Friday, December 19, 2014

(Almost) Ready for Christmas!

Yeah! Most of us made it to Christmas break.  S has not finished writing his research paper, so he will be finishing that in Minnesota. He had a good outline, and he had good notes. He didn't make good use of his time. (We were really hoping his ADD hyperfocus would kick in. It just did in the wrong areas. He started looking up more information when he already had enough, and he started jumping down rabbit holes on the Internet.) There is the off chance that it could be finished before we fly out today but......

I hope he gets it done soon so he can enjoy his break because reality is coming back to this homeschool in January.  He needs to finish up the last half of his senior year.  I spent some time this week going over school plans for the remainder of the school year. [I don't want to come home and have to do that.] S will be continuing his College Algebra course, finishing up his Human Eye 1 course, writing another research paper (Low Vision), moving on in Modern History, and working on German IV. The end is in sight! I have it on paper!

J is at school for his last day before break.  I REALLY hope he doesn’t have homework over break.  I think know he is hoping the same thing. He had a lot of work and tests this week, so we are hoping that means no work over break.

On Wednesday, S picked up his Smart Drive for his wheelchair and had some parts replaced on his chair (a few safety features like brakes, seatbelt, etc).  His new Smart Drive is pretty cool.  He had to go to the parking lot to demonstrate various skills with it.  He is now Smart Drive certified.  It was like taking a driver’s test.  There was a checklist of skills he needed to demonstrate. I told our wheelchair rep that S needs a “Student Driver” flag flying from the back of his chair.

We are flying to Minnesota tonight for the holidays.  It will be crazy busy while we are there. All of our family lives in Minnesota with the exception of my husband’s niece who attends graduate school out of state, and she will be back also.  We will see everyone.  

December is a very busy month for us.  Although we are busy, we take time to have fun together.  Both boys had birthdays. J’s gym hosted a gymnastics meet.  My parents were here for 2 weeks. Our dog was sick (okay, he had diarrhea) and spent a night at the vet clinic.  We rang the bells for Salvation Army.  We had Christmas gatherings to attend.  We are getting ready to go to Minnesota for 2 weeks.  There were Christmas movies to be watched here and some that will be watched in Minnesota.

Our December in pictures

Some favorite December beverages.  My husband and I lived in Germany for 3 years, so the beverage on the right was a favorite at the Christmas markets.

Top: Our dog, Spotz, was cooperative wearing his Christmas pajamas.
Bottom:  Resting after his stay at the vet clinic.

S working hard to finish up an assignment.  Why not lay on the floor to work?

No words needed.

J makes Oreo truffles for Christmas parties.

Two milestone birthdays:  18 and 16

Ringing the bells

My poor tree! The top lights are out now. We will have a new tree next year. There is no theme for our ornaments other than the history of our lives. There may be some chocolate themed ornaments on the tree also.

My Family
Our Christmas card picture - Aruba

My favorite picture
Who needs elf on a shelf?  I have something better - a husband with a great sense of humor and a son who can work magic with his camera and a computer.

We are ready for Christmas.  We are going to enjoy time with family and friends.  We are going to celebrate the reason for the season.  As I enjoy time on the couch with chocolate, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Gymnastics and Birthdays

We made it through the busiest week of our year!  It is busy and tiring; however, it is fun.  Both of our boys had milestone birthdays:  18 and 16.  J’s gym hosted a great meet.  We worked hard, had fun, watched some great gymnastics starting with the college gymnasts Friday night, and had the opportunity to visit with old gymnastics friends from other gyms.

The Senior
S has worked REALLY hard this week to try to finish up all of his work before going to Minnesota.  I told him what needed to be done before we fly to Minnesota, and he has tried hard to get an extra week off for Christmas.  It didn’t quite happen, but he just needs to wrap up his research paper.  

He finished up 2 week’s worth of his College Algebra, so he is done with math until January. He finished up his World War II unit.  He is writing his research paper.  He found out he received a “B” on his Human Eye Lesson 3.  He was happy with that.  It was a more difficult lesson for him.  He will be back to a full workload in January, but it was nice to have a modified workload while we had company.

S had to do his first “adult” task this week.  The clinic called with his lab results, and he had to call them back himself since he is over 18.  They checked his Vitamin D levels and thyroid. They are monitoring his thyroid numbers.

The assistive technology person from DARS called the other day to touch base with S.  He wanted to see if S had tried some of the recommendations he had been given for AT tools.
He has tried some.  The AT person is going to be down in our area a couple of times during the next couple of weeks if S wants to meet with him.  We think he’s okay right now.  The next few months will be the timeframe in which we need to wrap some things up for him with DARS and DBVI.

S has horseback riding this afternoon.  I really enjoy that noon time slot for a number of reasons!  He is back with his favorite riding instructor.  They have a great connection.  He responds very well to her. He has the same side walker that he has had for a while now.  She is awesome!  She made him birthday brownies.  He has the same horse lead also.  They are all a great team.

Our family is ringing bells for Salvation Army on Saturday for 1.5 hours.  S loves doing that every year.

He is also volunteering at the museum on Sunday afternoon for 4 hours.  He has a busy Sunday.

The Sophomore
J has had a BUSY weekend and week.  We were up at the gym last Friday night to watch the college gymnasts.  He helped us with some work after the gymnasts were done.  Saturday he had the chance to sleep in.  He finished up his homework before we left for the meet at 3:00.  

He had a good meet.  He has some things to improve upon.  He does a great job of self-reflection without being down on himself.  He knows he has harder skills this year, and we like the fact that he is trying them.  He placed on pommel horse (least favorite event) and parallel bars.  He improved his all-around score.  As one of the other moms said, “If you are going to keep placing on pommel horse, you can’t keep saying it is your least favorite event.”  He would disagree.  He has improved a great deal since he moved to this gym.  His coach told him 3 years ago that he needed to learn to love pommel.  I don’t know if he will ever love it, but he doesn’t dislike it as much as he used to.


We made it back home at 11:30 Saturday night.  We were still up at midnight, so we were able to wish J a Happy 16th Birthday!

We were out the door at 7:20 Sunday morning to head back to the gym to work the meet. First, we had to go to Starbucks for J’s birthday treat!  We were at the gym at 8:20 and worked until 3:00 (stayed longer than our shift).  J worked wherever needed.  He did athlete check-in. He was a runner.  He worked the concession stand and has a new appreciation for food service workers.  

Before we left the gym, J had to say good-bye to a coach who is moving to Washington state. This coach was his first coach at his other gym.  They were together for 3 years.  When J switched gyms, she did too. She left a couple of years ago, but we have stayed in touch.  Her parents live a few blocks from us, so we have seen her when she has been back to visit.  She came to watch J in a meet last year in Maryland.  She has been back for a few months coaching again while her husband was attending a military course.  She and J have been carpooling buddies which has been nice for us.

Finally, we made it home where we were able to relax and enjoy his birthday.  We had tacos and enchiladas for supper followed by his Chocolate Ganache Cake that he made Friday after school. He enjoys baking.  Who am I to stop him?



This week he had a Chemistry quiz and a Math test along with daily homework.  He is ready for break.  He doesn’t believe me when I tell him his teachers are more ready for break.

J had practice for 14 hours this week.  Tonight is the Holiday party for the gym.  That will be fun.  

On the Homefront
As you can tell from above, we have been busy.  My husband had 2 PT appointments this week. My parents flew home Tuesday morning. It was nice to have them here for 2 weeks. They hung out with S on Sunday while we were working the meet.  My husband attended a community meeting on Wednesday night regarding a rezoning issue in our neighborhood.  It wasn’t well advertised; however, there were over 300 people in attendance.  It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.  I was able to attend the Advent service at church with S.  It was nice to sit and enjoy the season.

Prior to the meet, my mom and I did our nails.  Neither one of us are “nail” girls; however, my mom had been to a Jamberry party and bought gymnastics nails wraps.  They were fun for the meet.


Our dog has been sick this week, so there has been A LOT of cleaning the kitchen tile.  Thank goodness that it has been the tile and not the carpet!  Always look for the positive in a situation.  A lot of candles have been burning this week. He is at the vet this morning.

This coming weekend is very busy too, but we are busy doing Christmas things for our family.
Tonight, we will be at the Holiday party for gymnastics.  Tomorrow afternoon, our family is ringing bells for Salvation Army.  We will have our family Christmas in the evening.  On Sunday, we will attend church which is the Sunday School Christmas program.  After that, we will go out for lunch, drop S off for volunteering, pick him up, and head over to a friend’s house for a Youth Group Christmas gathering.  J is excited because he is able to attend.  With his practice schedule, he often misses out on Youth Group activities.  

My Christmas shopping is almost complete.  I have 2 things I need to buy when we get to Minnesota.  My sister takes care of getting a lot of gifts we need for family members, and I write a check.  It works well.  

You will find me on the couch with chocolate listening to Christmas music.  Enjoy your weekend!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Four Pillars of Life: Pt. 3 Financial

Quick Recap:  My husband and I came up with four different categories and related skills that we felt S was going to need in order to be successful starting out as a young adult heading off to college. The categories are physical, educational, financial, and spiritual.  

3.  Financial:
a.  Career research:  For the past few years, we have asked S what interests him for possible careers.  We have constantly told him that if you love what you do it will make going to work fun. He has done some career interest inventories although he has been known to not answer the questions truthfully (Example:  Are you interested in cabinet making?  Yes. - He has never shown any desire to do any kind of woodworking.).  He has expressed interest in being a Military Analyst which lends itself to his love of history and his ability to connect events taking place (thank you ADD mind).  The past few months he has also expressed an interest in doing mission work.  Very interesting.  We have told him to pray about it.  We are interested to see the path he will take in life.  We do know that he will start with college though, so he has time to see this through.  Still working on this step.
b.  Keep track of checkbook with some kind of computerized tool:  He has been using the "Checkbook - Spending, Income, Cashflow, and Account Tracker" app; however, he isn't good about keeping up with it.  He often waits until his checking statement comes in before he wants to input anything.  We have told him this isn't an effective tool to keeping track of your money. We will continue to push this issue because this is important.  Still working on this step.
c.  Scholarship research/plan to pay for college:  S needs to continue to research scholarship opportunities and apply for as many scholarship as possible.  He knows that the more scholarship money he receives then the less he has to pay for himself.  He has money set aside for college. He knows that whatever is left when he is done with school is his money to start his adult life with. That is incentive to look for scholarships and find affordable schooling. He has been looking up opportunities this past month.  Just need to get his search efforts organized. Still working on this step.
d.  Start paying for own things:  We want S to be aware of the cost of "things" in life whether it is clothing, toiletries, food, insurance co-pays, etc.  He has to know how to conduct transactions in the store.  Because of his limited fine motor skills, signing for purchases is a little more difficult. He has to know how he will handle these situations.  He knows that cash is much easier for him.  Still working on this step.
e.  Make co-pays:  This was a pertinent goal when he was going to PT every week.  He knows that he has to pay co-pays at different providers; however, it's a non-issue for him right now. All of his other medical care is at military medical centers, so there aren't any co-pays. Still working on this step.
f.  Budget:  He knows what a budget is, and he doesn't spend much money.  We feel strongly that he needs to start a budget when life is simple, so his first attempt at budgeting isn't when he's out on his own in the real world and completely overwhelmed.  This will definitely be put into practice this year as he has recently finished the "Foundations in Personal Finance" by Dave Ramsey. To help him with his budget, my husband and I have an automatic deposit into his account every month to help cover clothing, toiletries, and medication expenses.  This way he has real money to cover real expenses.  We are going to have him start purchasing some groceries, so he is aware of the costs associated with eating and it will help him to develop a menu for himself.  Still working on this step.
g.  Search summer jobs/volunteer opportunities:  In the summer of 2013, we told S that he didn't get to live a life of leisure.  He was going to do something productive.  He found a volunteer position at the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe. This is valuable experience for him.  He is volunteering as a Greeter, and he has many opportunities available there.  He has volunteered there since 2013.  He would like to get a paying job next year after he graduates. For now, volunteering is fine.  It's been a good opportunity for him to do something that interests him, send in times/dates for a schedule, have to respond to a supervisor, etc.  He has met some very nice people there.  DONE!!  In the spring, we will revisit this category.  
i.  Applying for SSI:  This is a bone of contention for S.  It was addressed by his DARS counselor to apply for SSI to help with living expenses while he is attending college. With his limited understanding of the program, he has no desire to apply for SSI.  He doesn't want to receive money from the government.  He doesn't want to receive money because he has a disability.  He doesn't want the government dictating what he can and can't have. We told him if he doesn't apply, the answer is definitely no.  He might still be denied SSI if he applies. Ultimately, it will be up to him. The recommendation was to apply once he turned 18.  He is there now. We will see. Still working on this step.  

S knows that if he can keep his finances in order, no matter how big or small, he will be successful and eliminate a lot of stress in his life.

I know he "gets" the importance of this category, so I can relax on the couch with chocolate.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Busiest Week of the Year

This is it.  We made it to our family’s busiest week of the year.  It is birthday week.  It is gymnastics week - J’s gym hosts a meet and my husband and I have a fairly large job for some of the "before the meet" work.  We have company - thank goodness because they are helpful.

The Senior
He is now an adult.  He turned 18 on Wednesday!  He took the day off from school.  We went out for breakfast and went to a History museum.  He was supposed to attend Youth Group, but he wasn’t feeling 100%.  He stayed home, and we played games.


Even though it was birthday week, he still had some schoolwork he needed to do.  He did a College Algebra assessment and assessed at 51%.  He is wrapping up his World War II unit. This will be done before Christmas.  Next week, after our company leaves, he will start writing his research paper which will be done before Christmas (or else he will be working on it when we are in Minnesota).
S starts his new session of horseback riding today. He has a noon riding slot which is going to be much easier on all of us.

He did not volunteer this week, but he did send in his November hours along with his wish list for December hours.  He won’t get a lot of hours in this month.

The Sophomore
J had a busy week.  This is a crazy week for him.  In addition to school and practice, there is a little more buzz in the gym since his team is hosting a meet.  

J turned in his English project Monday and presented that day.  He was one of two kids to turn it in.  He had to stay after school on Tuesday to retake a math test.  This just really threw his schedule off.  He doesn’t have a lot of time in between school and practice as it is.  That extra hour didn’t help; however, he needed to retake the test.  Enough said about that!

The remainder of the week has been spent doing homework and trying to get caught up after losing the hour on Tuesday.  He did it!  I hope he doesn’t have a lot of homework this weekend, so he can enjoy the meet and his birthday.

J had practice 14 hours this week.  No practice tonight since they are set up for the meet.  We are going to watch the college gymnasts at an intrasquad meet which will be fun.  J feels practice went well.  He feels he has worked on improving the things he had trouble with at the last meet.  

Prior to meets, we tell him 3 things:  1.  Have fun!  2.  Do your best!  3.  Set goals for yourself -whether it is trying a new skill or improving a score.  That’s it.  

We are looking forward to the meet.  It is a lot of fun.

On the Homefront
We had a nice weekend at the beach.  It was very relaxing.  It was chilly on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was very nice.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.



We ate Duck Donuts, played games, watched movies, took naps, read, attended church, played around at Jockey’s Ridge, and went to Jennette’s Pier and Kitty Hawk Kites.  

My mom finally has started to feel better.  Thank goodness for that!  We have had a nice time. They know when they come to visit at this time of year that we are quite busy.  They are here to help, and they are very helpful.  They will run errands, help cook, clean the leaves out of my yard (which they are doing right now), whatever is needed.  It is very nice to have extra hands and drivers.  [My mom is now trying to help alter a new pair of pants that S received for his birthday to accommodate having to go over his AFOs.  He really likes how they fit, but he can’t get them pulled back down over his AFOs.]
My husband had 3 PT appointments this week. He is recovering well from his shoulder surgery.

This weekend will be all about gymnastics.  J competes Saturday night.  On Sunday morning, my husband, J, and I will be working the meet.  It is also J’s birthday on Sunday.  

Sometime this weekend, J’s Chocolate Ganache birthday cake will be made.  He likes to bake, so he will make his own cake (his choice).  I made sure we have all the necessary ingredients.  He made S’s Hugs and Chips Cheesecake birthday “cake”.

Here’s a picture of a little bit of deliciousness that I found at Trader Joe’s this week.  It has been a big hit at my house.

It has been a busy week here, and it will be a busy weekend; however, I will find a few minutes to be on the couch with chocolate.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Happy 18th Birthday!

Happy birthday!  Today you are 18.  You are now an adult.  This is a new chapter in your life. We hope it is an exciting chapter for you.  During this school year, you have now become an adult, and you will be graduating in 6 months.  All kinds of new things are coming your way!

We have spent a lot of time reminiscing about your childhood this year.  I know it drives you crazy, but it is fun for us to see how far you have come.  You don’t realize how much you have overcome to get to the point you are at in your life.

Unfortunately, we can’t go back and look at baby pictures of you.  We don’t have any.  We can’t talk about your first birthday.  We weren’t a family at that point either.  We don’t know a lot about your first few years.  We do know that you were born prematurely.  We don’t know how early.  We do know that you were sick right away and spent some time in the hospital. We do know that you were in an orphanage.  

Our family has different “firsts” that we can look back upon with you.  We can talk about the first time we saw you.  We saw a picture of you before we saw you in person.  You were 3. We can talk about the first time we held your hand.  We can talk about the first time we had a chance to play with you.  We can talk about the first time we were able to say that you were officially our son.  You were 4.  We can talk about the day we “gotcha”.  We can talk about the first time we were all together as a family.  We can talk about your first English word.  We can talk about the first time you said “I love you” on your own to us.  We can talk about your first steps with your new walker or your crutches or with one crutch or those unassisted first steps. We can talk about the first time you met grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We can talk about your first days of school in Alabama, California, Virginia, and being homeschooled. There are a number of firsts that we have celebrated with you, and there are a number of firsts yet to come in your life.

We are very proud of the young man you have become.  You love to serve others and will talk to anyone.  You enjoy learning and want to go on to do great things for yourself.  You love Jesus.  That will get you through life.  All we ask for you as you make your way into adulthood is that you continue to be honest, work hard, follow your passions, love your family, and continue to put God first.

On your 18th birthday, we want to say welcome to adulthood!  You made it!  This milestone means I can sit on the couch with chocolate (and some wine).