Saturday, March 25, 2023

First Week of Spring, 2023

We began the week on the first full day of spring, and it did not disappoint!  Tuesday was a little bit on the cool side, but the sun was so shiny and we had a great day outside.  From there, the temps warmed more each day, and by Friday, we were certain it was spring.  The question is, will it stick around?!  We're ready for it!  Here's a look at our week...


Today's plan was to visit the Army Transportation Museum at Ft. Eustis, but Carol was under the weather, so we decided to postpone.  Karryna joined us to fill in for Carol, and it was such a pretty day, we decided to just hang out at the park.  Before we left, we played a game of pool noodle volleyball with Karryna, who did really well for a first-timer!  (There was a balloon, but it was out of the camera's shot!)

We found out that Karryna had never been to Newport News Park, so we gave her the grand tour!  We showed her our favorite overlooks, and walked her all the way to the Discovery Center (from the Ranger Station) and back!  Unfortunately, the Discovery Center was closed, so we couldn't visit, but we'll bring Karryna back one day!

Adia, Liz, and Alexis spotted a hibernation box on our walk.  It is bigger than the one Krafty Karen set up at Freedom Park, but it had similar items inside that insects could nest in over the winter.  A few of the cylinder-like pieces (maybe bamboo?), were sealed off by either mud or a waxy substance.  We're going to ask Karen what she thinks could have been in them.

Lunch was enjoyed at a shelter near the Ranger Station.  Karryna grabbed this shot of Dev B and Sam, buddies who are always happy when lunch time rolls around!

There was playground time today, too.  This is one of the larger playgrounds at NN Park, and no little ones were using it, so we did!  Laura and Sweet T enjoyed going down this double slide together quite a few times.

There's just something about a swing set!  We like this one, but wish the swings were a little higher so we would have more room to pump our legs.

Kevin also enjoys sliding, and he went on these few several times.  In the background, Sam and Devin B did some climbing.  One can get a good workout on a playground!

After the playground, we took Karryna to the long bridge, and thought we would check to see if the turtles were awake from hibernation yet.  Karryna loves to take selfies, so a bunch of us said, "Cheese!"

Soon we found turtles!  Some were swimming and others were sunning, but they were awake!  Later, we learned that turtles and other reptiles don't hibernate (a mammal thing), they brumate, which means they bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of the water and go into a reptile (cold-blooded) version of hibernation.  They remain conscious during brumation, but require very little oxygen, so can remain buried under the water for a long time until the weather is warm again!  Amphibians and some insects also brumate.

Humans don't hibernate or brumate, but they sure love it when the weather starts to warm up!  Karryna snapped this shot with Kate, Kevin, and Alexis enjoying the warmth of the sunshine!

When we spotted this pretty redbud, someone suggested we take our picture and send it to Carol, since it's her favorite tree!  She loved it!  There are more colorful signs of spring showing up every day, and we love to find them.


Carol was still recovering today, so we welcomed Pat's mom, Sue, as a substitute.  She couldn't believe she was helping out on National Goof Off Day!  She was a great help, goofing off from her! 👏 Thank you, Sue!  We appreciate you for working with us today!!

Before our day (goofy and otherwise) got started, we were surprised when Liz brought us a gift from her family, in recognition of our 7th anniversary.  It was Liz's idea to gift us a door mat for the back door!  Yay!!

This is a great gift idea, Liz!  Many thanks to you and your family for this beautiful mat that is just what we need at our back door.  We will do our best to keep it clean, even as it helps us keep from tracking in too much dirt!  We LOVE it!

Even though it was National Goof Off Day, we also had to fulfill our responsibility of volunteering at GCOC today.  We split into two groups and sent one at a time.  GCOC volunteer Peggy was thrilled to see us again, and had to get hugs and fist bumps from everyone!

Alexis, Drew, Sweet T, Michelle, Sam, Cameron, Pat, and Annmarie worked with Peggy and her husband Joel to pack bags of nonperishable food items.  After this, they also bagged toilet paper rolls.  They worked steadily for a little over an hour to get the job done!  Great Job, Team #1!

The group that remained at the center hung out, just goofing off, while they waited for their turn to go to GCOC.  Adia, Dev B, and Liz enjoyed a game of Jenga.

Adia, Erik, Nan, and Kevin goofed off making a pretzel and M&M treat, but Kevin must have been in the restroom when Sue snapped this picture!

After the first group returned to the center, Sue took the next group to work at GCOC.  Xavier, Adia, Erik, Kate, Liz, and Dev B were a little surprised to find out they would be packing diapers in bags!  

Kevin and Laura were also in this group.  They had to count a certain number of diapers, and also socks, and they were focused and exact in their counting!  Great job, Team #2!

After lunch, we "celebrated" Goof Off Day by watching an episode of Gilligan's Island, which had Sweet T in stitches!

Poor Gilligan, every time the castaways came close to being rescued, he would make an innocent "goof" and the rescue wouldn't happen!  What a silly show to watch on Goof Off Day!

We paused from goofing off long enough to write thoughtful thank you notes to Jorie, James, and Kim for last week's magnificient luncheon!  Michelle and Annmarie were hard at work.

We ended the day outside where the sun was behind the clouds, but it wasn't too chilly.  Liz, Alexis, Patrick, and Cameron chose to take a walk around the garden area.

The others wanted to play corn hole "just for fun." 


We ramped up the excitement from what has been a relatively quiet week so far when we welcomed Wisteria, Erika, and Amanda from The Mariners' Museum.  We were going for a Mediterranean vibe with our decorative board today!

Wisteria, Erika, and Amanda were coming to lead us in a Mediterranean cooking experience, and we were excited to see them!

First, they gave us a review about where the Mediterranean region is, some of the countries it includes, and background information about the foods they eat.  We learned that we were going to make two kinds of pasta:  Aglio e Olio, which is pasta with garlic and oil, and Pasta Amatriciana, which has a tomato and bacon (or prosciutto) sauce.

Erika showed us a map of of Italy, and we learned that the recipes we would be preparing today came from two different regions.

Patrick, Alexis, and Sam worked with Wisteria to make the pasta amatriciana.  They also helped her prep fresh bread, and she gave them a taste!

Erika was assisted by Adia, Erik, and Kate to make the aglio e olio dish.  When they sauteed the fresh garlic, our room smelled so good!

We had some very pretty napkin rings to color that featured the Mediterranean Sea.  Laura, Annmarie, Nan, and Kevin colored them beautifully and then wrapped our silverware.  We didn't get a picture of the final product, but they were so pretty!

We found a recipe for a Mediterranean fruit dip that was made with Greek yogurt, almond butter, Nutella, and honey.  Sweet T, Drew, Xavier, Michelle, and Carol whipped it up and it was sooo delicious!  We had sliced apples and fresh pineapple with it.

While Sam cooked the bacon, Wisteria helped Pat mince fresh garlic.  The recipe didn't call for fresh garlic, but our guys suggested it, and Wisteria thought it was a great idea!!

This is Amanda on the left, teaching us how to pronounce some words in Italian.  We didn't get many pics with her because she is the museum's photographer, and she was running around all morning taking lots of pics of us!  We wanted to make sure we pointed her out, too!

Amanda took this picture of all of us before we dug into the very tasty pasta dishes!  Thank you so much, Wisteria, Erika, and Amanda, for today's delightful time spent learning, socializing, cooking, and eating together.  We had an absolutely fabulous time!


We wrapped up our week with a productive work day at Eaton!  We were missing 5 of our friends today, so the rest of us were busy!

Jorie wasn't here today, but James and Kim stopped by and we presented them with a thank you booklet so they would know how much we appreciated last week's lunch treat!  We reminded them that we had leftovers, too, and how special that was!

We met Eaton's new HR person, Elsa.  James showed her the thank you booklet and explained to Elsa what we do for Eaton.  He was very complimentary of our work ethic!!  Thank you, James!  We are proud of the work we do, and it means a lot to us that you recognize our contribution!

Today's tasks included sorting, which Patrick, Sweet T, and Xavier handled, and twisting small pieces off of the big white plates, which Erik, Laura, and Annmarie did.  All of these friends worked happily and efficiently!

On this side of the room, our other friends were busy assembling PowerSlide Doors.  Xavier and Kevin are such a great nuts and bolts team who kept up with all the doors coming their way!  If you have a good eye, you'll spot Erik working at this station as well.  He was tightening the nuts and bolts with the electric screwdriver!  

In this shot, we see the label team, Nan, Adia, and Alexis, "sticking" with their sticky job!  Behind them, Sam unpacked while Michelle, and Carol got the process started by gasketing and inserting the amber lenses.  These guys are also very efficient!

After several productive hours, it was time to call it a day.  But not before we loaded the van with some work we can do at the center.  We are honored that Eaton trusts us with the responsibility of working on some things back at our place!

We enjoyed a yoga session with Jaime when we got back to AFCC, and then it was time to bid another week goodbye!  Here's a look at some of the things we'll be doing next week:

Tuesday:  We postponed our trip to the Army Transportation Museum because Carol was out with illness, so we have rescheduled it for today.  If the weather is nice, we'll also visit NN Park for lunch and a good walk!  Wear Arc shirt and bring a bagged lunch.

Wednesday:  Our Executive Director Pam is going to visit today and bring a special guest for us to meet!  We'll work on Eaton, prepare library books for discarding, create a spring craft, and have a lesson on the origins of chocolate (so we can sample a chocolate bar Trader Joe's gave us).  We'll also celebrate Manatee Appreciation Day!  Lunch on your own.  The JRES Cafeteria is available and is offering Cheesy Pasta Supreme or Sub of the Day.

Thursday:  We're excited to visit our artist friend Jeff at his studio in Lanexa today.  He'll give us a tour and show us his beautiful creations, and also create art with us!  He's recovering well from his recent hip replacement surgery, and we can't wait to see how much better he feels.  💙  Weather permitting, we'll visit Little Creek Reservoir Park for lunch and a walk, because it's National Take a Walk in the Park Day!  Please bring a bagged lunch.  Arc shirts not required.  (Jeff says the project won't be messy, either!)

Friday:  We'll work on the April calendar (can you believe it?), and learn about the history of crayons to celebrate National Crayon Day.  We'll also learn about potatoes as we celebrate National Tater Day, and that will include a baked potato bar and chocolate potato cake for lunch!  We'll aim to finish our March read-aloud, and end the day with yoga, so dress to stretch!

Enjoy the weekend,

Lisa, Carol, Nan, and the AoA Gang

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Our 7th Anniversary!

We switched our celebration mode from birthday to anniversary this week - the Arc of Abilities' 7th Anniversary, to be exact!  We can hardly believe it was 7 years ago on March 16, 2016, that we started this program with 11 charter members.  We have grown a lot, and in a lot of ways, since then!  Celebrating our anniversary is always fun, but that's only part of the fantastic fun we had this week.  There was more to celebrate than 7 years of us!  Check it out... 


Today we celebrated that we are fortunate to live in Virginia's Historic Triangle.  We like to get out and about, and Tuesday has generally been our traditional day for "fun" field trips (as opposed to vocational and/or volunteer experiences).  Living in close proximity to so much history makes it easy for us to enjoy a fun outing, and we have certainly made our share of visits to Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown over the years.  Our trip today was to Jamestown Settlement.

The sun was shining brightly today, but Mother Nature decided to keep the temperature in the upper 40s and blow about quite a lot of wind!  We decided to focus today's visit on the indoor galleries, and there was plenty to see.  We'll be back soon to explore the fort and other outside exhibits.

Most of our time was spent in the new gallery called Reign and Rebellion, which highlights the impact of the Stuart monarchy on early America.  We learned some things about King James I, who sent the colonists to Virginia in 1607.  On his family tree, William and Mary were spotted...yes, the ones who are the namesake of our guys' favorite hometown college!

We have learned about the importance of tobacco to the economy of the Virginia colony as its "cash crop," but today Sam and Patrick learned that King James himself thought tobacco to be nasty and harmful to one's health!  He even tried to discourage its use.  In later years, when he realized how much money it brought in, he changed his attitude!

Liz, Michelle, and Kate were intrigued by the John Rolfe Family Bible, in this display.  Wow...wasn't he married to Pocahontas?!  Yes, ladies...but this bible is over 400 years old!  😀

Laura loves our blog, and likes to see both her friends and herself in the photos.  She asked if we could take her picture "by this lady" and "put it in the blog."  First things first...this "lady" is Charles II, and some (most) men wore their hair long back then, too!  Now, smile, Laura!

James I's hair wasn't particularly long, but his outfit caught our guys' attention, especially what Sam called the "puffed up shorts" which all agreed would look funny on them today!

There are several short films in the Reign and Rebellion exhibit that we paused to watch.  It's a well done exhibit that will be on display through September.  We'll be back before then, and may have to wander through here again, just in case we missed something fascinating!

However, after Reign and Rebellion, we were ready for lunch.  There were almost 1,000 visitors at the museum today, according to the front desk when we signed in.  We felt fortunate to snag these 3 big booths which held exactly the amount of space we needed!  Lunch was hot and tasty, and everyone was happy!!

Besides picking up a few history facts, we also came to Jamestown Settlement to get a good walk.  It was chilly, but the wind wasn't too strong yet, so after lunch, we headed outside.

We walked from one end of the grounds to the other.  It was a nice stretch and just what we needed after those yummy fries that came with our lunch!

There is a brick tower at Jamestown Settlement that has a huge bald eagle nest on top.  On our way back to the building, we saw a white head peaking up, and suddenly another eagle flew in to land!  We guessed it's a mom and pop, and either they have a baby (or two) in the nest, or they are preparing for one.  We tried to get a picture with both heads looking at us.  It was very cool to see!


Today was spectacular, to say the least!  So here come a lot of pictures to back it up...

Michelle, Liz, Alexis, and Laura shelved books at the JRES Library this morning.  They are a good team!

They also brought this cart full of books back to our room so we can prepare them for discarding.  We love helping out in the library!

Look who came back this month - the therapy dogs and their handlers, our wonderful friends!  They had to take a hiatus from visiting with us in January and February, and we are so happy to have them back on our monthly schedule!

Tomorrow is Leo's birthday, so Kent brought us mini-donuts and we had a mini-party for our favorite Chow!  

Happy 2nd Birthday, Leo!  We hope all your wishes come true!  Thank you, Kent, for the donut treats.  We enjoyed them very much!

Some of Leo's dog friends wore party hats, much to our delight!  Marlo (with Lena), on the left, and Darby (with Carol "2"), on the right, look good in blue!

With Caroline smiling proudly, Pip is perfect in red!!

After celebrating Leo, we broke into small groups for a reading session.  Here, Nan proudly looks on as Michelle, Kevin, and Kate take turns reading three books with Ava and Gunther.

Xavier and Adia read with Kent and Leo, the birthday pup!  Kent told them that Leo is the fifth Chow he's had over the years.  💙

Annmarie and Dev B got to read with Carol, and our favorite "hider," Casey!

Darby was very relaxed as he and Carol "2" listened to Sam and Erik share their books.

With Liz and Laura waiting their turns, and Marlo listening closely, Lena read a favorite book about dogs to Drew.

We're so lucky to have several dog and handler pairs, so we can always have small groups for reading.  In today's 6th group, Alexis, Patrick, and Sweet T cuddled with Pip while Caroline read aloud from a story about Franklin, the turtle.

After reading, we took our dogs and handler friends on a scavenger hunt to learn facts about birds.  The facts are posted throughout the center, and it's fun to learn facts, like barn owls will eat up to 1,000 mice a year!  Carol and Casey were learning with Drew, Liz, and Laura!

Caroline and Pip, along with Michelle, Kate, and Kevin just learned that hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover.  They can also fly backwards!

Erik, Sam, Kent, and Leo learned about the elephant bird, which was much larger than an ostrich...and is now extinct!  Thank you Kent, Caroline, Carol, Carol "2", Ava, and Lena for bringing the dogs and hanging out with us this morning.  We had the best time and are truly thrilled that we're back together! 💜🐕

Sorry this pic is blurry, but we were on the move during a fitness activity!  We only had 10 seconds to get to another part of the room!  Jorie, James, and Kim were on the way with pasta...

Wow!  Look at our dear friends James, Kim, and Jorie from Eaton.  When they realized that our 7th anniversary of working with Eaton was just a few weeks after our 7th anniversary of the AoA, they insisted on enhancing our celebration week with a beautiful pasta luncheon, including garlic knots and fresh salad!

We can't forget the adorable, and tasty, cupcakes!  🧁🧁🧁  Thank you, Jorie, James, and Kim, for your kind hearts and for treating us to a wonderful meal that included your company (the best part)!   We can't tell you how much your partnership means to us, and how much we love working with you.  Thank you for your part in our vocational development over the past 7 years.  We have spread our wings with you, and we're so proud!

Wait...what?!  There was more!  Kim helped pass out goody bags from Eaton!  Thanks so much, Eaton.  We love you guys!!  What a great day for us. 💚💜💛


Happy 7th Anniversary to the Arc of Abilities today!  It was another celebratory day, but we had work to do first.  It's not all fun and games around here, even though lately it seems like it! 😜

First, we sent a crew to Pet Supplies Plus to see how we could help today.  Erik and Laura helped with dusting.  Such nice smiles on their faces!

Adia and Kevin got a good stretch as they stocked a top shelf!

Liz and Devin helped Scott clean cages today, and then they got to pet a bearded dragon!

Spread the word that Pet Supplies Plus is hiring!  We can vouch for what a great environment it is at PSP, and what great bosses Scott and Roxanne are!

Adia and Devin want to spread the word that Scott would be happy to sell you this cute and cuddly chinchilla!  

What a surprise when Kent and Leo popped in to see us!  When we were hanging with the therapy dogs yesterday, Kent heard we would be working at PSP today, so he came to see us in action!  Happy Birthday, again,'s the actual day! 🥳

Meanwhile, back at the center, this was the end result of the cooking and decorating crew's hard work this morning!  Sam, Dev T, Michelle, Annmarie, Drew, Xavier, Kate, Patrick, and Alexis assisted each other and Lisa and Nan in so many ways to get lunch on the table and festive anniversary decorations on the walls.  Great team effort this morning!

Kate tried a new task today.  She cut the grape bunches into smaller, more managable sections to make us a nice fruit tray.

Alexis shredded chicken for our Caesar salad.

Sam colored masterpieces for our "Happy Anniversary" signs!

Once we had lunch and decorations done, Alexis led us in a Disney trivia quiz while we waited for the PSP crew to return and help us with decorating our tables.  We were guessing which Disney villians fit each clue!  (We know our Disney movies!)

Soon, we were celebrating!  We would not be enjoying our 7th anniversary if it weren't for JCC Parks and Rec partnering with us so we can use the AFCC, and the vans!  We thank them, and Tracy and Karryna, who work diligently to make sure we have everything we need! 

Greg Kline, stopped by as well.  He's on The Arc's Board of Directors, and we would like to thank them for the guidance and support they provide that leads to our success .  Greg is also Liz's dad, so we could say he represented the AoA's incredible families, too.  We can't thank our families enough for cheering us on and supporting us in so many ways!  They are simply the best!

Can you spot our fantastic and hard-working executive director, Pam, in the middle of this spectacular group?!  We thank her for dedicated leadership to The Arc of Greater Williamsburg, and for all she does to support our AoA program.  In addition, we send a shout-out to Anna, Kellie, and Sue at the Arc office, who likewise support us in countless ways.  We LOVE all of our Arc staff!!

After lunch, we looked back on the first few months of the AoA.  We began the program on March 16, 2016, with 11 charter members.  Of those 11, these 7 are still with us:  Liz, Dev T, Patrick, Drew, Alexis, Kevin, and Sam.  Over the years we have had 25 different friends come through our doors for varying amounts of time.  We're currently up to 16 members, but we love each and every one that has ever been part of the Arc of Abilities!

In a bittersweet moment at the end of the day, UVA superfan Liz, with the support of her buddies Alexis, Drew, and Dev B, was catching the end of UVA's first round game in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  It was a close game at the end, and UVA could not hang on for the win.  Liz received a lot of loving comfort from her friends after the game.  'Cause that's how we roll at the Arc of Abilities.  💗💗💗


Happy St. Patrick's Day! Best buds Sweet T and Drew teamed up to be the "Lucky Charms," and aren't they handsome?!  They are posing alongside our Pizza Pizzazz machine, which is the first appliance we got for our program.  Drew's family donated it on Day 2 in 2016, which was St. Patrick's Day.  We didn't heat any pizzas in it that day, but we made cookies...and we've been using it on St. Patrick's Day ever since.  It's one of a few traditions that we have.  Read more about our cookies below!

We watched a lesson with Mystery Doug today on how rainbows are made.  We learned that Isaac Newton had the idea to use a prism held up to sunlight in order to prove that the sun's "white" light is actually lots of colors that form a rainbow when separated by the prism's glass.

After that, we went outside to chase rainbows, but found there was not enough sunlight today.  We'll try again next week!

As our Pizza Pizzazz warmed up, Liz and Adia volunteered to mix up our Blarney Stone Cookie Dough.  These are the cookies we made on our second day of operation, back on March 17, 2016, when we used the Pizzazz as an oven.  Each St. Patrick's Day, we bake cookies this way, because we like traditions.  

We forgot to take a picture of the cookies baking on the Pizzazz, but they turned out great, as can be seen in this picture.  Unfortunately, they are not gluten-free, but we always have GF cookies on hand so Xavier doesn't miss out on the sweet treats!  (His were chocolate today.)

There is going to be a St. Patrick's Day craft program at AFCC in our room this evening.  We decided to make a few decorations to leave up so the room would look festive.  Alexis and Drew had just finished these colorful rainbows!

Sweet T, Michelle, and Annmarie made rainbows and then worked on coloring pages.  Sweet T's was going to be cut out and turned into a dancing leprechaun!

Here are some of the decorations we will leave up for the night program.  Cute dancing leprechauns!

We're always happy when Ms. Vallone (JRES Assistant Principal) stops by for a visit.  Today, she had some news - she's engaged!!  Congratulations, Ms. Vallone!  We're so happy for you!!

For today's lunch, we enjoyed leftover pasta from our delicious luncheon with Jorie, James, and Kim on Wednesday.  What a treat that was, and to have leftovers on a Friday was extra special!  Thanks again, Eaton friends.  We really appreciate you!! 😋

After lunch, Lisa read a few chapters from our March read-aloud called Hello, Universe.  It's starting to get really good!  Well, except for the fact that one of our favorite characters is stranded at the bottom of an abandoned well, where he found himself after he attempted to rescue his pet guinea pig who was tossed in there by a bully... 

We stepped outside to take our official St. Patrick's Day group photo.  We wear green very well!

Here we are stretching and relaxing with Jaime's version of rainbow yoga.  As always, a great way to end another busy week at the Arc of Abilities!

We will slow things down just a little next week, as we don't really have any "official" celebrations.  That's not to say we won't find something to celebrate, though.  We're looking forward to welcoming spring!  Here's our agenda for next week:

Tuesday:  We're going to visit the Army Transportation Museum at Ft. Eustis today.  It's been a while since our last visit, so we will enjoy checking it out again.  The weather looks hopeful for a stop at Newport News Park for lunch and a walk, so bring a bagged lunch.  We would like everyone to wear Arc shirts today AND tomorrow. 😊

Wednesday:  Today will be fun!  It's National Goof Off Day, but we're going to balance it with a good dose of service.  We will divide into two groups and take turns volunteering at GCOC.  When we're at the center, we'll have fun with games and other "goof off" types of activities.  Lunch on your own.  JRES Cafeteria will be available and has Chicken Sandwich or Hot Dog on the menu.  Wear Arc shirts, too!

Thursday:  Today we are welcoming Wisteria, Erika, and Amanda from The Mariners' Museum, and they are going to teach us how to prepare a couple of Mediterranean pasta dishes for lunch!  In other activities, we have thank you notes to write and a final Winter Corn Hole Challenge game, even though it's the third day of spring!

Friday:  We are tentatively scheduled to work at Eaton today, so wear Eaton shirts and bring a bagged lunch.  We may end up doing the work at AFCC, and if so, we'll head out after lunch for a visit to New Quarter Park to kick off a Spring Bocce Challenge!  

Enjoy the weekend, 

Lisa, Carol, Nan, and the AoA Gang