Oh my! We have a new driver in the house

It is a mix of feelings when you first born reaches the age where he (or she) can learn to drive. I’m excited for him to move onto this new area, but at the same time, I have trepidation about him driving out there with all those other crazy drivers.

Yes, my son, Jase turned 15 in May. Because the Department of Public Safety was closed due to COVID-19, we didn’t get his learner’s permit until the beginning of July, which was the earliest we could get an appointment. I must say I love having an appointment. It cut down the usual long wait at the DPS office to mere minutes.

In Texas, you have the choice of sending you teen to driving school or go the “parent-taught” route. We chose the latter. With this choice, he still must take an online driving class (in our case provided by Aceable), but his actual car experience is with a parent sitting beside him rather than an instructor.

Even though he didn’t get his learner’s permit until July, we began after his birthday to allow him to drive in the parking lot of the school and a nearby church. My husband took him out for his first drive, but many of his subsequent drives have been with me beside him. My brother laughingly offered me a blindfold, but Jase has done a good job.

We started with him practicing turns, stops and parking – all without going over 15 miles per hour. After he got his learner’s permit, we ventured out to the neighborhood streets and onto some of the main streets near our house. The other cars (and their drivers) seem to intimidate Jase. As with many places, many people do go higher than the posted speed limit. But Jase does not, and when they tailgate or pass him, it makes him nervous. I keep telling him that he needs to not worry so much about the other drivers. His job is to take care of himself. Yes, he may annoy other drivers, but he isn’t doing anything wrong by going the speed limit.

He has driven to a few close places – a store or two as well as the gas station. But he has not ventured too far from home. Part of the problem is to get to most places you have to go onto the highway or the access road to highway which have been under construction for the past two years. The area is a mess and not the best spot for a novice. So we will look into other areas for him and then there is always driving at night and in the rain that need to be practice. There is a whole list of things he needs to do according to the state before he takes that driver’s license test next year.

And so we will try to work in driving and his online driving class into his school schedule, which goes from 10 am to 3:30 pm. It sometimes is hard to stop and go driving but our goal is for him to drive daily. And so far he has only scared me a few times. But he is getting so much better – and the only way to keep improving is for him to practice.

A new…and very different…school year begins

Today is the first day of school. But it is not like years past. Today, instead of grabbing their zippered binders and lunch boxes, the kids are heading to their computers to start school.

Yes, we are beginning the year with virtual learning. Unlike the distance learning of the Spring, this is actual classes taught on Zoom. It is supposed to be as close to in-person learning as possible.

This is Jase’s first year of high school. But the nerve-wracking find out where your classes are in the new school will have to wait. His online – and later in person schedule – resembles a college schedule. He has 4 classes that meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then he has 3 classes that meet for a longer period on Tuesday and Thursday. Jase’s classes begin at 10 am and end at 3:30 pm.

He luckily got everything he signed up for – Geometry, Honors World Geography, Honors Biology, English, Orchestra, Fitness Basics (P.E.), and Principals of Law.

Lexie is now in 7th grade. She will have four classes each day, but they alternate between A and B (or rather blue and silver) schedules. On blue days, she goes to Honors reading, art, Honors Math, and science. On silver days, she has Honors English, Texas History, PE, and Principals of Human Services (which is high school credit course). Next year, Lexie’s math class (Algebra) and health class will also count as high school credits meaning she will later start high school with 2 1/2 credits. (Jase started with 1 1/2 – Algebra and the half credit health class). Lexie’s classes go from 8:30 am to 2 pm.

Because their start and stop times are so varied, it will make it interesting for getting them up in the mornings and for having lunch prepared. And I am hoping everything goes off without a hitch. They have received all their Zoom links and have set up their Google Classroom accounts.

Now the excitement of the first day is shadowed by a twinge of disappointment that they won’t be seeing their friends. That they won’t get to walk or ride the bus or that they won’t get to have the typical first day of school experience.

But we will work through it. What other choice do we have? They may have not liked distance learning, but they are willing to give virtual learning a try. And hopefully it will go well. And I hope even more that the schools decide to give in-person learning a try. My kids will be there when they do.

Recipe of the Month: Taco Casserole

My daughter loves the Zippy Beef & Mac casserole and Enchilada Casserole so she suggested trying Taco Casserole and found this recipe on dinneratthezoo.com. We have made just a few adjustments to the recipe and those changes are listed below. This is an easy recipe and everyone in the family loved it. I think this will be a great meal to plan on a busy school or work day. And it is a good use for those small pieces at the bottom of the tortilla chip bag.


1 lb ground beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 packet taco seasoning

14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I use either Chipotle or Mexican-style), undrained

1 1/4 cup tortilla chips, crushed

16 oz. can refried beans

1/3 cup salsa

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Toppings – salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced olives, sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In skillet, brown ground beef, breaking up the meat with a spatula or spoon. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes or until onion is translucent. Drain grease. Stir in taco seasoning and diced tomatoes. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Place crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of 9 inch square pan or 2 quart baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix refried beans and salsa together. Spread a layer of refried beans over the top of chips. Pour beef mixture over the beans and top with cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Add toppings if desired and serve.

Yields: 6 servings