Saturday, December 4, 2021

Here Comes December!


Who can believe it's December already?  We are all amazed that the end of 2021is fast approaching, and we have a lot of plans for wrapping it up.  We began this week, and here's a look at what we were doing at the Arc of Abilities!


It's always a busy morning when we update our monthly calendar.  Today, things went very smoothly, and quite efficiently!

With Sam in the background removing fall decorations from the wall and windows, Kate was on the computer searching for images to add to the calendar squares she was preparing, which included Rosa Parks Day (Dec. 1) and Mariners' Museum Field Trip Day (Dec. 7).

Patrick and Devin also used the computers to find images for calendar squares, while Xavier and Laura used holiday colors to decorate the large bubble letters that will spell out D-E-C-E-M-B-E-R.

It's clear how much concentration Kevin was using to carefully color in the string of holiday lights on his picture.  We were happy to see him slowing down and focusing on staying within the lines. πŸ‘

Drew was also focused on staying within the lines as he colored in holly leaves and berries on his picture.  We are working with him on recognizing when to rub the crayon in an up and down direction, and when to go side to side.  He's getting there!  Alexis had printed her images and was cutting them out so she could glue them to the calendar squares.

Although it was sunny, we decided it was too breezy and chilly to eat outside, so we had lunch at the center before loading the vans to head to Jamestown.  But once we got outside and actually felt the wind blowing, we decided it would be too uncomfortable by the river at Jamestown, so we quickly came up with Plan B and went to Newport News Park instead.

We knew once we got across the bridge and into the woods, the trees would help block some of the wind.  First, we stopped to admire how pretty the water and sky were today, and to notice seagulls on the bridge, which we had never seen before.  Could it be they had come inland a ways, to find less harsh conditions, or an easy food source??

The trail we followed was the Swamp Fire Trail and it led us to this bridge over a...swamp!  There were no seagulls here, but we spotted a lone goose swimming away from us!

We were right about the wind, it was much calmer on the part of the trail that went into the woods.  We had to keep an eye out for all the roots so we wouldn't lose our footing, but everyone did a great job and we had a wonderful hike.

Most of us passed by this thing without noticing it, as it was a few steps off the trail.  Lisa made us turn back to check it out, and we learned it is an insect trap!  Research is being conducted on the impact urbanization is having on the nearly 20,000 species of insects found in Virginia.  According to the information on the sign, by the year 2050, rural/crop land areas will be lost by 2% to as much as 84% in some areas of the world, and this will significantly affect the habitats of insects (and we think, many other living critters, too).

The Discovery Center at Newport News Park was open, so we stopped in to see what we could learn.  Alexis and Kate were surprised to see a box turtle in this display along with the two foxes.  They didn't notice the turtle at first, which was camouflaged by the leaves, and thus better protected from the hungry foxes who may go after its eggs. 

Kevin and Drew tried to guess what animal made the footprints at this learning station.  Drew was surprised when Kevin revealed a raccoon's footprint!

Xavier, who loves a good jigsaw puzzle,  joined friends Patrick, Devin, Carol, and Alexis who were assembling a large one on a table.  With his adept assistance, they had it put together in a jiffy!  

Great teamwork, friends!  Our Plan B trip was lots of fun!


It was December 1 and the day we "officially" allow the playing of Christmas music during our dance warm up.  DJ Liz was all over it, and the rest of the gang had lots of requests!  Lisa and Carol were busy getting materials ready for us to make our Christmas tree for the wall, so we don't have pictures.  Maybe a video soon!  🎡 πŸ•ΊπŸŽ„

After dancing we spent quite a while making individual parts for what will become our Christmas tree on the entrance wall to the room.  Everyone decorated a large triangle with unique and colorful designs.  At this station, Carol helped us cut pictures from old Christmas cards to use on our triangles.

This was the paint and glitter station.  We dabbed colorful dots and squiggles on our triangles, and then sprinkled them with glitter.  Messy, but pretty!  (The glitter was on another table.)

Nan assisted us with adding ribbon, colorful tape, sequins, and pompoms.  By the time we had visited all 3 stations, our individual parts were looking amazing!

Here are the separate pieces.  They need to dry overnight and we'll assemble the tree tomorrow.  We can't wait to see our individual contributions come together to make one pretty masterpiece!

After the tree work, some of us prepared lunch while others worked on Eaton tasks.  After that, we had a movement activity.  Here we are just before our chicken taco pies came out of the oven.  We were ready to eat after a very productive morning!

December 1st celebrates National Pie Day and National Eat a Red Apple Day, so we took advantage.  Instead of a sweet pie, we made a savory chicken taco pie and topped it with lettuce, salsa, and sour cream.  We added red apple slices for a side, and chowed down!  Devin patiently posed for a picture before eating!

Our friend Xavier also posed patiently before digging into his gluten and dairy free chicken taco pie and side of red apple slices.  We used gluten-free bread and left out the cheese and sour cream on his.  He had no leftovers! πŸ˜‹

December 1st is also Rosa Parks Day, as it was on this date in 1955 that she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted over 1 year, until the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on the buses in Montgomery was unconstitutional.  We watched a Brainpop video to hear the rest of the story, and everyone was attentive.  It is not easy for our guys to comprehend the concept of segregation.

After the video and our discussion, we used our brains to sequence a timeline of events from Rosa's life.  One of the more interesting facts we learned was that she got married at the age of 19, and when she was 20, her husband, Raymond, helped her return to school to earn a high school diploma.  We were proud of, and inspired by her, and shocked to learn that Black people were ever denied the right to a quality education.

Finally!  It was time to draw Secret Santa names!!  You could have heard a pin drop as each friend pulled a name from the hat and carefully peeked to see whose it was.  πŸ‘€πŸ’—πŸŽ…  Remember, keep it a secret!!!!


Most of our morning was spent in baking mode.  We wanted to try 3 new recipes for cookies that we could share with friends and family this holiday season.  Devin, Kevin, Nan, and Liz visited the "supply" table to gather ingredients and other supplies needed for their groups.  

Annmarie and Laura were also gathering ingredients, such as these oranges from the refrigerator!

Sam, Alexis, and Drew worked on a new oatmeal cookie recipe.  This was the last photo we took because things really got busy once each group started mixing and baking!  We were pleased with a couple of our recipes, but not this oatmeal one.  Good thing we did a practice run before sharing with our loved ones!

While Lisa, Nan, and Carol finished tidying up after our baking extravaganza, Liz and Devin got our lesson on Hanukkah started by playing the video and leading the gang on a discussion about some of the key points!


We didn't have time to complete the Hanukkah worksheet before lunch, but Annmarie and Sam worked on theirs during Choice Time.  

We had a fun science activity today!  The goal was to learn that mixing certain things, such as an acid and a base (whatever they are πŸ˜‰), can cause something called a chemical reaction.  We learned that vinegar is a "safe" acid to experiment with, and baking soda is a safe "base."

The baking soda was placed inside the balloon, which was attached to the top of the bottle.  Inside the bottle was vinegar.  We learned that when mixed, the vinegar and soda (acid and base) would create a chemical reaction and release a gas called carbon dioxide, which is the same as what we exhale when breathing.  Our question was, where would the gas go?  We knew it couldn't escape into the room since the balloon was sealing the bottle closed.

When we lifted the balloon so that the baking soda would fall into the vinegar, causing a chemical reaction, we found out that the gas would escape to the balloon, causing it to inflate!  

Sam and Liz must have used a special balloon, because theirs inflated like this!  It made us wonder if we could set it up, using different sized containers and more of the baking soda and vinegar, so that we could blow up a balloon that would be big enough for Carol's birthday?!?!   Alexis suggested we try it with a big milk jug (gallon), so we will gather supplies and try it tomorrow!  

 It was pretty cool science!  We can't wait to see what happens with the big jug.  Update:  We ran out of time on Friday, so we will try it with the big jug on Tuesday!


Our group says there is no such thing as too much holiday music, so most of the tunes they have played during dance warm up this week have been jolly ones like this.  Check out our tree.  We are slowly but surely getting our room decorated!

Look at our lemon-thyme tea cake/bread!  We used master gardener Carolyn's recipe, and the thyme we had dried, to make this for Carol's birthday.  Laura and Drew knew before tasting that this was going to be good!!  πŸ˜‹  Thanks for sharing the recipe, Carolyn.  It was fun drying our own thyme to use, and the flavor of the thyme and lemon went so well together!

It was a busy morning preparing for Carol's birthday party.  We made cards and then worked on decorations, too.  We had Christmas music on in the background (the gang's idea!), and every now and then a few would jump up and dance!

Our birthday lunch turned out great!  We used a recipe Liz shared from her Aunt Dori for chicken spaghetti (but we used rotini noodles).  It was cheesy delicious and we also made Carol's favorite grilled veggies for a side.  (Isn't that a lovely glass bowl holding them?!  Thanks, Nina!!)   Thanks for sharing the recipe, Liz, and please tell your Aunt Dori we loved it!

Our beloved Arc Executive Director, Pam, joined us for Carol's birthday luncheon.  Can you spot her in this photo?!  Our gang enjoyed chatting with her and seeing pictures of her adorable grandson!  Thanks for coming, Pam!  

We're showing two things with this picture.  The first is that we're proud to work on Eaton tasks at our center, and today we made a trip over there to deliver a big load of it!  The second thing is shwoing how we totally clean our room each afternoon before leaving.  The tables are taken down and stored in the closet, chairs are stacked to the side, and you can't even tell we used the room!  All of this is also proof of our excellent team work! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

We took this picture from Lisa's van.  If you zoom in you can see our friend Jorie waving to us!  We were a little short on time since we partied for Carol so long, πŸ˜‚, and were trying to make it to the park in time for a walk, so we didn't unload everyone to say "hi."  We just yelled it from the van windows............πŸ“£

New Quarter Park is just around the corner from Eaton, and we got there is time for a good 20 minute walk on a mild and sunny afternoon.  We decided to skip Friday yoga since the weather was so nice and fresh air was calling.  Drew, Annmarie, Laura, and Nan were all smiles on this beautiful day!

Alexis, Abraham, Patrick, and Kate had a pep in their steps!  They pointed out that a lot of leaves have fallen from the trees.  

Look who's keeping up with the leaders of the pack... the birthday girl!  Way to go, Carol!  Age is just a number, right?!

We ended our week just like we started it, with a refreshing walk and lots of fresh air.  We're lucky that our climate in eastern Virginia tends to allow for being comfortable outside most of the year.  Devin even had his shorts on today!  Next week's forecast looks pretty good, too.  Here's what we'll be doing, and hopefully it will include some outside time!

Tuesday:  We have a fun outing planned for today when we visit our friend Wisteria at the Mariners' Museum.  They have prepared a new holiday program called "Three Men, Three Gifts, and a Journey."  It's a fun, secular, and historical program that will unravel the origins of the three wise men.    While at the museum, we plan to take a group photo to use on our AoA Christmas card, so please wear your original Arc shirts (not the 5k shirt) and bring a smile!  They usually have nice decorations at the museum around which we could take the picture, or we could find a spot on the Noland Trail.  We also plan to order lunch at the Mariners' Cafe, so please bring $10 for dining.

Wednesday:  We're in for another wonderful experience today when Christina, from the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, comes to us for a special holiday painting project.  She's bringing all the materials, and will lead us step by step as we create beautiful masterpieces for our families.  We've got a treat for Christina, too, as her birthday is in a few days!!  After painting, we'll enjoy breakfast casserole and birthday coffee cake muffins for lunch! In the afternoon, we'll have a lesson on Pearl Harbor Day, which was yesterday.

Thursday:  Today we're going to Eaton for our last onsite work day of the year.  We've had a wonderful and productive 2021 at Eaton, both onsite and here at AFCC, and we look forward to continuing our work with them in the new year!  Please wear Eaton shirts and bring a bagged lunch.

Friday:  Time for something new today:  Sock Exchange Party!  Please bring your socks (one of them filled with goodies) for the game and get ready to pick a different pair to take home for yourself!  We're also going to paint the oyster shells we got at our recent trip to the Watermen's Museum and transform them into Santa ornaments.  Lunch on your own.  The JRES cafeteria menu lists corn dog nuggets or "special of the day" as choices!  We'll end the week with yoga, so don't forget to dress to stretch, too!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Lisa, Carol, Nan, and the AoA Gang

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving, 2021


Our two days together this week flew by, and soon it was time to enjoy Thanksgiving with our families.  We stayed at the center both days, and things were kind of quiet as several of our friends were absent this week.  Here's a summary of our two days!


We only meet one Monday a year, and it was this week.  It always seems a little weird at first, but we quickly adapted!  After dance warm up, we had a lesson about sweet potatoes.  We harvested some from the garden recently, and plan to cook with them tomorrow.  In addition to finding out that they are high in vitamins A and C, high in fiber, and great for helping to boost the immune system (very important this time of year), we also learned that anything you can do with a white potato, you can do with a sweet potato.  Our guys took notice of this recipe for baked and stuffed sweet potatoes that was part of our informational video. πŸ˜‹  This may show up on our lunch menu in the near future!

Everyone had one of our harvested sweet potatoes to observe, and we also compared them to a few that Lisa bought at the market.  The market ones were much bigger.  Liz and Kevin helped us conclude that the ones we grew at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden may have been smaller because we grew them in a smaller space.  

Devin and Abraham agreed that large farms probably produce larger sweet potatoes, but they also concluded that ours will taste great despite their smaller size.  We'll find out tomorrow!

James stopped by early in the day and left some lids that needed to have gaskets applied ASAP.  Liz and Alexis got right on it, completing a couple hundred of them in an hour's time!  Jorie picked them up before lunch and they were off to another satisfied Eaton customer.  Thanks, Liz and Lexi!

Part of our lesson about Thanksgiving included a video from one of our favorite series, Homeschool POP.  In addition to learning about the history of this holiday, we also learned cool facts like 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving each year and 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten!  There are a few other countries which celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving, too...but not with the same history as ours.  Click on the pic below if you'd like to watch the video and learn what those other countries are!

We followed up the lesson with a couple of worksheet activities.  Sam was overheard saying, "I'm thankful to Devin for helping me with my work."  How do you not love that?!

We did a multi-step art project today when we drew and colored a turkey on a background, and then glued pumpkin seeds and pretzels to fill out the turkey's feathers.  Here, Drew and Alexis had finished the grass and sky, and were working on filling in some sunshine.

This was Annmarie's reaction to being complimented after she figured out that her grass and sky needed to meet each other on the background, rather than be thin strips of blue and green along the top and bottom of the picture.

The next step on our project was to glue pumpkin seeds and broken pretzel pieces for the feathers on the turkey.  Lisa put glue in place for Kevin, but he selected his colors and carefully placed the seeds on his own!

Here are our creative masterpieces!  Everyone did a great job following directions, and personalizing their turkeys.  It's hard to see, but in addition to some traditional birds with multi-colored feathers, we have several themed turkeys representing W&M, UVA, Bridgewater, and Clemson, plus one in support of the World Series champion, Atlanta Braves!  

When we checked the National Day Calendar for today, November 22, we found that the only celebration listed was for Cranberry Relish Day.  So, we learned about cranberries before going home.  Did you know that family farms in the state of Wisconsin produce more than half of the world's supply of cranberries?!  Click this graphic for a short video about Wisconsin's impressive cranberry production:

We also made Lisa's "famous" cranberry relish that we'll enjoy with our lunch tomorrow.  Check out our first time using one of the glass bowls with covers that Sam's grandmother, Nina, sent us for a Christmas gift!  It's perfect for our cranberry relish!  Thanks again, Nina!


Today went by really quickly.  Even though we only had 9 in attendance, we got a lot done!  First on our minds was getting lunch prepared, as we wanted our chicken and pasta salad to have time to chill, and our sweet potatoes to have time to roast.  Plus, we needed to get several tubs of Eaton parts sorted.  We got busy early!  Sam, Kate, and Nan cooked pasta and prepared the greens for our salad.

Liz and Alexis worked with Carol to make her "famous" roasted sweet potatoes with citrus vinaigrette.  It smelled so good as they combined such ingredients as fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, chives, shallots, and cilantro!  We were excited to eat the sweet potatoes we had grown and harvested at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden with our master gardener friends!

Patrick and Devin wrapped silverware in napkins and sealed them with our custom made napkin rings before heading over to help with the Eaton work.

Drew and Xavier got a head start on sorting several tubs of parts while others helped with lunch chores.

After she finished helping with place settings, Annmarie went to a sorting station, too!  We were all multi-tasking this morning!

After our busy work morning, but before lunch, we had movement time to songs from our Thanksgiving playlist.  We found this last year, but it's still out on the web.  If you'd like to check it out, click the dancing turkey!  (Just be sure to skip #22 as it has a "parental advisory.")  

We played a game of listening called "I Have...Who Has?"  The theme was Thanksgiving Day and it covered everything from the Mayflower to football games!  

How does our pre-Thanksgiving luncheon look?!  From left to right, it included roasted sweet potatoes with citrus vinaigrette, cranberry relish, chicken and pasta Caesar salad, and more sweet potatoes.  On the far right is a salad made with gluten-free pasta and no cheese for Xavier, and in the orange box are some cookies Nan brought us, which were just the taste of sweetness we needed after our meal. (We decided to hold off on making MG Carolyn's Lemon-Thyme tea cake until next week...for Carol's birthday!)  Even though she wasn't with us, we'd like to thank Laura's family for the donation of Thanksgiving plates and napkins!!

For our master gardener's a close up of the sweet potato dish.  It was sooo good!!!

Tracy stopped by while we were playing Thanksgiving Bingo.  We're always happy to see her, but told her she was "late" this time and missed a fabulous lunch! 😜

We ran out of time and had to postpone our Fall Challenge Corn Hole game to next week, but we made sure to get in a yoga session.  Here's our version of turkey pose.  We're supposed to be shaking our tail feathers.  πŸ˜‚πŸ¦ƒπŸ˜‚πŸ¦ƒ

We chose "Super Mario" yoga with Jaime today on the Cosmic Kids app.  This looks like a great stretch.

Liz helped Drew with tree pose today.  Sometimes it's helpful to lean on a friend for support!

Devin and Patrick were in sync!

With our quick two day week coming to a close, our turkey experts wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!  (We watched a video, so we know a few things!)   Enjoy time with family and friends!  We are thankful for EACH and EVERY ONE of YOU!

We'll be back at the AoA on Tuesday, November 30.  Here's what we have planned:

Tuesday:  It's still a ways out, but the weather forecast looks good for being outside today.  We will go to Jamestown Island for a brisk walk around and if conditions allow, we'll eat lunch at the picnic area by Jamestown Settlement.  If you have an NPS Access card, please bring it for admission purposes.  Thanks!  Wear Arc shirts and bring a bagged lunch.

Wednesday:  We will update our calendar for December, discuss holiday plans, and select Secret Santa names!  It's Rosa Parks Day, so we'll have a social studies lesson.  It's also Eat a Red Apple Day and Pie Day, and we're going to make Chicken Taco Pie with a side of juicy red apple slices for lunch.

Thursday:  Hanukkah began on November 28, so today we will learn about its history and customs.  There isn't much on the National Day Calendar to celebrate today, so we'll have math and science activities, too.  We'll also play another round of Fall Corn Hole Challenge.  Lunch on your own.  JRES Cafeteria is available but the menu isn't posted yet, so pot luck!  (Note:  Lately, it's been pot luck all the time with the cafeteria.  Twice recently what was posted on the menu was not what was served.  This works fine for most of our guys, but not all.  FYI!)

Friday:  We're celebrating Carol's birthday today!  For lunch, we'll prepare chicken spaghetti with a side of grilled veggies (Carol's fave) and we'll make MG Carolyn's Lemon-Thyme Tea Cake, too.  We will use the thyme we dried!  We'll also put up our Christmas tree (on the wall) and begin making holiday decorations for our room.  We'll end the week with yoga, so dress to stretch, too!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Lisa, Carol, Nan, and the AoA Gang