Sunday, February 28, 2016

R Is for Reflections and Radiance

All of the pictures and video clips are from Anne and Dean's most recent dance showcase. I could only post short clips because Blogger only allows 100 megabyte films.

This is going to be mainly a reflections post with a bit of radiance thrown in for good measure. My kids are growing up by leaps and bounds. I am so blessed and thankful to be able to be at home with them, watching them grow to become these incredible people. Not only am I happy to be so blessed, but the older they get, the more I realize that my role as a parent is even more complicated than when they were babes. Babies are easy. They eat, sleep, and are adorable. But as they grow and go out into the world, they experience many dangers. Of course, I cannot protect them from every possible danger, but I can decrease the bad influences by keeping very close tabs on the people and activities that are influencing them. I am fully aware that every activity they do must be considered carefully to determine if it is useful, safe, and providing them necessary skills to become the people they want to be. Every moment is precious and I want to make sure that nothing is wasted. However, even more importantly, I want to make sure they are doing things that are truly giving them wings to fly into their futures as radiant people. 
Anne did a five minute solo that she choreographed herself. 
I wish I could show the entire dance. She nailed it!

Dance has certainly proven to be one of the activities that is having a profoundly positive influence on my kids' lives. It makes them radiantly happy. 
Most of these girls have only been dancing with pointe shoes for a few months.

I sometimes hear other mothers complain about the time and money it takes to raise kids. I just don't get it. I don't mind investing in them for a moment. What more important mission could I spend my days on than guiding my kids on the path to adulthood? 

So as they keep growing and stretching, I am watching carefully from the wings, ready to step in when guidance is needed. However, from my current view, they are flying high towards a radiant future.

Dean is the boy in the red shirt with gold tie. He's come a long way with physical therapy!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 26, 2016

Q Is for Quest

We have grandparents in town this week. Our little city has had its fair share of rain, snow, wind, and cold this week so we have been on a Quest to find fun, mostly indoor, activities. Our city is nestled in the mountains and boasts a huge amount of outdoor activities. However, if you want to be indoors and don't want to shop or visit little art galleries, the list of activities gets much shorter. Mind you, I was raised in a large city, the capital of our country, in fact, so I am a bit spoiled when it comes to expectations.

We did find a fair amount of fun this week ~

Quest 1 ~ We went to a ceramics place to paint. We had taken my Mom there a few weeks ago and thought this set of grandparents would enjoy it. We all either painted ceramics or did glass fusion. Our creations will be fired and returned to us in about a week. It was a fun morning.
Grandpa made a mug with his signature cat face on it.
Anne made a tea set for her American Girl Dolls.
Grandma tried glass fusion. This flat piece will turn into a bowl.
My son has a myriad of facial expressions! He made a soda bottle.

I made a heart bowl. I can't wait to see them all shiny and finished.

Quest 2 ~ We ate out at three different restaurants. We had pizza, crepes, and chicken and waffles during their stay. That is a ton of eating out for our family in a week.

Quest 3 ~ We went to the aSHEmuseum. This is a relatively new museum in our city that is focused on women and how they live all around the world. I enjoyed the display that told about a day in the life of women in many different countries. Anne liked the puzzles and Dean liked the famous women's quote section. Tim liked the documentaries throughout the museum.

We can do it even if our clothes are way too big ~ Ha!
Quest 4 ~ We walked around downtown and visited a few art galleries. We also stopped in at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial historical site. 
See grandpa in the background? Photography runs deep in our family!

Will Dean be as tall as Thomas Wolfe when fully grown?
What a blessed week!

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TOS Review ~ The Climbing Knights

SimplyFun Review

I'm reviewing The Climbing Knights,  one of four SimplyFun new releases. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to review this game. What a great board game it is! We were immediately impressed with the materials used to make the game. The box itself is strong enough to last for years to come. The game is extremely sturdy and well built, being manufactured out of a thick, high-quality cardboard. The pieces are durable, so I have no doubt they can be assembled over and over again without wear. I was also impressed with how easy assembly is. My daughter had it all put together in just a few minutes. The game is 29 inches tall when it is fully assembled. It is also a breeze to disassemble and fit neatly back into the box. I found the directions to be uncomplicated, so we were off and playing in no time.

SimplyFun Review

This game is all about strategy and spacial reasoning. Spacial reasoning is the ability to think about objects in a three-dimensional way. People who work at developing this skill will eventually be able to imagine how an object would look if it were rotated. They will be able to manipulate 2-D and 3-D objects in their heads. This skill helps people in many careers, such as engineers, urban planners, computer scientists, industrial designers, cartographers, sculptors, tailors, carpenters, graphic designers, mechanical designers, navigators, physicists, and architects -- to name just a few.

Each player is a knight who is trying to scale the wall of the castle and avoid the guards. It sounds easy, right? Not so -- there are ledges to hide under and windows to move around! But watch out -- with each roll of the die, the guards are able to move and may be able to see you. So you have to keep thinking about what is the safest move with each turn and what future moves the guards may be able to make. If the guards see you, down the wall you fall. Are you wondering how the knights stay attached to the wall? The knight figures are magnetic. Isn't that cool? They stick very well to the wall. My son, who has a tremble in his hands due to cerebral palsy, was easily able to place the knights and make them stick. This drastically increased his enjoyment of the game. I really appreciated the way the designers of the game did such a good job making the game work smoothly. My son Dean (13) said, "This game has really nice mechanics and rules." He especially likes that one of the die choices put the guards to sleep. Anne (12) said, "I like the concept of hiding from the guards and figuring out how to avoid them." Anne must really like the game, because she has asked to play it every day for six days in a row.

In addition to the game being straightforward in setting it up and in breaking it down, it is a relatively quick game. The directions say that the game takes about 30 minutes. We found that it only took about 20 minutes with two people playing. However, when four people played, it took closer to an hour. The extra length of time is probably due to some of my more strategy-driven children thinking through their moves longer than most would.

We are a family that plays games almost every night, especially during the fall and winter months. I would highly recommend this game as an addition to a family's collection. It is fun, easy to set up, and challenging enough to keep kids and adults engaged.

SimplyFun Review
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 20, 2016

P Is for Performances, Painting and Passions

Our last week or two could be characterized by P words. We have gone to performances, followed our passions, and done tons of painting.

Performances ~ We were fortunate to be able to attend two school matinee performances at our city's largest theater. We saw the Yamato Drummers of Japan and Mummenshanz. Both shows were great and a unique experience for my kids.

Painting ~ We finished painting (all but the ceiling) of the guest room/office. Our daughter Goldilocks had this room when she lived at home. Changing the color of this room's walls helped solidify in our minds that Goldilocks probably will not be coming home. She is not healing significantly in her mental health placement and is not likely to ever be ready to live in a typical family setting during the rest of her childhood. She is 15 now and we are considering group home settings that may be able to help her work toward living independently in the future. It eventually may be determined that she needs to stay in long-term care even in adulthood. Out of the blue this past week, she informed me that her favorite place to live during the past two years since she ran away had been the psychiatric hospital! As she said, she hadn't had to make any choices in that setting and there were very few people that she had to deal with. This is not an option, of course. Can you imagine preferring to live in a mental health hospital? None of this is as easy as the words I have written. There are monthly boarding fees costing almost as much as our monthly mortgage (and that is for the inexpensive places), caseworkers' and doctor's opinions to consider, and the never-ending battle with insurance (currently, our caseworker is handling this). Consequently, painting this particular room was different from painting other rooms in our home. It was a healing experience for our family. There was a finality in it and a chance to move forward.
Learning how to install new baseboards
Honey Milk is the paint color we chose. It is calm and neutral.
Passions ~ We have been very busy following our passions this week. Anne and Dean are working very hard on their dances for the showcase next weekend. Anne has a solo. They have both received compliments from the director this week. I love watching them bloom! I know people complain all the time about the tween/teen years, but for the most part I am loving them. My kids are great and it is so exciting to see what they love and want to do with their lives.

Speaking of passions, I am very passionate about education and I am enjoying my job on the TOS review crew. I love receiving new curriculum to explore and then telling you all about it. Check out my latest review here.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, February 14, 2016

O Is for Organizing, Occasion and On One's Own

Organizing ~ Our week was a whirlwind with very few photos taken. We started a host of house projects in which only one has currently been completed (ahem!). We are busy painting the guest bedroom/office. I am sure by next week I will have pictures to share of that accomplishment. The big surprise that interrupted our painting was a gift from the dance studio that our children attend. The studio was throwing out a ballet bar that they had used for more than 40 years. The kids really wanted it, and I told them they could have it before I realized it was 11 feet long! Fitting it into our family room meant redesigning two rooms and moving a host of furniture around. However, it worked out great, and the kids are thrilled to have for their very own a piece of their beloved dance studio. Dean said, "Mom think of the history and amazing dance moves this bar has seen." The change in our family room is not completely impromptu. We have been discussing for some time how the family room was only being used for Lego building. The other activities planned for that room, such as sewing and movie watching, just were not happening. Also, when we bought this house, we had to lay a new floor in the basement and had extra padding put under it so it would be safer for dancing. I then impulsively bought a huge sofa at a thrift store and that took away tons of space for dancing. The inheritance of the dance bar certainly forced our hand to make the space work for the kids' true passions.
A nice open space for dancing and a bar to hang onto during all of those pointe and ballet exercises.
A nice big space for Lego building. The huge drawer in the corner is filled with blocks.
We took our sectional apart and moved one piece into the laundry area for a comfortable folding area. The rest of it is here. You can see in the ballet bar photo above that we left the corner piece of the sofa to be pulled forward when the whole family is watching a movie.
Learning Occasion ~ We had our homeschooling review with another homeschool family this week. Because my kids have been studying the Narnia books series, we had high tea for our evening meal and presented some of what we had been learning.
The kids made tarts, and we also served asparagus, strawberries, tea sandwiches (cucumber with cream cheese and ham and cheese), cheese cubes, chocolates, petit fours, and Turkish Delight candies. Keeping with the Narnia theme, our friends brought Frog Jam, trifle, and sardines.

The kids presented their study of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They also talked about the other books they have studied in the Narnia series. Dean also showed off his robot that he has programmed to do all sorts of cool things. Anne performed her dance that she has been choreographing. She will be performing it as a solo in the dance showcase that is coming up. They both showed the twins how to swing dance. The twins presented their study of the Book of Kells.

On One's Own ~ Anne really wanted to do a solo in the upcoming showcase. She approached the director and asked if she could do one. The director asked her to show her music and what she had choreographed. Anne only had a little bit of the dance worked out but showed it to her. She was granted a solo and has to show the completed dance on Monday. Anne has choreographed and practiced her dance for over 15 hours this week on top of all of her normal dancing classes and practice. I am really proud of how hard she has worked for something she really wants to do. Her dance looks great. It is a lyrical and she is dancing to Shatter Me by Lindsey Stirling.

I am joining ~
Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 5, 2016

What a Week!

This week was a perfect example of how learning is a lifestyle. We are all learning and growing daily. There is great value in book learning, but there is also great value in hands-on learning. This week had a nice mix of both.

Art ~ We started the week out with a Grandmother-Daughter-Granddaughter day out. This was my Christmas present to my Mother, and we were finally able to go out for our all gal multi-generational adventure. My Mom decided that she wanted to go to a pottery place. Once there, she decided to try glass fusion. Anne and I painted pottery pieces. We all had a lot of fun and I can't wait to pick up the pieces after they are fired.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) ~ Anne had the opportunity to videotape a church performance that her friends were in this past weekend. She used both of our cameras (which can record and take pictures) and set them up in different locations. It reminded me of my Father, who is a photographer. She did a good job and the movie came out nice. DH helped her splice the two films together, and they are burning them on DVDs. It was a good first experience for Anne.

Dean also had some fun with STEM activities this week. His latest Tinker Crate arrived. The theme was gravity. This crate was more challenging for him than some of the more recent crates. He stuck with it and got most of the experiments to work.

Science ~ We sure didn't have to go far for our nature study this week. Our neighbor's tree crashed into our yard during a windstorm on Wednesday morning. You can read about it here. The kids learned about the tree and also played in it for the past several days. It is still in our yard since the neighbor is getting bids to determine who to have clean it up. I suspect they will play in it more over this weekend.

The kids are inside the tree and you can't even see them. They can stand up all the way inside.
Anne on the top of the tree
Standing on the side of the tree. It is very wide and was more than 60 feet tall.
Home Economics ~ Anne sewed elastic into her pointe shoes to prolong their life. She is growing out of them; but her dance teacher doesn't want her to get a new pair until after the Showcase performances, because she won't have time to break in a new pair of shoes. Dean took all of the light fixtures apart and cleaned them. They both made molasses sugar cookies and muffins this week.

Physical Education ~ No one could ever say these kids don't get enough physical education. They have added an extra 1.5 hour class to prepare for the Showcase dance performance at the end of the month. They are now up to 8.5 hours for Anne and 4.5 hours for Dean. Next week Anne will be adding one more hour of pointe bringing her to 9.5 hours of dance. Dean graduated once again from his latest series of physical therapy (PT). He will continue an intensive at-home PT program that hopefully will keep him from needing more PT for the next six months. 

All the Rest ~ Plenty of book work happened this week as well. They each completed a chapter book. The kids continued with their study of elections, progressed through the War of the Roses in history, started new math books, continued with creative writing and listening to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. They also completed Life of Fred Kidneys. Lastly, they took several literature review tests from the Help Teaching website that I will be posting a review about soon. 

Blessings, Dawn

N Is for Nature Study ~ When the Neighbor's Tree Came for a Visit

Our nature study came to us this week. A very heavy rainstorm and high winds proved too much for the neighbor's tree. It fell into our yard, crushing the fence as it came. Thankfully, it missed the power lines and the house. The kids started to play in the tree before the rain even stopped.

The tree is enormous! Being a homeschool mom, I immediately saw the learning opportunities in this unexpected adventure. We set to work exploring/playing fort in the tree. We found that the tree had started to uproot from the saturated ground and then broke near the base. It was a violent break with many jagged tears.

The kids collected pine cones, bark and needles to help us determine what kind of conifer tree we had acquired. It turns out that it is a Norway Spruce. This tree has the potential to grow over 100 feet tall with a width of 40 feet. It can live to be over 100 years old. Upon measuring, our neighbor's tree was 60 feet tall and very wide as you can see in the picture with people standing in front of it (below).

Mostly, the kids just wanted to be in the tree. They really are enjoying it. The neighbor will be clearing it away and mending our fence in a few days. Until then, I am sure the children will delight in.

I am joining ~
Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Blessings, Dawn