Posted in Blessings Corner, Family Corner

Christmas Highlights 2018

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On Christmas Eve we celebrated this guy’s birthday. My baby is 16! We are in our final years of homeschooling, his last years of childhood. I want to savor every day and create lots of memories together.

We always end Christmas Eve by reading the Christmas Story out of the scriptures, but this year my husband decided to change things up. He had us each randomly select a nativity piece from a set he placed inside a box. We then took turns sharing what we know about that person (or animal) and guessed what he or she might have felt. It was a great discussion.

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We simplified our gift giving this year and I’m glad we did. Everyone got a few select gifts under the tree and some fun stocking stuffers. Our main gift was a surprise to the kids: we booked an Alaskan cruise for the end of next summer, after our missionary returns home. 🙂

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As much fun as it was to open gifts together on Christmas morning, it was delightful to watch this little fellow. He was curious about all that was going on and loved playing in the wrapping paper and boxes.

I took this video of Casper playing.

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The highlight of Christmas Day was Skyping with our missionary. She looked great! She was bubbly and happy and told us some funny stories. For example, because she is American and white, Peruvians often assume she doesn’t speak Spanish. Or English? They will start “talking” to her in sign language! She doesn’t even think it’s real sign language. Then when she speaks Spanish they are in awe!

I took video of her singing a Christmas carol in Spanish with her cute companion.

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David’s mom spent Christmas with us (she is in her eighties), and my friend, Steph, and her daughter (pictured below with Darcie), joined us in our Skype session with Marissa.

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Darcie and Steph’s daughter act like sisters.

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Two days after Christmas we headed towards Salt Lake City for our annual family fun. This year we walked through Thanksgiving Point’s Luminaria.

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It was freezing that night! But we layered up and took advantage of the hand warmers and hot cocoa that came with our tickets.

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The next day we visited Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art where this fascinating exhibit was on display. My kids are so funny!

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Have you ever seen any of Patrick Dougherty’s work? Pretty cool.

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We were supposed to see a hockey game, but it got postponed to another day due to bad weather for the opposing team (from Texas). So we got a refund and went to dinner at Rodizio Grill instead. Yum!

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♥ And that was our Christmas. A few days before Christmas, these three lovely ladies surprised me at my door. They sang, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and gave me a spa gift to thank me for all I’ve done for their girls (some of my craft club girls) this year. Their thoughtfulness made me cry. I had to crop out a cute craft girl from this photo. I also received treats and gifts from some of craft girls, which was very sweet.

Wishing all of my readers a Happy New Year. Thank you so much for following my blog, for your likes and your kind comments. It means a lot to me! I’ll try to catch up to your blogs in the new year. Let’s make it a great one! ♥

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Posted in Family Corner

Our Family’s Christmas Traditions

This is a sad confession, but when I was growing up there was only one Christmas tradition that I enjoyed and that was spending Christmas Eve at my Grandma’s house with aunts, uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. We always had a big turkey dinner with all the fixings, a talent show, and everyone got presents. My aunts and grandma often handmade gifts for each grandchild. One year we all received homemade Pound Puppies. Another year, the girls received sewing baskets. I remember a doll with fold-up legs and a wrap-around swaddling blanket. My favorite gift, and one I still snuggle up with today, was a Holly Hobbie blanket with green ties and trim.

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The first Christmas I spent with my husband was the Christmas we were engaged and I was thrilled because it was the first time I was allowed to stay in my pajamas for Christmas morning. So one of the traditions I started with my husband was opening a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve.

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Another tradition we started was reading a Christmas storybook every night from December 1st to December 23rd. This started with a binder of stories and then over the years I purchased storybooks until we had a collection of twenty three books which would be wrapped and randomly selected by a child each night. With my kids being grown or teenagers, we’ve sadly outgrown this tradition, although it half worked last Christmas. I’m sure we will pick it up again when there are grandchildren. This year my friend borrowed our collection of books to start the tradition with her children.

Some years, in place of the 23 stories, we’ve read one book for several nights in a row, such as A Christmas Carol. On Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story out of the scriptures. We have a special binder just for that which includes carols and my husband takes charge and divides the readings among us.

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My girls and I started a tradition several years ago where we invite younger neighbor girls over for a Christmas craft party. That has been a lot of fun and has brought us a lot of joy. 

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Every Christmas we plan a special trip to Salt Lake City or thereabouts where we dine out at a fancy restaurant and take in a Christmas play or concert or something else. We also walk Temple Square to see the lights and displays there. This year we are going to a hockey game and to a light festival.

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Marcus’ birthday is on Christmas Eve so our tradition is to dedicate most of that day to him and do activities he chooses to do. One year we went ice skating. It’s also tradition to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol as part of his birthday celebration. We eat a big dinner on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. We usually have Prime Rib. On Christmas Day, we have my husband’s amazing waffles for breakfast and then snack all day long.

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I love this photo of my baby girl who is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She has been in Peru since January and we will miss her this Christmas, but we do get to Skype with her on Christmas Day so we are looking forward to that.

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Here is a recent photo of her in her Christmas dress (on the very right), with her companion (on the very left) and an elder. They are spending this Christmas season spreading the light of Christ by teaching His gospel and serving God’s children in Juliaca, Peru.

♥ Other traditions we have are making goodie plates for neighbors, caroling with youth groups in our church, watching Christmas movies (Hallmark!) all month long, including the classics such as Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause, Christmas Vacation, The Grinch, and A Christmas Story. My personal favorite that I have to watch every Christmas is White Christmas. I play Christmas music all month long as well, and I love to decorate my house from top to bottom, inside and out. We have many nativity sets, most from Peru since we lived there. On the Sunday before Christmas Day we attend the Christmas Sacrament program at church. We also give to charities at this time of year, and we often find a family in need to secretly give to or we buy gifts for the sub for Santa program. ♥ I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas traditions! Please leave a comment below to share. Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas! ♥

 

Posted in Family Corner

My First Walk MS

Two years ago, at the age of 23, my oldest baby was diagnosed with MS (Multiple sclerosis). I will never forget the array of emotions that swept over me upon his diagnosis: Fear; Anger; Overwhelming Sadness; More Fear; Complete Helplessness; Wishing it were me instead; Did I mention fear?

I would start weeping around friends and family as I shared the news and sometimes in their efforts to comfort me they would say something hurtful. That wasn’t their intention of course, but it stung to be given the advice: “You mustn’t cry! You have to be strong for him.” Why is crying perceived as a weakness? First of all, I’m his mom! What mom would not weep at their child’s diagnosis? Second of all, I am naturally an emotional person. Ask my kids to tell you about the time we watched Toy Story 3 at the drive in. I didn’t stop crying until halfway through the second feature. 😛

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My amazing first born and me.

So naturally I was emotional today at my first Walk MS event. You can tell in my smile. Shortly after we arrived we picked up our t-shirts and wrist bands and prepared for the three mile walk. This took place at a lovely park in Ogden, Utah.

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When the call came to begin the walk, we were some of the first ones to cross under the big orange inflatable arch, which I didn’t take a photo of because I was too busy weeping with a smile on my face. I couldn’t help it. I guess it was hitting me why we were all there. We were all walking for someone we love who has a disease which attacks their central nervous system; a disease which has no cure. YET.

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There were painted rocks along the Walk MS path.

This walk was dedicated to the memory of Alex Hatch. I never knew Alex. I bet he was a wonderful person who gave MS a good fight.

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Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

By the way, did you know that this weekend (September 7th-9th) is National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life? We all know someone who is struggling with mental illness or suicidal tendencies so let’s pray for them now and every day. Along with prayer, reach out to them and give them unconditional love and support. We all need one another. I’m a big believer that we are not meant to go through the challenges of this life alone. We are all God’s children and we are His hands here on earth.

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MS often causes a whole host of symptoms from fatigue to balance issues to numbness and tingling to memory issues to speech issues to you name it really. It affects each person differently. There is no known cause and often times symptoms were present months to years before the diagnosis. It was a relief, although a bittersweet one for sure, to find out why Zach had been struggling at college with his reading and memorization when he had always been a strong, avid reader before who could remember what he read long afterwards.

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♥ Besides our family, with two members missing, we were joined by one family on my husband’s side, and I am so thankful for their support. Next year I am determined to advertise early in hopes that friends and other extended family will come out to this event. We even plan to make up our own Team Zach t-shirts. Because “Together We are Stronger”. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

10th Grade Homeschool Curriculum & Schedule


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September is here and for us that means the start of a new homeschool year. We follow the traditional school calendar (September thru May) because of the awesome distance program we use for Marcus’ core subjects.

This school year got off to stressful start because of driver’s ed. Sigh. To avoid dual-enrollment, I put Marcus in a seven-night driver’s ed. course which began last week and just ended last night. It’s a shame he couldn’t have taken the only other summer course which was in June, but that coincided with a youth camp. Honestly, if I’d known it would be this time consuming with the four-hour classes from 5:30 to 9:30pm, and the hours of homework assigned for each class (he basically rewrote the driver’s handbook), I would’ve made him trade his summer camp for driver’s ed. And, he’s still not finished because he has all the driving-with-instructor time to get in. One is scheduled for this afternoon for four hours, another for next Thursday, and then two more need to be scheduled after that.

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The book on the left is for history; the rest are for our own unit study. He’s studying Doctrine & Covenants this year in Seminary.

So, up ’til last night his schedule looked like this-

  • 6:40am wake up, get dressed
  • 7:10am leave for Seminary (20 min. drive + traffic)
  • 7:40-8:30am Seminary (this is a four-year scripture study program for youth)
  • 9:00am breakfast, set up for class
  • 9:30ish-am online American History II (1860-present; live-streamed)
  • 10:25ish-am online Earth Science (live-streamed)
  • 11:25ish-am online English (live-streamed)
  • 12:25ish-pm online precalculus (live-streamed)
  • 1:30pm lunch
  • 2pm-5pm driver’s ed homework (at least two solid hours worth); math or chores as time allows or sometimes we snuck in a quick devotion/scripture study; quick dinner
  • 5:15pm leave for driver’s ed
  • 5:30-9:30pm driver’s ed class (carpool home)
  • 10pm second dinner because he was hungry, even with snacks at driver’s ed
  • 10:30pm shower, brush teeth, get to bed

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English books: The Bronze Bow; The Hiding Place; The Screwtape Letters; The Merchant of Venice. His grammar comes from The Good and the Beautiful.

Driver’s ed. made us feel sorry for the public high school kids taking it. We know two girls in band, and band practice is after school for an hour and a half and then they had driver’s ed for four hours. These girls were at the school from 8:30am to 9:30pm! We were wondering when in the world they found time to do their driver’s ed homework? Or just breathe? We are so glad we homeschool. One morning we skipped Seminary for some much needed extra sleep. We can do that when we need to and to make up the absence, Marcus completes a worksheet the teacher emails him.

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Math book.

I don’t have any science books to show because all the resources will be provided by the teacher.

Aside from the time and stress of driver’s ed, which I realize is both necessary and temporary, we are excited for this homeschool year. Even though I don’t personally teach Marcus’ core subjects, we still make time to do other types of learning together, and I read all of his novels for English with him. But on our own this year we plan to make time for:

  • an early Church history unit study
  • a unit study about C.S. Lewis, including much of his poetry
  • fieldtrips to museums
  • hiking, biking, nature walks
  • art lessons
  • poetry tea time
  • meal planning and dinner prep
  • finishing six merit badges and his Eagle project
  • visiting his dad in Montana at least once a month

♥ Are you homeschooling a teenager this year? Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog today. Are you seeing signs of fall where you live? Here, not so much. Not yet. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

What is “Real School”?

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Marcus and I have just begun our tenth year homeschooling together. 🙂 This week he started a driver’s ed. night course through the public high school. He’s been carpooling with three other teens from our neighborhood. He is the only homeschooler in the group, and maybe the only homeschooler in the driver’s ed. class. One teen in the carpool made it a point to tell Marcus that he does not go to “real school” and that prompted my son to write an informal essay which I’d like to share here-

Something I hear all the time, and something every homeschooler will hear, is that we don’t go to “real school.” This is always annoying to hear so I decided to really figure out what “real school” truly means, and if anyone is actually using this phrase correctly. I have gathered some resources to break down the phrase “real school.”

Let’s define what real means. I am going to use Dictionary.com for these definitions. Under the word real it lists the word genuine. Upon going to the word genuine we find definitions and synonyms such as “origin; not counterfeit; authentic.” Upon delving deeper into the word origin one of the definitions is “something from which anything arises or is derived; source; fountainhead.” In other words something which is real could be anything coming from an original source.

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Cell cake

Let’s define what school means: “A session of such a course” or “the activity or process of learning under instruction” or “a building housing a school.” Sounds like normal public school, right? It’s interesting to think about how parents do teach their children many basics, and that home can be a building, but we will explore this later.

Let’s combine the words real and school together: The origin of process of learning under instruction. And for a bit of a history lesson: Everyone should know that learning has always begun in the home. Since the creation of Adam and Eve, and before public and private schools existed, everything was taught within the family and community. Before private schools, a scholar or teacher was hired to teach a very small group of children.

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Elephant toothpaste experiment

In Thomas S. Monson’s talk Teach the Children, from the October 1997 General Conference, he talks about “parents and grandparents fill(ing) the role of teacher.” Although Monson is talking more about the gospel in the home, this principle of parents teaching in the home can be applied in any and every way.

As for the definition of school as a school house, a home is and has always been a place of learning, and a home can be housed in a building. Home is always where family is and in an article called Home: the Heart of Learning, from an October 2014 Liahona magazine, it says, “All of the Church’s ‘teaching, programs, and activities’ [are] home centered and Church supported. That means our church meetings are meant to support individual and family learning.” Most things in the Church are meant to support learning in the home and not replace it. Of course, home is not the only place we can learn. We can learn anywhere, even outside. I’m not saying public and private schools are bad or wrong, but I do believe there is a better way to do them. I would like to see schools follow the example of the Church and be more home centered.

When someone tells homeschoolers that they do not go to “real school” it implies that homeschooling is fake. But upon looking at the definitions applied here it could actually imply that public school as the “real school” is actually derived from and in fact a counterfeit version of homeschool.

♥ I just finished reading the book Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. As I was pondering “real school” something he said stood out to me: “What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is one right way to proceed with growing up.” Homeschoolers like us know better and we are proving it first hand. ♥

Posted in Homeschooling Corner

My Homeschool Meet and Greet

 

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Poetry tea time display

Last month I felt inspired to offer a homeschool meet and greet in my community. I wanted to give curious parents a chance to meet experienced homeschooling parents, such as myself, so they could see what homeschooling can look like, freely ask questions, learn about a local co-op, and see some of the different curriculum available. And, to be completely honest, I wanted to invite some of my dearest friends, who send their kids to public schools (as I once did mine), to meet other homeschooling parents and hopefully see that we are actually normal (certainly not super-moms).

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I printed out favorite education/homeschool quotes and posted them throughout my entryway and living room.

As soon as I came up with this idea, I mentioned it to several friends in both camps (homeschooling and public schooling) to see if there was even any interest. Everyone was in favor of the idea so that encouraged me to go for it. I then emailed two local homeschooling co-ops in my community and invited them to participate. One said no because they are full, but the other said an enthusiastic yes. 🙂

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Unit study display

I chose to make this event a two-hour open house so it would be informal and relaxed. I chose an evening on a Thursday in May for a few reasons: First, I thought May was perfect timing for the summer months, giving parents time to ponder and plan for the school year ahead. Second, I thought a weeknight would mean dads could join in after work, and also, I wanted to avoid the craziness of the weekend. I chose to host in my own home because it’s homeschooling after all. 😛

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art and music curriculum table

As I was planning this event, I brainstormed ways to bring homeschooling to life. I was already creating a beginning homeschool resource packet, but I wanted something visual to offer besides curriculum samples. That’s when I had a light-bulb moment- I would create four main displays highlighting my favorite aspects of homeschooling: poetry tea time, unit studies, morning baskets (morning time), and read alouds. I just want to mention here, that none of these are requirements for homeschooling, although there are so many benefits to reading aloud to your children! These are just awesome ideas which many families embrace at one time or another in their homeschooling.

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Morning “basket” display

I love to design displays so this did not feel like work to me. I started setting up my displays two days before the event (I could do that because I don’t have littles at home anymore). Another visual I added to the walls were photos of our homeschooling in action.

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I put together this morning treasure chest and made it a give-away.

Along with each display and table, I put out info. cards (5×7 index size) for parents to collect if they so wished. I even hole-punched them and provided binder rings to keep them together. Each info. card briefly outlined the concept displayed (such as morning baskets) or listed some popular curriculum choices to consider. In the packet, I included reasons to homeschool, common homeschool myths, Utah homeschool laws, a little blurb about dual-enrollment, and a list of homeschool blogs which I find encouraging.

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Read aloud display

I also provided refreshments and a children’s table. I covered my kitchen table with Kraft paper and set out bowls of Legos, and washable markers and crayons. This was a bit hit with kids of all ages who came along with their parents. For refreshments, I had a fruit tray, veggie tray with ranch dip, cheese and gluten-free crackers (I knew one guest eats gluten-free), and a s’mores bar (individual bowls of Golden Grahams cereal, chocolate chips, mini M&M’s, fruity marshmallows, regular marshmallows, and Teddy Grahams which could be scooped into snack cups).

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I certainly could’ve had more guests, but by my calculations, 13 showed up (five were experienced homeschooling moms) and everyone seemed happy to be there as questions were asked and answered, curriculum handled and discussed, and sad pubic school stories shared. I heard from two different moms that there is a homeschooling growth or “surge” (the exact word one used) happening in our community, and if that is true, I think it’s wonderful. I have been homeschooling my son for nine years now. I wouldn’t trade those days/years for anything. Anyway, I’m calling this event a success. 🙂

♥ Here is something I’ve learned about myself over the 26 years of my marriage- Not only do I enjoy hosting, but no matter how early I start preparing for a gathering, I end up working until the very minute it starts! It’s just the way I roll because I’m such a thorough planner and cleaner. Do you like to plan and host gatherings? How perfect does your home have to be when you have invited guests coming over? Thanks for visiting my blog! ♥

Posted in Family Corner

Spring in the Air

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The weather has been so lovely lately. Marcus and I have been getting out in the mornings and going for a walk. Today we drove to a nearby park and discovered it has a nature trail we didn’t even know existed. That was a fun exploration. There was even a bridge over water to cross.

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My tulips have finally made an appearance along with the other flowers in my little flower garden. More are preparing to bloom soon. It just makes me happy to look out my craft room window or walk outside and see them. I keep thinking I need to get my fairy garden set up, but I haven’t made time for that yet.

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I’ve come up with this crazy idea to host a meet ‘n greet between a few homeschool moms and any curious parents who want to know more about homeschooling. I’m hoping this will take place next month. So far I’ve started typing up a little informational packet with Utah’s homeschool laws, and a short list of curriculum and resources, plus I’ve contacted two co-ops to see if they would join us and present their offerings. One declined, saying they are full, but the other agreed to participate as they will have openings. I’ve got more planning and inviting to do, but suddenly this idea out-of-nowhere seems possible.

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The Sweetest Missionary Ever has been touring Cusco and learning some of its history. I can’t believe she’s been out for 15 weeks now. She is struggling a bit with the language (Spanish), but otherwise she loves it. I’ve told her to give herself time to get the language down. I have a feeling she’s being a little too hard on herself. She’s always had an aptitude for languages and she’s lived in Peru, twice before.

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I’m busy preparing for my little girl spring craft party this coming Saturday. I will be hosting 10 darling neighbor girls in my craft room and they will be making their own tulip gardens and a Mother’s day gift for their mamas (sugar scrubs). One of the moms (of three of the girls who are in this group) has sweetly offered to provide lunch. I usually provide a lunch or dinner, depending on the time we hold our party. These parties are a lot of fun!

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My oldest daughter, Darcie, finishes her semester this week, and then starts three summer courses in a couple of weeks. One of the courses will qualify her to teach English in another country. She will then have one final semester left (this coming fall) before she graduates as an English major. She will be our second college graduate (her dad being our first) in our family.

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This was taken last May at a tulip festival. I’m dreaming of going again, but we will see. It’s a three hour drive away and we’re so busy!

My oldest son, Zach, recently went through his regular MRI check for his MS. It’s a long MRI for him, nearly two hours! I know because I waited for him and in that time I finished a book, started another, and watched some HGTV on the waiting room TV. Then he had a follow up appointment shortly afterwards with his neurologist, so it felt like I was in waiting rooms all day, but the people-watching was interesting. There was this one lanky guy who mumbled aloud as he filled out a questionnaire. He couldn’t stop moving and talking his entire wait time. He talked to me (I was sitting next to him), the receptionist, and made several quick calls to friends and, I’m guessing, his mom, to chat about horses and feeding the dogs. He seemed like a nice guy. I’m not sure why he was in for an MRI that day. He mumbled something about his condition being “terminal, but not really”. (I wonder what that means?) Anyway, everything looks good for my son at this time- no lesion activity. Breathing a sigh of relief. You just never know with MS. He will stay on his current medication (Copaxone).

♥ Thank you so much for stopping by! I try to get to all your blogs as my time allows. My next post will be about the craft party so stay tuned. Hope you’re having a beautiful spring (or whatever season it is where you live) day. ♥