Saturday, April 25, 2020

Week 6 of Stay Home, Stay Safe

This was the week that we really needed to give Dean a haircut. His hair was a bit overdue for a cut even before the Stay Home, Stay Safe order started. We offerred to try to cut it ourselves (although we have no experience), but he kept declining until it was driving him crazy. Anne shaved the sides and then trimmed the top on the following day. Whew! He is pleased with it. Thank goodness it all worked out. We are learning to be more and more self-sufficient.

We are also in the process of bringing a tree down that was very sick and half dead. It was right next to the house. David didn't think it was so terribly tall that we would not be able to handle it on our own. He climbed the tree and took down some of the larger branches. We ended up needing to buy a larger chainsaw. We were able to bring it down with everyone helping. Now we have tons of firewood for our fire pit (which we bought for evening entertainment). It just arrived, and we look forward to trying it out in the next few days.

I didn't get the picture of the tree completely down. They made quick work of it with the new chainsaw.

We are using the backyard for fun, too. The guys have been busy playing Belegarth with their foam weapons. It isn't as much fun to play with just two people, but at least they have each other to spar with each day.

On the educational front, Anne completed Math III this week. She is all done with math for her entire high school career. That feels great. She also completed Earth Science, which had dragged on and on for two years. Both Dean and Anne will be done with English for the year in a few weeks. We are reading The Hobbit as a family. It is an enjoyable distraction to our daily grind. We also really are enjoying the National Park documentaries on the National Geographic channel on Disney Plus. Each episode is like a mini vacation. I love to hear the kids talking about all of the animal facts they have learned through the years. They have a strong knowledge base that will serve them well. Dean is on track to be done with all of his subjects and graduate around the first week of June. It is a relief to see the end in sight. 

We decided to start doing a few drives each week around our city. During this shutdown, we are taking advantage of the lack of traffic while having Anne do most of the driving. She is starting to build her confidence and conquering  several new things each week. She drove through a medium size tunnel; dealt with a beautiful, huge bear crossing the road in front of her in the middle of downtown; drove our narrow downtown streets; and dealt with several homeless people walking down the middle of the road. All of these are common occurrences in our city and excellent practice for her. Although it is somewhat unusual to see a bear actually in the inner city, it certainly isn't unusual to see them in our neighborhood. We did have a bear get caught in a hotel lobby on the outskirts of the city last year. You never know where bears will pop up!

Stay safe everyone!
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Party House

This was a week filled with celebration in our household. We had Easter, an at-home prom and Grandma's birthday. I love to celebrate life events. We look forward to each event even more than usual during this quarantine. I will get into our celebrations in just a minute but first an update on life.

Dear husband was forced back to work on Thursday. He had plenty of sick leave to continue staying home, but he wasn't given the option. His boss said the orders came from far up the chain. So, he is back to the guest bedroom and we have increased our cleaning practices. Some days I feel like we are doing overkill and others that we aren't doing enough. It is a very confusing experience with few known facts to help us in our decisions. However, we keep coming back to an abundance of caution, so our entire family can make it through this experience. We are strong and shall rise above this and what seems likely to come (an economic depression). No matter what happens in the world and our nation, our finances take a downward turn on May 1st with the loss of our son's adoption stipend. We have been preparing for this for a long time and hopefully we are ready for this occurrence . So much is different than we thought it would be. We always assumed that four out of the five of us could take on part-time jobs if needed. With the downturn of the economy, that looks to be unlikely. However, I am not terribly worried. I know we will find our way through. We are just taking it one month at a time, and being home all the time is much cheaper than our normal lives.

I have started recording our accomplishments with all of our extra time at home. This week I shredded about 800 pieces of paper that were mostly medical papers and old bank statements that were no longer relevant. I now have to file about 200 pieces of paper that are still relevant. The huge filing drawer is now empty. Honestly, this has been on my to do list for years. It feels good to get more organized and to have less stuff.
I think I am going to turn this drawer that used to be filled with papers into a blanket drawer.
How are grocery stores doing in your areas? I mostly hear updates from others in my area and really haven't been to many myself. Our stores are stocked at about 70 percent. There are no cleaning supplies to be had and there are limits on milk, eggs and toilet paper. Chicken is hard to find and all of the meat is scarce. I did head out to Whole Foods this week. Our pantry and freezer is still stocked with a few weeks of food, so I really just wanted to stay in a very comfortable place and not run out of critical things. I decided to go to this store because it sells my son's favorite soap and his birthday is coming up. Yes, he asked for soap for one of his birthday ideas. Also, I knew this store was taking extra precautions and carried organic meat. I did experience some sticker shock, but I am not sure if the prices were higher or if I usually only go to this store for a few select items. There was almost no meat to be had. There were still no pickles...why no pickles? Here is what I got for $103. It doesn't seem like much. We were almost out of cheese and milk. I did find both of those. I found one can of refried beans, but there were no other canned or dry beans to be had. I may try Sam's in a few days.
The Perrier and makeup wipes were treats for the kids.
We have been getting extra produce from Misfit Market for almost a year. I really appreciate it, now more than ever. This is what we got in our last shipment.

We also put in a small garden last weekend. So far it is looking good. I hope we can make it grow successfully. This rocky mountain soil is hard on plants. We did add a few bags of good gardening soil. We also worked on the strawberry bed that had been attacked by vines. It was almost lost last year when we had intense rain.

Easter was lovely. I purchased a ham and Easter candy when everything started looking like our country was in trouble. We had a calm time of reflection and family togetherness at home. Then we made our little feast and ate dinner. We took a plate to Grandma and left it on her porch table. It was a different kind of Easter.

Anne heard about a nationwide prom being held on YouTube and wanted to join in. She FaceTimed with a friend while they did their makeup and laughed about the dance they had gone to last year. She asked me to dress up and join her. She decorated the living room and even created a photo booth. We made snacks and settled down for the YouTube prom. It really wasn't that cool after all, so we found our own music and laughed and danced a bit. Then we settled into a movie. It was a fun evening and lifted Anne's spirits a bit about the homeschool formal having been cancelled this year.

Lastly, we celebrated Grandma's birthday. She came over and stayed more than six feet from us in our back yard. We had take-out from Red Lobster. The family fish fry was a great deal. We then played Scattergories. We gave her presents and finished off the party with angel food cake. It was a great success. I am getting used to these quarantine parties. We have one more to go at the end of the month. Grandma didn't want a photo taken, because she's way past time for her monthly haircut and the salons are all closed!
I only got a picture of my dinner plate. 
I hope you all are safe and sound.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 10, 2020

We've Got This!

We are doing amazingly well with this Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate. We are learning so much about ourselves. This certainly is an opportunity to grow and, I hope, to thrive for many. Anne is adjusting well to not having a very busy schedule. She is really starting to enjoy her downtime, and I am seeing a return to her loving crafts and wanting to spend time with her brothers. It is not that she disliked spending time with her brothers before, but more that she was ever so busy. She was so worn out by the end of her long days that she resisted giving them the attention they wanted. Their relationships were strong before this period of crisis, but I see so much more joy and fellowship shared by them. I hope we can find a better balance when life returns to more normal levels of activity.
Anne made a flower wreath one warm spring day.

We had our first Quarantine Birthday this week. It was Tim's 30th birthday. How is that even possible?! He had a fantastic day of gifts, movies and take-out food. At his request, we watched the three original Star Wars movies over two days. Anne had never seen any of them, so he was very eager to share them with her. She still isn't a huge Star Wars fan. Fortunately, I suspected that this crisis was going to impact many weeks so bought his gifts and a cake mix in advance. We were able to give him what he wanted. Honestly, he is the least fussy person. He never wants to be a burden in any way and is very content with the small things in life. We made his day perfect with take-out from Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack, which is his very favorite restaurant in our city. They had a great system of ordering online and then pulling up to the curb for our order. They opened the back door of the car, popped our order into the back and waved us off. It was great social distancing.

Carrot cake ...Yum

I knew that having filling and fun meals would be important to my crew's mental health. This has proven to be a key to a happy crew. They know the schedule of which days they can have treats, and they look forward to a dinner with movie night every few days. Here was one of our movie dinners.
Sweet potato fries, pizza, popcorn, red pepper slices, apple slices, and Sour Patch Kids for dessert.
Board games are very popular, too. We played the following in the past week:
  • Monopoly (3 hours)
  • Spoons (card game)
  • Clue
  • Noggin card games ~ Rainforest, Wonders of the World and Earth Science
  • Quelf
We also decided to leave home and go on a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It wasn't crowded and exercise is encouraged under the mandate, so we decided to hike an unpopulated trail on Mount Pisgah. It was lovely to get outside and see our beautiful mountains. We even found ruins of an old lodge. It was a refreshing adventure.

School is moving along at a smooth pace. I was a bit worried last week that I was running out of materials to finish off a few subjects. I had known pre-pandemic that there wasn't enough but assumed that I would just pop out to the library or local bookstore to wrap up our studies. That is not to be and I felt just a tad panicked. However, I combed my shelves and the Internet and we are squared away again. Yes, I am using a bit of curriculum that isn't a perfect fit and we are tossing out bits and pieces here and there, but that is the joy of homeschooling. That is why the public school parents who say they are homeschooling (but really aren't) are so stressed out. They don't have the autonomy to make their own choices. They are trying to squeeze into a box and meet expectations that someone far away has told them to do without knowing the pressure and needs of individual families on any given day. I do feel for them and wish they weren't all going around saying they are home-schooling. Really, many regular homeschoolers are crisis homeschooling. This is not what our normal homeschool lives look like. There are no field trips, co-ops, meet ups, out-of-the-home classes or library trips. This is certainly not normal homeschooling. Oops, I got on my soap box..ahem.

A last note and perhaps a chuckle for you all ~ I love grocery shopping. I have for a long time. I have resisted going to once a month shopping which might save money, because I so enjoy going out on the hunt for food each week. However, I stocked up a month or so worth of food when I saw this pandemic was going to be an unusual experience. It turns out I forgot what I bought so am having fun "shopping" from my emergency pantry and freezer each week. It sure doesn't take as long to shop and I can stay in my pajamas. This may become my new way of grocery shopping. HaHa.

Stay safe everyone.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 3, 2020

Angel Wings and Blessings in the Storm

Our sweet Boomer earned his angel wings this week.
I didn't take any pictures this week. The one above is of Boomer a few years ago.

It was a hard week. We had to say goodbye to our beloved dog. The cancer roared back with a vengeance and all of our palliative care was no longer enough. By Wednesday, we knew he needed help and quick. His breathing was very labored and his lymph nodes were swelling by the hour. They were as big as lemons. We were blessed to find a mobile vet who specializes in end-of-life care for pets. She came out and helped him transition out of this world. It was a very peaceful process and she was very sweet and kind. We will miss him so much. The house is too quiet now. In time a new pup will come into our lives, but for now we grieve.

 I did venture out to do some grocery shopping on Tuesday. I wanted to get things like Tylenol, butter and flour. My mother also had a small list of needs. Many items were hard to find and I had to go to several stores, but I was blessed to find most of them. I was most impressed with Trader Joe's system of social distancing. They did a great job.

We are not sharing with our children our concerns that this may go on for many months. None of us knows what next week, let alone next month, will bring. However, we are actively preparing for the long haul. Sometimes blessings come along that we don't realize are blessings at the time. Remember the tree that fell down a few months ago? The neighbor next to the neighbor whose tree fell into our yard decided to remove the same kind of trees from his yard for safety's sake. This has created a nice sun-filled space in our back yard that isn't in the septic field. Now we can have a small garden. We are going to give it a try. It may be very necessary to have a bit of extra food in the future.

I am so blessed to have a spacious back yard. I must admit that I have at times hated all the three-quarters of an acre. It was terribly overgrown when we bought this house. This was a foreclosure and the yard was more like a jungle than a suburban yard. Don't even get me started on the vines. They are everywhere and relentless. We have worked at it for years, but rarely had time to enjoy our yard in any way. It just seemed like we were racing around managing vines, weeds and wild onions. Now, we have tons of time and no where to go. We work in the yard as a whole family for about 30 minutes a day, and we are actually using our yard for recreation in the evenings. It is a lovely addition to our quarantine routine. (I will show photos next week.)

The biggest blessing of all this week is that dear husband is now home. When Covid-19 started moving through the VA Hospital, David asked to take sick leave for a few weeks. He explained about our medically-fragile adult son and the need to shelter in place for our family. His boss agreed. We are so blessed that he has accumulated months of sick leave to take, if need be. However, he will probably start doing telecommuting work in the next week or so. We are so very blessed that he is home. Hopefully, we got him home in time and he will not get sick.

I hope you all are safe and sound.

Blessings, Dawn