Damien, The 5th Grader

Damien started 5th Grade on 31 August and after almost two weeks, everything seems to be going well with the in-person learning. It’s been such a strange school year already. We’ve never met the teacher and only saw a YouTube video where she introduced herself. Parents/visitors aren’t allowed to go inside the school, and each Grade has a designated arrival/departure door and waiting area. So when Damien is dropped off in the morning, he stands in a line outside of the school and waits until 0820 until a teacher allows them inside the building through their Grade level’s door. And after school they all file out of their door and wait until the parents arrive. I still don’t understand what they’re planning to do in the winter months. Of course there are lots of extra rules and procedures inside of the school too like socially-distanced seating in the classrooms and lunchrooms, sanitization stations around the school, and required mask-wear when not separated.

Overall I truly feel like Damien is so much happier being back in school and around other kids. He’s such a social butterfly! Oh, and he likes his teacher too! She even wrote me a message at the end of this week that said, “Damien has been a joy to have in the classroom. He has been working very hard!” Can’t get any better than that! The ONLY concern is how tired Damien is on school nights, especially around dinner time and even MORE when he has Taekwondo. We’re waiting to see if after a few weeks he adjusts to the new schedule.

First day of 5th Grade!!!
He’s so ready!
Damien is excited to learn how to use nunchuks! And he has a patch now on his uniform from when he earned orange belt.

The Newest Orange Belt!

Damien has been working hard all month to be able to test for the next belt, the orange belt.

He earned his fourth stripe! READY TO TEST!

Today was belt testing day. I know Damien was a tiny bit nervous, but overall VERY excited. And he did so well! He even did a great job sounding-off. I could hear him over all of the noise!

Lining up for testing. Damien in the far back so it wasn’t easy to be pictures or videos.
Side kick demonstration
So proud!
After every class they say an oath about being respectful
Class photo

Taekwondo

We enrolled Damien in Taekwondo and he’s been going three times a week for the past two weeks. So far, he LOVES it. He’s super motivated and focused and I see this being a great activity for him. It also teaches so much about respect and Damien has really taken to that concept as well. At home he’s been a lot better about self-correcting his behavior. Exercise, social interaction, and confidence building with a side of positive attitude–yes, please!

Damien’s first session!
He looks like Elvis here LOL!
Showing off his weapon

Below are pictures after two weeks of sessions. He has two of the four belt stripes and he’s preparing for a belt test at the end of the month. He also made a friend! He always wants to go into the building early just so he can talk to HER. And they even make it a point to say bye to each other when class is over. It’s so cute!

Throwing a punch
This is their listening stance. They’re getting instructions for the next series of moves.
Front kick–HI-YA!

Home Visit

Damien and I spent two weeks in Dickinson as soon as I got the “all-clear” from work to travel. I was a little nervous about the drive but everything went well. We definitely enjoyed spending time with the family. And it was a much needed break from work! Grandpa Dave took Damien fishing a couple times which is what Damien had been asking to do for months…although towards the end of the trip Damien was rather moody. I’ll have to keep that in mind for future trips that a shorter duration might be ideal. I’m sure it was a mixture of a lot of factors such as a recent medication change and all of the isolation from other kids and other adjustments due to the COVID19 pandemic. It’s been hard on all of us. I’m so thankful to have been able to visit my parents and brother this summer. So close, yet so far away!

Damien and I went to a Kids Fair in Dickinson. Damien even got a free meal!
Dunk tank. He succeeded too!
Shooting game
Birthday cake snow cone! A surprisingly tasty flavor
Playing around with sparklers! I need to ask my Dad to send me more pics from the trip so I can post them too.
The day after Damien and I returned home, there was a heat advisory during the day followed by a severe thunderstorm at night that took out ANOTHER part of our backyard tree…
The damage

And thank you to my parents for a nice trip! They always go out of their way to make Damien and I feel special and loved 🙂

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*