at the time of the fall of the last czar. Anya, the main character dies just a few days short of Christmas due to military violence. This one just didn't cut it for us this year. We are all about calm, peace and joy this year. We don't need any more drama or trauma in our lives. I decided to hang on to it for one more year but may then get rid of it then.

Christmas from Heaven  ~  This is a wonderful book about Gail Halvorsen (the Berlin airlift candy bomber). He even makes a live appearance in the DVD. My kids wanted to watch the DVD twice and I have seen them reading the book again on their own.

Four other books that make Christmas complete in our home ~

  • Silver Packages An Appalachian Christmas Story
  • Christmas in the Trenches
  • The Crippled Lamb
  • Too Many Tamales
What are your favorite Christmas books?

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 5, 2014

Week 18 ~ The Nutcracker Edition

We are in full Nutcracker mode this week in our home. We will be at the theater for 20+ hours this week. I have tried to keep our days light so that we could have enough endurance for the nights. I feel sorry for the public school kids in the show. They become very exhausted each year. This is a really hard week for many of them. However, as homeschoolers we can make many adjustments to our schedule to ease the stress. My husband had this week off. We got some big things accomplished on the To Do list ~ dentist appointments for all, review of our wills, several DIY home repairs and selling on Ebay. My DH also did 20+ hours of yard work, Nutcracker Week is the signal to begin Christmas School, which means "school lite". We are doing the the 3R's  ~ plus one or two other subjects a day and either a craft or field trip.

School this Week ~ 
  • Literature ~ Doll Bones by Holly Black -- Our librarian was right. This audio book has kept us on the edge of our seats. We have about 20 more minutes to go to complete the story. We will finish it up in the car this morning.
  • Math ~ Each child did at least four lessons from Teaching Textbooks this week. Tom Sawyer did a few more.
  • Language Arts ~ They were required to do 10 pages in language arts workbooks this week, doing spelling and vocabulary. 
  • History ~ We watched CNN Student News each morning.
  • Geography ~ We did three chapters in Seabird by Holling C. Holling and completed the map work for those chapters.
  • Art ~ We finished our Nativity stained glass pictures and made snowflakes.

  • Writing ~ They did journaling or writing homework each day. Tom Sawyer attended writing class.
  • Bible ~ We watched The First Noel on YouTube and attended church.
We also Decked the Halls ~ 

We dropped off books for the library Christmas Wish Tree ~

Notice the boy hiding behind the pole ~ What am I going to do with him?
But, most of this week has been devoted to the Nutcracker ~ Both kids have roles as party goers and candy canes.
Tom Sawyer leaping and Little Red Riding Hood (in peach dress) sticking out her tongue at him.

Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood in their party scene outfits.

Little Red Riding Hood is in the center (front)
Little Red Riding Hood during the party scene (middle sitting in peach dress)
Tom Sawyer during warm ups
Tom Sawyer as candy cane on the left facing us
I love all of the wonderful experiences the kids get working with this dance studio. They love every minute of it, too!

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Week 17 ~ Thanksgiving

This five week unit is so packed with life that it is hard to get done all of the learning I have planned. I knew this would be the case, but the teacher in me over plans every year. This week found us feasting, learning and ringing in our favorite season.

The Parade ~ We love our little city's parade. It is intimate and fun. Most everyone can get a front row seat. We have at least six marching bands from local high schools and a few balloons. The kids look forward to it every year. It always take place on the same day as the rehearsals for Nutcracker performance that the kids are in, but the studio is just a block from where the parade goes through town. This year the kids' rehearsals were before and after the parade, so we were able to see most of it.

Thanksgiving ~ We had the most peaceful and smooth Thanksgiving that we have had in years. It was everything I could have hoped for and then some. It was just peaceful. It was just us and my Mom this year. We made everything from scratch (except one organic sweet potato pie and organic ice cream). My husband made the winning food item this year, which was a Pioneer Woman recipe for no knead dinner rolls. They were so good! Now what to do with all of those turkey leftovers? We spent the day cooking, laughing, and playing board games. My husband and I finished the day by making turkey stock. We got several quarts of it this year.

A New Light Show ~ My husband received a gift card to Macy's, but the closest store is in a neighboring state, South Carolina. We do not shop at all on Black Friday. I honestly don't think the deals are all that amazing and I can't stand the way people behave. I have a very limited budget and would prefer to put my dollars into small local shops. However, I thought it would be okay to go shopping on Saturday, so we drove to South Carolina. The mall was huge ~ double the size of our mall and crowded but not overwhelming. The patrons were behaving themselves. After getting his shopping done, we went to the Roper Mountain Light Show. We like to do a drive-through light show each year if we can find one that is laid back and not too commercialized. This one was really lovely and kept to the spirit of Christmas, for the most part. There was a trinket stand in the walk-through area, but it was easily avoided. We stood in the very short line for the balloon man who was giving all of his earnings to charities. We really enjoyed the walking and driving tour. It was fun to be able to do both.

Our School Week ~ So what did we do for school this week? I am glad I recorded everything because we got more done than I remembered.
  • Language arts workbooks 4 days
  • Teaching Textbooks 4 days
  • Journal 4 days
  • Literature ~ God Bless Us Everyone movie and DVD
  • Literature ~ Doll Bones ~ audio book that we are half way through
  • One physics lesson ~ Gravitational Potential Energy converted into Kinetic Energy
  • Geography ~ Seabird by Holling ~ first 6 chapters and map work
  • CNN Student News
  • Board games ~ Life, Scrabble, and Apples to Apples
  • Dance/Nutcracker Rehearsals ~ 9 hours
  • Physical therapy for Tom Sawyer
  • Arts for Life table ~ Little Red Riding Hood
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Two Week Wrap Up


A Mini Vacation ~
I love to count my blessings. The last two weeks have been filled with big and small blessings. I love them all. We had the opportunity to go to Richmond, Virginia and see my husband's family. We all came from far and near to visit at my sister-in-law's home. We were very glad to be able to see the grandparents again. It had been 16 years since we were all together in the same place.

We had a lovely time seeing all of my husband's family. We ate many meals together, talked for hours and visited a Civil War museum. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood had a blast playing with their cousins. (Timothy stayed home to take care of the dogs and keep up with his routine, which is very important for a person with brain injuries.) I also just want to record for my memory how awesome my kids behaved. They were the picture of perfection! We were all relaxed and able to enjoy ourselves. Each new event or annual tradition without Goldilocks is both a blessing and a heartache. It is a blessing because I can see that all my years of parenting is rubbing off on my other kids. They are social, sweet and polite. Every event makes us realize even more how much we were struggling before. The heartache part is that we can see that Goldilocks was never happy in our home and that she was rebelling against us all the time. Even though she has been gone for over 7 months now, she has almost no interest in seeing us and is "making a new life for herself". What she doesn't understand is that the state is going to most likely make her come back home some day. She doesn't understand that you can't decide at 13 that you are done with your family and then make a new life. Furthermore, we are realizing that we can't bring her back home when she really doesn't want to be here because of the danger of what she might do to get away from us again. This year has been filled with a mix of blessings and heartaches when it comes to Goldilocks.

While we were in Richmond, my Dad and Stepmother were able to come down from Washington, D.C. and have lunch with us. We went to Red Robin and had gigantic hamburgers.


The Week the House Broke ~
We returned home to a bit of a crisis! The furnace wasn't working and the house was down to 58 degrees. We were very blessed that the furnace repairman came out on a Sunday and fixed it. He charged us the normal tune-up fee at the weekday rate. We are very grateful for his kindness. Then the pipe in the basement that was dripping broke entirely. The plumber came out and replaced several pipes but told us that we needed RotoRooter to come out and fix a terrible clog. We were blessed to get all of that accomplished in one day and at an affordable cost. Lastly, we decided to join the modern world and go to cable Internet. It turns out it was cheaper than our current Internet provider, provided that we also accepted having cable television. This is the first time we have had cable TV in 14 years. We are excited but hesitant. We like that we are not TV addicts, so we do  not want to get hooked on lots of shows. We are setting down some firm rules for everyone and blocking many channels. There will be no cartoon channels in our home.

School in the Mix ~
School was hard to fit in this week. We squeezed it in between house repairs, three therapy appointments, Operation Christmas Child drop off, one doctor appointment, flu shots, Lego Club, dance classes and life. Here is what we did do. We are so blessed to homeschool!
  • Teaching Textbooks ~ 8 lessons for Tom Sawyer and 4 lessons for Little Red Riding Hood
  • Daily reading of chapter books
  • Literature studies ~ Good King Wenceslas and A Bell for Anya
  • One spelling lesson for Little Red Riding Hood and 3 spelling tests for Tom Sawyer
  • Language arts workbooks each day
  • CNN Student News every day
  • Squilt music lesson ~ Carol of the Bells
  • Many pictures completed from our Nativity stained glass coloring book
  • Writing class
  • Daily journaling
Frugal Living ~
We are working hard to save on groceries so that we will have some Christmas spending money. I talk about how we are doing that here. We are blessed to have a stocked freezer to start us on our way.

Blessings, Dawn