Friday, February 26, 2021

A Wee Break

I am taking a wee break. I may not be able to post for a few weeks, since I am giving my computer to our adult daughter, Katie. She needs a computer for college, and we have been thinking about moving from a desktop to a laptop for some time. This seems like the appropriate moment. We are glad she loves learning and is trying to work her way through college, even though it is a huge struggle for her. We are also so grateful that she is reaching out and sharing her feelings, dreams and struggles with us.

I do plan to use my phone or a Chromebook to read blogs and do other things for a while, but I am not sure I will be able to load pictures and such. Anyway, I will be back very soon.

We had a typical week here. Nothing amazing to report. School and college classes are going well. We closed Elijah's case with Vocational Rehabilitation, and we feel relieved and nervous simultaneously  about going it alone. However, I have faith that what is supposed to come to pass will. Everything always works out.

We enjoyed the spring weather and sunshine while it lasted. 

We are abundantly blessed. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Chocolate, Tunnels and Presidents...Oh My!

February is one of those months where the holidays get all mashed up together and I have to pick which ones to celebrate. This year, we skipped Mardi Gras and concentrated on Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day. 

We had a family chocolate tasting for Valentine's Day. The winners were Whitman's and Godiva. The coconut chocolate from Whitman's was as good as I remember, but we all agreed that we preferred our favorite organic free trade chocolate brands to any of these. It was a family hit nonetheless.

We also enjoyed a family hike on Sunday to a state park in Virginia we have never visited. It is called Tunnel State Park and it was wonderful. We arrived to a completely empty parking lot and had the park completely to ourselves. It was a crisp, drizzly, grey day and I guess no one decided to come out. We left Tim at home so he could have peace and quiet for an "alone day," which he really enjoyed. 

The park was stunning and my photos do not truly do it justice. The water was truly blue in places where the beach was limestone. We spent a good hour skipping rocks, collecting pieces of coal that had fallen off the trains that pass through daily and just enjoying the nature around us. 

Our kids have become so used to masks that they wear them even when it isn't necessary. They said that the masks keep them warm. My dear mountain goat children wore them the entire time, even when we were climbing back up the steep mountainside that had benches at every switchback turn. 

While we were enjoying the stream, a train came through. Unfortunately, my phone had died by then. The train was awesome. The engineer waved to us and its length went by for at least five minutes. I love the clickety-clack of trains on tracks. We also hiked to Carter's cabin, which is the oldest structure in Scott's County, Virginia. On our trek home, we stopped in Johnson City, Tennessee, for dinner. We got takeout from Panera Bread and enjoyed it in the parking lot. It was an all-around lovely day.

We upgraded our Universal Yum Box to the Yum, Yum level. It comes with lots more snacks. This month was Ukraine. They all had super strong flavors -- overpowering to say the least. It wasn't our favorite box, but we had a great time laughing at everyone's expressions as they tried things. 

Has anyone else noticed that they end up doing chores around their pets? I was trying to change the sheets and left the room to get fresh ones. I got distracted for 10 minutes and returned to this. 

I kept Presidents' Day real simple this year. We looked up the Presidents' favorite food items and then checked our pantry for supplies. We picked our presidents based on what food we had and what would go well together. We decided on hoe cakes (George Washington), blueberries (John Quincy Adams), bacon (Abraham Lincoln), corn bread (John Polk), apple cider (John Adams ~ although he preferred hard cider), and cabbage (James Buchanan). We pulled out the appropriate pewter presidents from my husband's collection and made up the dishes. It was a lovely feast and our second successful themed dinner for 2021.

I hope you all are safe with the deep freeze and crazy ice that is gripping the country. We really were left unscathed here in WNC. We just had lots of rain and a bit of sleet. I'll take it.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 13, 2021

An Adventurous Week

First, I want to say that January was rough around here. We had a real increase in tense days. I think it was the worst month since the pandemic started. Mostly, I think it is just the longevity of the situation. Over the past year, most days have been positive, but the overall picture is just draining and endless. My introverts want to be left completely alone and my extroverts want more and more attention from whoever can give it to them...which in this case is the introverts in the family. We as a family need a break from each other. However, that isn't possible for an extended period of time. I am trying a few things to reduce stress.

I encouraged Tim (who is suffering the most and is an introvert) to skip family time when he isn't interested or just needs a break. I also am encouraging him to join the Zoom classes with his day program for brain-injured adults. He was resistant before because he didn't want to deal with even more people, but I thought a change in personalities might help. The program said he could join them via Zoom whenever and for as long or short a period as he wished. He tried it this week for about 20 minutes and said he will do it a few times a week in the future.

I am changing family time activities around to include more car rides for a special drink and to see sunsets, more relaxed or junior games that will be easier for my brain-injured son and just remind us all of childhood unity, more themed family meals which always hold people at the table longer and are higher quality. Basically, I am trying to make the moments together higher quality so that people will be more filled up and there will hopefully be a more natural break during downtimes for the introverts. 

We also are planning a few field trips. Some will be for all of us while others will give Tim the opportunity to stay home, so he will be able to have six to eight hours of alone time. 

My hardest challenge is figuring out what to do for Elijah. He is my extreme extrovert. He is also my child that has always been most frightened of the world, the biggest homebody and has the least amount of friends. He doesn't want to leave the house and isn't adjusting well to all of the new platforms to interact with friends such as Zoom and outdoor meetups. He is so lonely. He is resistant to getting a job because of the pandemic, although recently he has become a little bit willing to look at possibilities. Basically, he has been "sitting on a shelf," waiting for this experience to be over, but it is evident that the pandemic has been taking too long and he will have to stretch way out of his comfort zone. 

So we did have lots of positive moments this week, but we also had our fair share of hard moments. We don't take pictures of the tears, so I am sure to some it looks like everything is always great. It isn't, but we are working to make as much of our lives joyful as possible. 

Chinese New Year ~ Themed dinner number one. I am so pleased with how the table came out. Everything was pulled together from around the house and the food was all from Trader Joe's. My themed dinner worked and everyone stayed at the table for an extra 20 minutes. We had really good conversation, too. 

Against my better judgement, we pulled out Monopoly and played it with new rules (that made it faster). Sure enough, there was lots of conflict in understanding the new rules. It became obvious early in the game who the winner would be, yet the game went on for more than an additional hour. I put it away and claimed that we have to work our way through the 50+ games we own with less repeats. We can get rid of games that we don't LOVE and people won't get as bored or stressed by certain games that show up often in our rotation.

We had a glorious snow morning. I say snow morning because snow seldom lasts more than 12 hours here. My husband and I had a lovely early morning walk in the stillness. We are missing alone time, too.  I love how quiet the world is after a fresh snow. 

We had a marvelous field trip to the zoo. The weather was cold and grey. We hoped that the gloomy conditions would make the zoo uninhabited by humans (as Elijah put it). We were right and had the zoo almost to ourselves. The animals were delighted to see us and many came to the edge of their enclosures to interact with us. The gibbon and tiger were especially interested in Elijah. They adored him! We spent more than 15 minutes with each of them and they interacted with Elijah the entire time. 

My favorite picture

It was truly a blessed day and truly filled Elijah up with joy. I got so many hugs and thanks from him that evening. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Hello February!

Have you ever noticed that when you start a project, it often leads to another and another? That is very much where I am this week. Last weekend on a lark, we decided to change the furniture around in our room. Our bed was on an outside wall and we were always cold at night. Our room is smallish by modern standards, and we have lots of windows and closets and almost no wall space. It has always been a tight squeeze. We switched the bed to the only interior wall that didn't have a closet and it now is warm and snug. Now I am spackling holes in the walls, painting over them and refinishing the woodwork of the bed. 

I helped Tim finish up his brain box from his brain injury day program this week. The brain box is a pilot program that Tim is reviewing for them. Each month they send out a box filled with activities, crafts, recipes and worksheets. The program has had to open and close repeatedly throughout this pandemic, and this box of activities is their latest creative way to enhance the lives of their brain injured clients while being at home. It looks like the program may continue the activity boxes after the pandemic for those who live too far away to attend the program. Tim enjoyed doing most of the crafts and some of the worksheets. He wrote a review and we mailed our opinions back in. 

Making Shrinky Dinks

Elijah has taken over dinner preparation on a more regular basis. He has been a fine cook for awhile, but his skills are really improving with each new dish. He likes to play with flavors and he is a natural with spices. He has made chili, lasagna, and grilled cheese and ham sandwiches recently. He also helped me make a loaf of bread. 

We also got Elijah a debit card and student checking account. Everything is connected to his savings account. When he gets a job, the money will be direct deposited into his savings account, and I will transfer what he needs while he learns more about budgeting. The man at the bank was a natural-born teacher and gave Elijah tons of information on budgeting. He also set him up with financial goals and apps to help him learn more. It was a great experience. 

Lastly, a board game store that we frequent said they would be happy to have Elijah's resume on file. They are hoping that business will pick up soon and they can start hiring more employees. We worked on his resume and he turned it into the owner this week. The owner said he thought he may be able to call him in a few weeks and that his resume looked cool. The owner also saw that he was good friends with one of Elijah's former employers. Sometimes it is great living in a very small city. We are considering a few other places where he could apply that feel safer to work in during a pandemic.

We have decided to go it alone on the job front for Elijah. Vocational Rehabilitation in our area is ridiculous. I have heard wonderful things about this program in other areas, but it has completely failed us here. Unfortunately, I haven't talked to anyone local who has found them helpful.

Anne is very busy. This pandemic hasn't slowed her down at all. She is currently enrolled in the Winter Festival Dance Intensive through UNCSA. It is on Zoom. She is loving it and was delighted this week to be offered a spot in the summer intensive this year with UNCSA (the director was watching the classes over Zoom and selected a few students to which he granted the chance to bypass the audition). Anne is thrilled. She was offered the opportunity to be in the ballet, contemporary or professional choreography intensive. She selected the ballet intensive and has already paid her first installment. This intensive will also be completely over Zoom since our state's roll out of vaccines is going very slowly. She has been struggling with the size of her dance room. She has very long legs and keeps kicking the walls. We are considering what to do for the summer intensive (she may take over the living room for those three weeks).

I have been concentrating lots of time on food lately. I am working on bringing us back to a healthier eating style. There has been way too many snacks, soda and other unhealthy processed foods around here. It is time to get back to proper eating. One of our relatives gave us gift money to buy some organic meat from a local farm. I love the idea of eating local, but it is sometimes cost prohibitive. However, we have been so pleased with the meat we received that I may just need to make it happen. I figure I can stretch this meat into 19 meals (minimum), since we only eat meat a few times a week.

I am looking forward to the coming week. My husband has a long weekend off because of President's Day. We hope to go to the zoo or a state park as a family, celebrate Valentine's Day (I have some fun family plans), Chinese New Year and perhaps some fun for Presidents' Day.

Blessings, Dawn