Summer Activities

It’s finally starting to feel like summer! Not only has it been very hot in the low to mid-90s, but we’re starting to get out there more as pandemic conditions improve. Of course there’s still the concern of a second wave, but we’re being careful and it feels good to be out and about.

After searching for a while, we FINALLY found Damien a bike! He went from an 18 in to a 24 in and he’s doing so well.
Taking it for a test drive!
Damien modeling his new swim wear
Cooling off in the pool 😀 Happiest. Kid. Ever. LOL
I took Damien to a Karate class orientation to see if it was something he’d want to start. He loved it and wants to continue! He was very focused and put in maximum effort. I was very proud of him. I feel he really needs something like this in his life.
We finally went on our first family bike ride EVER!!! So much fun! I didn’t get any pictures of us riding because well, I was riding too.
The 4th of July festival was cancelled this year due to COVID19, but they still had the fireworks show. And much to our enjoyment, we have the PERFECT viewing spot from our back deck!
I don’t usually post pictures or videos of fireworks, but I wanted to show off our awesome view.

Summer Fun & Chores

I can’t believe we’re already one month into summer break! I know Damien’s been very bored and lonely so far. He’s trying to keep busy playing games, but it’s not enough. Fingers crossed the leave policy will change for July so we can visit the grandparents!!

The last couple of weekends Damien and I have been working hard ridding the yard of weeds. Last weekend we took care of the front yard and this weekend we started in the back.

Look! Damien caught a Walleye!
Finally set up the corn hole set! I’m just trying to stay cool in the shade…
Damien’s job this morning before it got too hot out was to clear out the rock bed in the backyard. He’s so excited when he gets the root LOL
Not a true before picture since Damien already started, but I think it shows enough
The final product!

A Two Week Adventure with Frank

I had been thinking for a while about how maybe we should get a dog. It hurts my heart to hear Damien tell me how lonely he is. Plus, Scott liked the idea of having a companion in the home for when Damien is in school and I’m at work. I did tons of reading and research. Our circumstances had changed so it felt like the right time. We had a fenced backyard for once. I was working less hours in the office and Damien was almost out of school for the summer so there would be more time for bonding and training. Damien was older and better able to help out. So Scott and I put in an application with a local animal rescue on the hunt for our new family member. Having dealt with rehoming pets in the past, I was determined to do it right this time. I had learned from all of our past mistakes. We were looking for a friendly, non-puppy, non-senior dog who liked to play, but that didn’t need hours a day of exercise. Oh and he/she must be house-trained.

The rescue recommended a 1 year old male black lab mix named Frank. He came to the rescue from the Williston pound and had been at the foster home for about a month. We all went to meet him and decided that he seemed great and decided to adopt him.

Frank had a lot of amazing qualities. He was friendly. He didn’t ever show one ounce of aggression. He rarely barked. He would very gently take treats from your hand and never tried to take food from you. He didn’t rip up his toys. He could entertain himself. He didn’t lick you/give you kisses. After only a few days of corrections, he stayed off of the couch and didn’t go into the kitchen.

The first week was an expectantly rough adjustment period and I was prepared for that. Frank had diarrhea for the first few days and had a few accidents in the house. It’s common for house-trained dogs to have accidents when adopted. It’s stressful! We spent a lot of time outside due to the bathroom issues and it felt like he peed every 1-1.5 hours, sometimes even twice within a few minutes of each other. We took him to the vet for a check-up and everything came back great. We had a healthy dog!

The second week was significantly better. Frank knew the routine better. He went to his crate at night without being asked. No more accidents in the house. He figured out that ringing the bells would mean we’d let him outside and he only needed to go out every few hours. He showed a lot more personality and showed a lot of signs that he was comfortable. He LOVED to be pet and just be around you.

Now onto the downside…I’ll say first off that Damien did much better with this than I expected. He never complained once about the dog. He was happy to do anything that needed to be done. He wanted to feed him, take him outside, do training with him, etc. It was great to know how dedicated he was. I was really proud of him. But it did feel like there was some jealousy with having to spend so much time dealing with Frank. Damien even started acting like a dog to try to get the same treatment and attention.

And that really was an issue. It was two weeks completely focused on Frank. This probably sounds confusing because I just spoke so highly of him. Well, it’s kind of hard to explain. I spent the most time with him overall so I think we bonded the most. In fact, he did seem to act up when I wasn’t there. Maybe a coincidence? But he just didn’t want to play with anyone. You’d be lucky to get even 5 minutes of play with him a day. We’d be so excited when he was finally active and then he’d just stop after a few minutes. I know that Damien was disappointed even though he didn’t say anything. Frank was also obsessed with the neighbors’ dogs. There are three on one side of the fence and a Great Dane on the other. The three dogs barked a lot and Frank would spend a lot of his time pacing around the fence line wanting to play with them. He also was terrible on a leash and even though we knew that he needed basic obedience training in advance, it was pretty obvious that he would know a command and choose when he wanted to listen. In addition to all of this, we had to have someone in the same area as Frank at all times that he wasn’t outside or in his crate because we couldn’t fully trust him yet. He often HATED being outside by himself so we couldn’t just leave him out there.

Scott and I had some very lengthy discussions about Frank because ultimately it became too consuming without any of the benefits/rewards. It was one of the most difficult decisions to make. Do we keep Frank, knowing with continued effort that things will improve? Or do we give him back to the rescue to be adopted by another family? We went into this with the mindset that we were adding a member to the family. We knew it was going to be challenging, ESPECIALLY in the beginning. What we didn’t expect was how miserable we would be. What really tipped it towards rehoming was that even if Frank improved, it still wouldn’t be enough for us. So we made the very sad decision to give Frank back and the rescue was able to get a foster family to take him the same day. And I know we made the right decision because of the gigantic RELIEF that we all felt and the fact that Damien was okay with the decision. He said he felt “happy but sad too.” That was the best way to describe it for all of us.

The reason I wrote all of this out even though I’m a little bit disappointed and ashamed of myself for pushing for this and I’d much rather pretend it didn’t happen…I wanted to remind myself DO NOT GET A DOG! If in a couple of years I think to myself “hey, maybe we’re finally ready for this commitment!” I need to read this post. Sarah, don’t get a dog. You and Scott are not dog people. It’s a bad idea and you will regret it.

And of course, here are some cute pictures and videos of Frank! He was a good dog who will make another family very happy 😀

Bringing Frank home!
Damien was Frank’s shadow for the first few days. He was OBSESSED!
Frank soaking up all of the attention 🙂
Chillin’ outside.
Outside you can see his features better.
Frank’s favorite sleeping position and his favorite toy was the banana, haha
Scott said he looks so mean here. He’s so right!
Sleeping lol He also LOVED to have his belly rubbed.
Damien would make himself uncomfortable just so he could cuddle with Frank, who he often called Frankie.
Frank loved his dog bed so much that we’re pretty sure he marked it just to keep Damien off of it LOL!

So that’s another chapter closed and life lesson learned.

Summer is here!

May has been a very busy month for us! The weather has been amazing and it feels like everything turned green overnight. Damien finished the 4th Grade, although to our surprise and annoyance, the school district decided not to issue grades/scores for the 3rd Trimester. The report card was issued with blanks. WTH? So all of that hard work that Damien did and all the time and energy that Scott and I spent making sure he completed and submitted EVERYTHING assigned…was for nothing. I don’t even think really any new material was introduced, but rather expanding upon what they learned earlier in the school year. Oh well.

I like that the school would send home little notes of encouragement and trinkets. They even sent him a Minecraft book!
At least Damien willingly wears his face mask lol
Finally getting around to sawing up some of the tree that fell down during a storm last year. Now it’s all just laid beside the house. Baby steps!
Scott and Damien were outside grilling. I shot this through the kitchen window lol
One day Damien and I saw a cute duck hanging out on our deck. We saw him a few times in one day, but we haven’t seen him since.
Training Damien to mow the lawn 😀 He did pretty good, but had a difficult time with the self-propelling.
Damien watering the green seeds. Trying to fill in a couple of bald patches.
For my birthday this year I got myself a Fitbit Charge 4! It’s so much smaller and cuter than my Fitbit Surge but with the same functionality. I love it!

And can you believe that Damien lost ANOTHER tooth this week? I lost count…is that the 4th one this year? Things are starting to very slowly reopen so I found Damien a dentist and scheduled him an appointment, as well as an optometrist to get an updated eyeglasses prescription. Busy busy!

Another Month of Virtual School with Easter and an Anniversary

We still haven’t quite figured out a routine for our new normal yet. It’s been harder than I thought, but overall we’re all still fine. Making it work!

At the beginning of April we got 5-8 inches of snow!
Mid-April we got another dusting of snow. At least it melted quickly…We’re FINALLY getting into the 50s and 60s and I’m starting to see green grass!

Virtual school continues to be a challenge for everyone. Damien has issues with starting for the day or whenever there’s a break and he also is very emotional when it’s time to learn something new. Or really anything he doesn’t want to do or anything that he feels is taking too long. However, Damien is enjoying the daily “Mystery State” assignment where it gives you a few facts about a state and you have to figure out which state it is. He’s currently working on long division and just finished his Book Club book. When he actually tries and focuses he’s very capable. Scott and I are taking turns sitting with Damien during his schoolwork, working around our own work schedules. Just five more weeks of school left–woot! I’m also happy to report that the public schools are going to be reducing the amount of school work for the remaining weeks in addition to having a very limited amount to do on Fridays. For context, we spend 3-5 hours a day, Mon-Fri, on schoolwork.

Damien working on his Chromebook
Damien in one of his classroom meetings. It’s nice for everyone to be able to see each other. His teacher had made herself into a pickle. Damien was OBSESSED! I don’t think he was even paying attention to anything else.
Damien’s class has a weekly “Lunch Bunch” where they can sign into video chat and all eat lunch together and talk. Here’s Damien showing off his burrito lol

We didn’t do very much for Easter this year. Well, not that we typically do very much…

Damien’s happy about his Easter card and money from Great Grandma and Tom
Scott picked out a few things so Damien could have an Easter basket. There’s a fishing game, chocolate Easter bunny, and two of those little “gem dig” type things that Damien loves so much.
Damien playing his fishing game

We’ve been trying to help keep Damien entertained since he’s been spending weeks on end in the house. Oh, and he also lost another tooth AND he has another one loose since my last post!

Damien and I made cupcakes 🙂 He’s eating sprinkles.
We all competed in an egg dropping contest. From left to right, it’s Scott’s, Sarah’s, and Damien’s eggs.
Scott is helping Damien build his egg protector.
Time to test it out!
Here is my design…it didn’t work lol
And the winner is…Scott! Of course…because he used bubble wrap
We made a submarine out of cardboard for Damien to play in. It’s the U.S.S. SWAT!
Damien and I put together a 3D wood puzzle of R2-D2
Damien seeing what’s inside his Fire & Ice “gem dig”.
Peeling off the outer layer to reveal…
A Minotaur!
Damien is browning hamburger for chili. Such a great helper when he wants to be.
This past week it was FINALLY warm enough outside for Damien to ride his bike. He’s gone on two bike rides already! I walk/jog while he rides. I need to get my bike ready so I can ride too!

Lastly, Scott and I celebrated our 15-year anniversary this month! SOOOO crazy! Since we couldn’t do much, we got take-out from Texas Roadhouse, yum! We were planning to go to Las Vegas this summer, but that’s no longer an option. Some day!

Our very first couch (used, I might add) in our very first apartment together versus our current home with our latest couch.
15 years later!

Strange Times

Homeschooling officially started yesterday. Damien tends to argue and whine and I tend to lose my patience. It’s a huge adjustment for all of us. He seems to calm down and work better after we’ve been working a little bit so I don’t know if we should start a little later in the day (currently starting at 9) or if it just takes him a little bit to get going. I also wish he could work a little bit more independently. He seems to get stuck a lot even though he read the instructions which I find frustrating…But then I remember that he’s a child and maybe in school they are providing more guidance. Plus I remember countless people I’ve worked with over the years that couldn’t follow the simplest of instructions so there’s that, haha.

Getting out of the house the other day on an exploration walk! Seeing if the catch-and-release pond near our house is still frozen. It is!
Damien wanted to prank Scott on April Fool’s Day. We settled on a harmless in-op mouse prank. The most fun was preparing for it. Our honorable mention pics are below LOL
Baby dogs, maybe?
Flying foxes!
Hippie cats
Stylin’ sheep
Hungry mice
Thirsty…I don’t know what animal…a cat?
The choosen prank pic!
Gotta practice good hygiene!
We’ve got the blues…
Feelin’ yucky…
Stick ’em up!
Did I tell you the time…?
I’d eat whatever these two made. They look so professional!
Too cool for school
AAHHHH!!
Hot ramen!
In other news, Damien lost a tooth!

Aside from the transition into homeschooling, another reason this feels like a strange time is the dang weather. Not only is there a flood warning in effect due to snow melting and the river rising, we’re expecting to get 4-8 inches of snow today!!! WTF? I was looking forward to spring…

Taken April 1st…knowing it’s going to snow today *sigh*

Entering into a Pandemic

It started out just like any other month…

Of course I had heard about the coronavirus and how it had greatly impacted China and appeared to be spreading, but like most things in the news, it didn’t affect me. Spring break was coming up and Damien and I were planning to drive over to see my parents. But leading up to the trip, things slowly started to change. Reports of people hording supplies, mainly toilet paper of all things! At this point it was still something in the news and probably only really affected larger cities. The CDC and the news reported on common sense safety measures like washing your hands for 20-30 seconds and not touching your face. Hasn’t that always been the case? Day-by-day things progressed. Okay, now the store shelves here are starting to look a little bit emptier…And then like a tidal wave, businesses started to reduce hours or close. The term “social distancing” was everywhere. Keep 3-6 feet away from others. How worried should I be?

The week of spring break, starting 16 March, all ND schools were closed and the base was on mission essential status. This was unprecedented! It was a weird week. I was receiving messages daily from Damien’s teacher and my supervisor as everyone was trying to transverse the unknown. How long will Damien be out of school? How long will my workcenter be minimally manned? Will we not be able to get the supplies/food we need?

We are now two weeks into this and we have a few more answers. Schools will probably be closed for the remainder of the school year. Amazingly, they’re still providing school breakfasts and lunches through a drive thru style setup. And while Damien has been provided with daily activities/tasks to complete on school days (practice multiplication/division tables, practice state capitals, do jumping jacks, etc.), official school lessons will begin this week electronically. It’s nice that Damien was already issued a chromebook at the beginning of the school year so he already knows how to use it and all of the digital classroom tools.

The base continues to officially be on a mission essential status while leaving the decisions to the squadron commanders for implementation. This has meant that my squadron has been minimally manned at about 50%, but otherwise performing normal shifts. This week though we are further reducing the amount of time in the office which is a relief.

Getting food/supplies has been acceptable. Hording is still a thing, although a lot of places are now either posting signs nicely asking customers to not take what they don’t need and other stores are strictly adhering to limitations like one loaf of bread per purchase. In fact, Scott reported last week at Wal-Mart that the Police were actually in the store to help enforce limitations because customers were getting belligerent. Rice, pasta, ramen, dry beans, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper seem to be completely out and things like soaps, napkins, paper towels, tissues, milk, bread, meats (fresh and canned) are in low supply where we shop. Otherwise we really haven’t had any issues with getting anything we wanted or needed. In fact we were actually able to buy more toilet paper just yesterday which was a HUGE relief since I hadn’t seen any in a while.

Since we’ve been stuck home…

Damien bought a science set with the rest of his Valentine’s Day money from Great Grandma.
I had Scott remove the cup-holder piece between the chaise and the middle seat. This has allowed me to lay down sideways if I want so I’m pretty happy with it.
It snowed TWICE during Spring Break lol. I was finally starting to see grass again too. This picture is after the second time. The first time was about 3 inches and this was just a dusting.
Damien needed a haircut and we couldn’t get one. What to do? I ended up using Scott’s beard clippers, haha. He even sat nicely for me 🙂
Damien’s homeschooling workspace! He’s ready for this week!

I felt like I needed to write out what’s going on right now just to document it. Maybe years from now it’ll be interesting to see what was happening. Overall, we’re all doing fine. I’d say “inconvenienced” would be the best word to describe our current state. Putting it into perspective though, our income isn’t affected, Scott will be able to do the homeschooling since he works from home, and everyone is healthy.

I wonder what’s going to happen in the future. When will things return to normal? Will there be a “new” normal? When will I get to see my family again? Hopefully this summer! Oh, I almost forgot! Damien had a write an essay for school about his favorite older American (55+) and he unsurprisingly picked my Dad. It was soooo sweet and his teacher said she could tell it meant a lot to Damien because he put a lot of effort into it, knowing that he doesn’t usually enjoy writing.

Winter Fun…Now We’re Ready for Spring!

Well it’s already early March and we’re FINALLY starting to see temperatures above freezing–yay! The snow piles are very slowly shrinking. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the past two months.

This was from a blizzard in mid-January. I can’t remember how much snow we received, but it was very windy, hence the snow drifts.
I thought this was very sweet. Damien often gets up earlier than me in the mornings and he left out a Hersey’s kiss for me with a note because he said I deserved it, awww!
At the beginning of February we all went to an indoor inflatable event in town called Fight the Frost. It was pretty fun. I even tried some of the obstacle course ones and Damien and I would race to the end. He ALWAYS won even when he gave me a head start. It was exhausting!
Damien and I built the Lego set he received for Christmas. He did almost all of the building and I just sort of organized the pieces. It was 1474 pieces…by far the most challenging set yet!
It took us about a month, but here is the finished product! This is the high school “unhaunted”
And this is the high school haunted!
And here is the inside of the high school. You can install an app on your phone/tablet that lets you battle ghosts.
He toned it down a little when I was recording, but there was a lot more animation and playing when I wasn’t there
Damien was a little bit embarrassed when I read it, but here’s a list of nice things that his classmates said about him 🙂
To my surprise, Damien wanted to go to his school dance! He had a great time running around wild with his friends. And I thoroughly enjoyed watching him interact with his peers. It’s something I don’t really get to see. Plus, I enjoyed the music and watching all the kids have fun. I didn’t take any videos and I only got this one picture when Damien was taking a water break. They were running around too much; it was impossible!
Waiting for the teacher at parent/teacher conferences. I snapped this right as Scott started falling LOL
Damien’s drawing is the very last on the bottom right.

The parent/teacher conference went well. Damien gets along with his classmates and has friends. He’s in speech therapy twice a week with one session working on social skills and the other working on sounds. Academically he’s on the low end of grade level for reading and on the upper end of grade level for math. This school doesn’t use the tradition A-F grading scales, but rather a list of end of the year goals and how well they’re meeting them. It’s a little bit confusing for me, but his teacher didn’t have any concerns so everything seems to be fine. He’s improving and advancing so I’m happy.

Lastly, last weekend I saw a friend I’ve known since Elementary school, Amanda, and her family. They were in Grand Forks for the hockey game so we met up at Northern Air so the kids could play and then went to lunch. It was really nice catching up. I don’t know the last time we saw each other, but I’m going to guess maybe 4-6 years ago? Where does the time go?

Winter Break Is Over

Damien is back in school today, but I think he had a pretty awesome winter break. He spent countless hours playing video games and watching TV, but he also starting writing a screenplay for a movie he wants to make. It’s called “A New World” and the main character’s name is Dave. He says it’s going to be rated PG-13 because it’ll have inappropriate stuff in it. Damien has about two pages written so far and he definitely enjoys the potty humor. And as a family we went to go see Frozen II in theaters which Damien and I really enjoyed.

We went through quite the winter storm last weekend. I’m not 100% sure how much snow Grand Forks got total, but the base got 13.5 inches on Sunday. Lots of snow and wind!

Taken early Sunday morning
Sunday night after they plowed the street
My worker bee!
Even with the snow blower, it took quite a bit of time on Monday to clear out the driveway and walkways. I can’t believe we debated getting a snowblower thinking we might not use it!
While Scott cleared out the bulk of the snow with the snowblower, Damien and I played in the yard
We decided to dig out a snow tunnel
Taken from our street. I wonder how much more snow we’ll get?
The sidewalks on our street
Damien opening his treasure dig gift
A fire dragon! With shoes…
On New Year’s Eve, we took Damien out sledding for the first time! He had so much fun! Definitely a highlight of the winter break
And of course the worst part about sledding? Walking back up the hill!
Taking a break

Merry Christmas 2019!

We just spent our first Christmas in North Dakota and it was very nice. To my surprise, Damien is handling the winter like a champ. Scott on the other hand is experiencing “new levels of cold” lol. But overall we’re doing great. Damien has off a week and a half from school and I’m getting a lot of time off too. Now if only I had the energy to be productive…

The wintry view from my kitchen window
Scott and I are ready for my Squadron holiday party’s ugly sweater contest. Photo by Damien
Taken on the first official day of winter, but Grand Forks didn’t care to wait. Quite a bit of snow so far with a few wind chill advisories. Oh and a winter storm projected for this weekend…
This year we got Damien a Mario castle gingerbread house to decorate
Damien decorating his side of the castle
The finished product! And Scott decorated the cute mushroom cookie.
This was the side I decorated. I felt it needed icicles to match the outdoors.
For whatever reason during winter break from school Damien just can’t seem to stay awake!
Ready for Christmas morning!
Damien made gifts for Scott and me this year–I love them!
A new board game to play! It even has Grand Forks in it!
To recap:
From Grandpa Whitehill – a gaming chair
From Great Grandma and Grandpa Whitehill – a build-it-yourself pump-action ball shooter, a 3lb chocolate bar, an emoji snow ball maker and a snow digger
From Great Grandma and Tom – a Minecraft water bottle, a shark wubble ball, a treasure dig, and whoopee cushions
From Grandma and Grandpa Hanks – a North Dakota monopoly board game and a crash mat (pictured below)
From Mom and Dad – Plants vs Zombies for PC, a Lego set, the Harry Potter complete movie set, and boxer briefs
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR MAKING THIS AN AMAZING CHRISTMAS!
His first time experiencing the joys of the whoopee cushion
Damien went absolutely wild with the whoopee cushions. He LOVED them! So much so that he popped the first one in under 30 minutes after opening presents and the second one later that same evening. He was pretty bummed lol
Damien testing out his new gaming chair and new video game
Damien with his cute shark wubble and 3lb chocolate bar. I’m kind of confused that the chocolate wasn’t already scored.
And due to delayed shipping, the last gift has arrived! The crash mat from Grandma and Grandpa Hanks! Now Damien can get out some more energy indoors during these winter months!