Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Review and Reflections of 2019

I thought I would do a review style that I used to do on my blog years ago. I don't know why I fell out of the habit. It was fun looking back. You take the first sentence or two and the first picture of your first post of each month of the year. I skipped the first post if it was a transcript post for one of my kids and had no photo. Here we go.

The night before my Father's passing.
Our Christmas break was filled with great joys and a few deep sorrows. We are in Washington, D.C. My father is critically ill.

Trying to stick to routines...
Wow, I feel like every week recently I am saying it was a hard week.

Family togetherness pulls us through.
It was an exhausting but good week. I can feel energy, ideas and hope coming back into my life. 


This is the time of year when I really feel pulled to check boxes and wrap things up. It can be a time of year when I forget about what is best for the whole child and concentrate only on the student part of my kids.

Walking his cat!
We are blessed abundantly and are feeling strong and encouraged by our routine.

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Cecchetti Exam

Anne spent the week in more than 12 hours of rehearsals for the big show this weekend.


We have just returned from a wonderful family reunion with my husband's side of the family.

Best friends for seven years.
Wow! It is August already. I can hardly believe it. The summer is racing past us and I have so much more I want to do.


This was the hardest trip I have ever planned. On paper it looked almost too hard and in reality it was too hard at points. However, it was also an amazing trip filled with many wonderful moments.

My girl can fly!
It was a good week. We had a nice balance of fun, work, and school.

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We had planned on renovating the back house some day in the future, so it turned out to be a blessing!
Our insurance covered much of the costs, except for our deductible. 
We had some wild rain followed by crazy wind over Halloween night. The result is that we woke up this morning to a neighbor's tree that fell through our yard and hit our back building (which we refer to as the back house).

One of her six costumes for Nutcracker this year.
The 10th anniversary of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is complete. My girl completed her 10th season of dancing The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. 

Wow! Looking back it was a year filled with many, many challenges. Where there are challenges there are great opportunities for growth -- and, boy, did we grow this year! Some of the accomplishments and changes this year are as follows:
  • Dean started on an anti-depressant, which has helped him a lot. He still needs so much more help with anxiety, and we will be continuing to look for answers on that in 2020.
  • I have always had the viewpoint that "less is more" when it comes to belongings, but this year I have been cutthroat in attacking our belongings. We have reduced our material possessions by about 25% and I am not done yet. This week alone, we got rid of 111 items (many of them extra hangers, but, hey, every item that leaves the house means less work for me). We are all feeling more freedom.
  • Our relationship with our adult daughter, Katie, is in the best place it has been in years. She moved to a much more positive mental health residential facility and they are encouraging her to maintain a much more positive relationship with us. The last few months of communications have been pleasant, and we even had a nice visit with her last week. I hope it continues into 2020.
  • We continue to find new and inventive ways to keep our family tight and filled with love. It is challenging when the youngest neurotypical child is spreading her wings and flying, while the older two living in the home are struggling to maintain what they have currently accomplished. It sometimes causes jealously, anxiety and tears of frustration all around. However, family is our core and we keep finding our way together. Love is powerful!
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Field Trips Abound

We had some truly lovely field trips this week. We went to the annual international nativity displays near us. I love this exhibit and it grows bigger and bigger every year. This year there were over 300 displays. I love to see how different cultures interpret the nativity. There were so many precious ones, but I will just share a few.

This one is made out of oyster shells.

The innkeeper and his wife preparing the manger for coming babe.

My husband had the day off on Friday and we decided to take a day trip to Knoxville, TN. We got out of the house right after breakfast and headed straight for the Knoxville Zoo. Going to the zoo in winter time has several advantages. We had the place to ourselves and got a discount for coming in the winter time. The animals were lively and came right to the edge of their enclosures to look at us. The rhinos were so close we could practically touch them. The staff was very helpful and eager to talk to us about the different animals. It was delightful! A funny thing happened. The lioness came right up to the edge of her fence. We were talking to her and she turned around and sprayed urine in our direction. Apparently, she was not thrilled with us and wanted us to move on -- which we did.

There was a fun tower area around the Gibbon monkeys (they are called monkeys but are really apes) and a second story nest that onlookers could lie down in. Anne and I braved the nest while the guys looked down at us. They were not brave enough to climb into the nest.

This is taken from my camera while laying in the nest.
Anne and Tim decided to take a camel ride. It was a first for both of them. Dean wasn't about to get on such a big animal and watched from the sidelines. 



When we were done with the zoo, we had a few hours before our next Knoxville adventure and decided to "rest" at the mall on the last Friday before Christmas. What were we thinking?! We were thinking that our kids love malls and like to visit ones in different cities and see what they are like. I am not sure why they love malls so much. We hardly ever buy anything and mostly just walk the mall and get a drink in the food court. I must admit that we don't buy a ton for Christmas, so I forget that we are out of step with most of America on this particular front. Thus, we were very surprised how crowded it was (insert roll eyes for my silliness). We found parking and enjoyed our walk around the mall, watched all the hectic shoppers running this way and that, and had a light dinner off the small plate part of the menu at The Cheesecake Factory. We then moved on to our second adventure in Knoxville.

One of my goals is to explore how people celebrate the holidays in different cities. Since we were in a different city, I looked for a holiday event to attend. We found Christmas in the Caves at the Cherokee Caverns. It said it was Knoxville's best kept secret -- Ha! We had to park about a quarter of a mile away from the parking lot on a little dirt road. There was a great police presence to help us cross the road. It was a small cavern but beautifully decked out with lots of lights and blow ups. It was self guided and we were able to wander around at our own pace (mostly). We even got pictures with the Grinch. It was a fun ending to our day.

What a lovely week all around.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Favorites ~ It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

One of our Christmas traditions is visiting the Grove Park Inn and touring the National Gingerbread House competition. Every piece of the gingerbread display must be edible and the creations come from all over the country.  It is always an impressive event.

Our son Timothy helped make this one with his brain injured adult day program.

We have thoroughly enjoyed decorating for Christmas. I really enjoy Advent more than Christmas Day itself. I enjoy the time of wonder and reflection that Advent allows. The gift giving on Christmas Day is fun, but not really the true joy of the season for me. We went with a smaller tree this year. My family was skeptical about getting a small tree. However, I really thought it would be lovely, and we have a tighter budget this year. It is filled with family ornaments and includes chandelier crystals that were passed down from a family chandelier that broke years ago. We all agree that it is perfect and wonderful.

Anne spent lots of time arranging her bedroom with a Nutcracker theme. She even bought herself a white Christmas tree from the discount store.

Our nativity and Christmas village is always fun to see again. They are like old friends coming out of the box each year.

We are doing one Advent book each Sunday. The book sits out each week until Sunday so it can be looked at, and then we light a candle and read our book.

Update on Homeschool ~ Dean completed two workbooks this week. He finished one math book and his art history book. He only has eight more weeks of Visual Arts III left. I think we will finish this course with field trips and a few documentaries of his favorite artists. His favorite classes right now are U.S. History II and World Governments. 

Anne has made huge progress with her Health class. She only has five weeks left which will most likely be filled with driving lessons. She is slightly behind in Geometry and Physical Science, but ahead in everything else. Considering how crazy her schedule has been, she is doing great. 

Blessings, Dawn