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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding Christmas Money in a Tight Budget

We have lived on a tight budget for years. However, this year the budget is much tighter because of the costs associated with providing our daughter, Goldilocks, with mental health boarding home care. Our monthly co-pay after insurance is a fourth of our income. Last year I tried to supplement our grocery bill by eating out of our freezer to clear up Christmas money. While I saw the value of my plan, I hadn't thought of it soon enough to really stockpile. This summer I realized that, if we were going to have Christmas and extra heating bill money, I was needed to half our grocery bill each week from mid-November to Christmas. So, I made a real effort to add one extra thing to the freezer and one extra food item to the pantry each week. We will see how I did.

Week One ~ I spent $90 on groceries to start this week. I usually spend about $180. I hope that I do not need to buy anything more. Our groceries include food and household products. This week I needed a new mop head which set me back $4.70. I also am in charge of providing snack for Lego Club this month. I am feeding the 20+ kids a 3 oz. cup of Whole Grain Goldfish and a 3 oz. cup of grapes. We try to eat as organically as possible, and all of our meat is cage free and as grain free as possible. We eat very little organic dairy.

Menu Plan ~ 

  • Homemade chicken pot pie
  • Chicken drumsticks with rice and salad
  • Spaghetti with meatballs and peas
  • Colcannon with diced ham and peas
  • Pancakes with sausage and oranges
  • Baked potato bar
  • Leftovers a few times
  • Homemade bread and fruit salad
  • Nut and veggie platter
  • Cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches
  • Banana bread with oranges and nuts
  • Waffles with apples
  • Oatmeal with apples
  • Homemade pancakes with oranges
  • Smoothies (frozen fruit and Greek yogurt) and toast
  • French  toast with oranges
The only things I took from the freezer was a can of orange juice and a bag of smile potatoes which will supplement the kids' luxury liquids when they get bored of tea and cashew milk. We drink water with most meals and snacks.

Here is what our freezer looks like on November 17.

Right side of Freezer

Left side and top trays
If I don't need to spend any more grocery money this week, we will have saved $90. That money will pay some of the donation shipping cost on our Operation Christmas Child boxes and offset the cost of an emergency repair our furnace needed this weekend. The rest of the money for the furnace repair will come from switching cars with my husband this week. He drives much less than me and had almost a full tank of gas. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Week 15 ~ Where Did the Last Five Weeks Go?

We are done with our third five week unit. I can't believe we have finished another five weeks! This past unit seemed to fly by extra quickly. I imagine the next five weeks will be even faster, since they will end on the doorstep of Christmas. We had our Show and Tell presentation for unit three last night. I am a bit deflated by it. The kids seemed confused about the material and just completely off their game. They did not make this homeschool mom particularly proud. However, I know one night is not a full reflection of the work we are accomplishing day in and day out.

Tom Sawyer has been "off" all week due to Halloween candy (which, for the kids' well being, now has been discarded). I thought I had given him enough supplements to counteract letting him have candy a few times, but I obviously over did it. He has been one red, hives covered, tearful, ADHD mess. I hope we will have him detoxed by the end of the weekend. I sure am looking forward to a week off to rethink a few things and get our holiday schooling off to a successful start.

Operation Christmas Child ~ It is almost collection time again. The dates for collection are November 17 - 24. Since next week is our week off and we have lots of plans, I decided to do our boxes now. We had almost no budget for Operation Christmas Child this year. We collected items year round for this event so we already had some things. I really need to make every dollar squeal this holiday season, but I don't want that fact to take away from our charity work. I have a friend who has worked at the sorting center for years, and she told me that used was okay as long as it was in excellent condition. I decided to go with that theory this year.

Little Red Riding Hood made lots of crafts at the Arts for Life table (at the hospital) this year. We took the ones that could become toys and used them for our boxes.

We also are ready to give away our Brio. Many of the trains were chipped and I was not able to resell them on Ebay. So the kids painted them with non toxic paint (acrylic) to make them safe and like new to send. We also had a large bag of Lego blocks that had been donated to us which we used in the boxes, and the hard candy came from their bags of Halloween candy.

We joined together with our favorite twins and put together seven boxes for Operation Christmas Child and two boxes for Meals on Wheels. We purchased cups, pencils, paper, toothpaste, soap, tooth brushes, and wash cloths from the dollar store. The total cost to us was $16.

Our Show and Tell Night ~ As I stated earlier, the kids were not their best for this event. Tom Sawyer struggled with the writing of his report (in fact, Grandma typed and wrote a lot of it). They struggled to keep all of the details of the Civil Rights Movement straight and just seemed at times like deer caught in headlights. However, they got through it. For dinner, we had a traditional African-American soul food meal. We made 7-Up Cake (substituting organic lemon-lime soda), flavorful green beans, oven-fried fish, and mac and cheese.

Tom Sawyer's Physical Therapy ~ On a positive note, Tom Sawyer has stopped complaining about the mechanics of writing during the last few weeks. There have been almost no tears, and he is writing his dictations much more quickly. He has had many years of occupational therapy to help with his handwriting, but it has done almost nothing. Tom Sawyer has cerebral palsy, and his new physical therapist has stated that his core is so weak that she can't figure out why he hasn't been confined to a wheelchair. Having a weak core affects everything, including one's ability to write. So this new physical therapist has started working to strengthen his core. Now Tom Sawyer does daily core strengthening exercises, and it is reflected in his improved ability to write. Thank goodness for progress!!

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, November 2, 2014

First Day of November 2014

Snow on the first day of November in North Carolina!

Took a short trip to the library.
Tom Sawyer settled down with a new library book.
Dishes, laundry, and floor mopping -- they all happened.

Little Red Riding Hood moved the furniture around in her room again!

A movie for me while folding a mountain of laundry.