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
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
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!

New Video Game and New Couch

We bought a Nintendo Switch game called Ring Fit Adventure because Scott thought it might be a good motivator for him to workout. One controller is placed in this flexible ring that you hold and the other controller goes on a leg strap. You move, pull, and push the ring as well as other exercises throughout each level. I tried it too and thought it was okay. It would be nice if I thought exercising was enjoyable.

Scott testing out the game
Damien’s turn playing

I feel like I keep saying “this is the LAST big purchase for a while” right before making another big purchase. We took advantage of some Veteran’s Day deals and bought ourselves a new couch for the upstairs living room. Prior to this, we only had the one couch in the family room downstairs so this room was just sitting empty looking sad. It’s SOOOOO hard finding a couch because you want it to look good AND be super comfortable. We ended up picking a couch where you could pick each individual piece and they fit together. Scott wanted a sectional which would have worked well in the space, but it’s more expensive and at least some of the seats would never be used. I’ve been excited to try a chaise lounge so we picked that and two more power recliners with dividers in-between. The dividers are more for Scott who really values his own personal space. I do like the cup holders and a place to set things so it works for everyone.

Testing out the new couch right after delivery.
Here’s its true color. And I also got some new throw pillows!

So after having the new couch for almost a week, I like it. It’s not as comfortable as it was in the store and the seats seem WAY bigger too. To counter that, I have to use the pillows to make the space smaller. The chaise is DEFINITELY the most comfortable spot so I think that was a good choice.

Damien getting comfy to do his nightly reading

A Visit Home and Halloween

Only a month behind on my posts!

So mid-October Damien had a random Thursday and Friday off from school so we used that opportunity to visit my family. It worked out perfectly because the weather was still nice and there wasn’t any holiday traffic. Scott packed up his whole computer so he could still work which ended up working out well. We played lots of poker, had an excellent Thanksgiving meal, and Damien and his uncle David created comics together. Such a great trip!

Ready for the 5-hour drive!
Scott and Damien spray-painting pumpkins in the backyard
Scott and Damien decorating their pumpkins
Damien decorated two pumpkins this year–a demon with a crown and a ninja. I think the ninja is super cute!
Our pumpkins on display. I tried to make a cat, but it looked more like a mouse and Scott made a green spider.
Our neighbor gave us a ton of apples from her apple tree so we made an apple pie. It looks a little “rustic” but it tasted good.

This was our first year trick-or-treating in Grand Forks so I took Damien up to the local mall to check out indoor trick-or-treating while Scott stayed home and passed out candy. We weren’t impressed so we came home and Scott took Damien trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and Damien had a much better time.

Damien chose a Halo costume this year. He LOVES the mask.
Assassin Damien. Should I be worried?
Scott and Damien came home from trick-or-treating a little bit early because Damien can’t see very well in the dark without his glasses. He was running, tripped, and tore a hole in his costume. Some nice people helped pick up Damien’s candy that spilled on the ground. He was fine.

Winter Already?

North eastern ND got hit with some bad weather this past weekend. Highways and interstates were closed due to icy roads and low visibility. Oh and flooding! I’m definitely looking forward to some warmer temperatures this upcoming week to melt all this snow.

Damien and I had a snow day on Friday, woot!
Damien was SOOOOO happy to go play in the snow
We decided that we wanted a snowblower now instead of waiting a winter to purchase one. We just happen to get it home the night before the snowfall. It worked like a champ, even in the wet, slushy snow.
Putting Damien to work clearing off the car
This was taken Thursday evening to document the first bit of snow accumulation where we live. Note the lush, green tree.
This is now Saturday morning and that tree is not looking too good.
Saturday afternoon and upon further investigation we found that a large portion of our tree broke off at the base. I guess all of that heavy, wet snow and wind was just too much. 🙁
The base of the tree
And lastly, Damien made a birthday card for Scott. It’s soooo Damien lol with gold bars, gold coins, and gold columns. I love it!

A Kid With Many Talents

This post is all about Damien and his many interests and talents.

Damien working on his muscles. It’s important to him to be strong!
And don’t forget about cardio! Damien got this Jump-O-Lene as a present years ago from Julie, but we never had room for it in the old house. It works out better than jumping on the beds.
Damien is now fully ready for a North Dakotan winter!

Earlier this month we went in for parent/teacher conferences. So far I really love the school and Damien’s teacher. She’s very kind and patient and I think Damien is really thriving in that environment. Damien is doing very well in math and needs to work on his reading, which we’ve been doing every school night at home. This is turning out to be a great school year!

Damien on his chromebook at school before conferences.
Damien made some interesting artistic choices with this piece lol
Damien’s classroom

Damien made his first comic book! He created it in class during his free time and he had the chance to present it to his classmates which was well-received so he’s already working on a second issue. I love it because it motivates him to try to spell words correctly and it gives him the confidence to try new things.

Damien’s comic book, Attack of the Poopa King
Scott and Damien horsing around

Damien’s Birthday Celebration

Damien turned 9, what?! We celebrated on the Saturday over Labor Day weekend. We kept it simple this year and decided not to invite any of his classmates. But I think it was still a super great day.

Damien’s cake pick
Damien and Scott baking the cake in the morning before the day’s activities. Note Scott’s hair/beard.
We went to a place called Northern Air which has trampolines, inflatables, laser tag, and virtual reality gaming.
Scott was VERY tired after this lol. Also, he shaved his hair and beard off! He startled Damien LOL
Damien and Scott playing VR
Here is Damien playing the VR game again. The monitor above displays what he’s doing in the game.
Next it’s time for presents!
From Mom & Dad – Pizza PJs, two bath fizzies, candy, Dog Man 7 book, and two video games that we bought on clearance probably over a year ago that we found during the move lol (Recore and Battle Chasers)
From Grandma and Grandpa Hanks – A color changing alarm clock, Risk board game, and an emoji catch game
From Great Grandma and Tom – A very sweet birthday card and money which is going to go towards winter gear like snow pants and gloves, and maybe a treat too 🙂
Thanks to all!
Decorating the cake
Damien picked colorful candles this year instead of his usual number candle. The flames are supposed to match the color of the wax.
The birthday boy!
Blowing out the candles
Yummy cake 😀
Learning how to play and getting my butt kicked in Risk