Friday, February 17, 2017

The First Half of February

Tracy has a thing for hiding in boxes . . . 
I WILL try to go back and tell you what we did in November, and December, and January, but in the interest of not getting even MORE behind . . . I figured I'd start with NOW . . .

So, a few highlights from the first half of February:

Lexie, Ashlyn, and I enjoyed a Jaime Jorge concert. It made for a late night, but we enjoyed it :)

Our American Girl Club was about Molly McIntyre and World War II (I might have planned a couple of these dolls to conveniently coincide with what we're learning about in history!) Lexie made popcorn balls, since Molly got popcorn balls when she went Trick or Treating in the first book. And I got some adorable vintage-looking Coke glasses at the dollar store to serve ginger ale in. Then we made the dolls their own hula skirts and tissue paper flower headbands like Molly and her friends made as Halloween costumes. They turned out great! And unlike Molly and her friends' costumes, we use plastic (dollar store table cloth) instead of crepe paper so they wouldn't melt if they got wet.


Just in case you haven't seen enough cat pictures lately (see, I don't have to ask the cat's permission to post her pictures . . . much easier), this one cracked me up. I got up early and hadn't turned the dining room light on yet, walked over to the table to pick up some dishes that someone didn't put in the dishwasher and all of a sudden a cat arm stretched out of that "empty" box on the table. Silly cat apparently slept that night in the box ON the table! She was in no hurry to get out of the box, so I had time to get my phone, turn the light on, and still take a picture of her, though she HAD sat up by then instead of hiding completely inside the box. We have since humored her and moved the box to the floor so she can sleep in the box without being on the (forbidden) table :)

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count so in preparation for it, Little Bit and I have been learning about birds. Sunday morning she found a bird display on the sunroom coffee table. I brought out some of our stuffed birds, put some bird books and a bird game out, and wrapped up a sketchbook and crayons so she can draw the birds we talk about. I also wanted to light a candle for our morning circle time (hoping to keep her a bit more focused, and calm . . . ) but didn't have a candle holder for the beeswax tapers I got awhile back. So, I decided to create my own.

It was a last minute decision, so I just used modeling clay because it's what I had, and it didn't have to be baked or have time to dry or anything. I'm pretty proud of how cute my little duck-shaped candle holder turned out since I spent all of maybe 45 seconds forming it :) I didn't want the residue from the clay to get on the cedar chest, so I set it in a shell from our shell basket. Isn't it cute? Of course now Little Bit's going to think I should create "themed" candle holders for all our themes LOL.

We've been having fun learning about birds this week. She's enjoying drawing the birds we talk about and looking forward to helping me count birds in our yard this weekend. Here's hoping we find a few :)

Sunday afternoon we headed to Harrisburg for a Civil War Dance Class. The Victorian Dance Ensemble is the group that was giving dance demonstrations at the Harpers Ferry Christmas weekend we went to in December. The girls had a blast, and some of the ensemble members, when they learned we live in the Lancaster area, mentioned that they generally give free classes in Jan-March. So we were watching the website. We missed the January class (long story), but this past Sunday we made it, and had a blast!

Little Bit had said she didn't want to dance, so we brought her new sketchbook and crayons, the bird game, and some books to read, so she'd be well occupied while her sisters danced. And she did spend time drawing and we played part of a game before one of the men in the ensemble came and asked if she wanted to dance too.
She danced the entire second hour of the class. She was tired when it was over, but had fun, and said she wants to dance at least part of the time when we go next month. My girls were the only kids there, but everyone seemed glad to welcome them, and I've posted about the class in a couple local homeschool groups I'm in, so hopefully next month there will be more young people learning about these old fashioned, but fun, dances.

Lexie's books
Monday we went to a Valentines party with our homeschool co-op. It was held at a library the next county over (so not a library we normally go to) and that library's used book sale shelves just happened to be in the room they let our group use (genius of them . . . ). Lexie and Ashlyn hadn't wanted to come (they're too grown up for such things) but we were going straight from the party to their Ancient Civilizations class so they had to tag along. Which meant they were there, with nothing to do but browse those bookshelves. . . . it was a very expensive party :) But they got some really cool books!

Ashlyn's books
Meanwhile Little Bit had a blast with her friends. They built all kinds of structures with toothpicks and gum drops (seriously, I was amazed at how long that kept them occupied, and it was a great "ice breaker" that got them all working together on things). And made cheerio bird feeders and exchanged valentine cards and ate yummy snacks, and had a blast :)

So the morning was a definite win for all of us :)

I love the irony of the fact that we drove straight from a Lebanon county library (for the Valentine Party) to a Berks County library (for the Ancient Civilizations class) and then came home to Lancaster county. I was very tempted to go to our local library that afternoon to pick up the books that had come in, so that I could say we had been to 3 different libraries, in 3 different counties, all in one day. But only half the books were in, and I figured (correctly) that if I waited until Tuesday, I'd be able to get all the books in one trip, AND could stop on our way to music lessons instead of making a special trip, so I refrained . . .but how fun would that have been to say? Yes, I'm a nerd. This should not be new information to anyone who knows me AT ALL!

And that wraps up the first half of February!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Life is Busy . . . In Case You Couldn't Guess . . .

Ummm . . . yeah, it's been a while! But life is busy, and teenagers aren't excited about having their life broadcast, so I have to be more careful about what I write, and get their "permission" before posting it . . . which is only right, it IS their lives we're talking about, after all . . . just means I can't dash off a post a midnight, and publish it and move on . . . which explains why, when I opened up Blogger to write this, I realized there's still a draft sitting there from Nov . . . I need to go look at it and see if it's just waiting for me to get their approval, or if it's only half written.

But, for now, after being "gone" for so long, I thought I'd start by summarizing the classes and such we've been doing this year.

In addition to music lessons, which continue, the same as always. . .

Ancient Civilizations class:  One of the area libraries is offering a free weekly Ancient Civilizations class for homeschoolers. I had hoped that all 3 girls would enjoy it, but it's not as hands-on as I had hoped (was advertised as hands-on), and definitely assumes children are reading/writing fluently, so Little Bit sits in the back with me and draws or plays quietly, but Lexie and Ashlyn are enjoying it.

Art classes:  Little Bit has been taking an art class with our co-op group twice a month. She seems to be loving it! The class is held at the classroom in Hobby Lobby. It's SUCH a hardship to HAVE to spend an hour every other week browsing Hobby Lobby LOL. A couple times when I go to pick her up at the end of class I've heard her teacher single her work out as an example of good work :)

American Girl Club:  I thought of this a few months ago, but by the time I figured out the details it was approaching the holidays, so we waited to start until January. It's a class, of sorts, that I'm hosting for the girls in our homeschool co-op who like American Girl dolls and books. We meet once a month. I designate the doll ahead of time, so the girls know which doll's books to read in preparation for that month's class. Little Bit arranges her doll accessories so that one of her dolls can host a tea party or picnic for the other girls' dolls (and last month, as you can see, Tracy the cat figured the picnic was for her benefit). Lexie helps me choose and make a snack that correlates with the time period and/or story of the doll we're talking about. I also plan a craft that goes along with the doll's story and/or time period. And the girls usually manage to snatch some time to play with their dolls before, after, and in between.

So as you can see, we're staying busy . . . . :)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wrapping Up Most of November

Hey look, I'm getting caught up!!! I make no promises that I'll STAY caught up LOL.

I'm also realizing that I haven't taken many pictures recently. So guess I'll just have to tell you what we've been up to recently . . .


  • Little Bit had fun at a friend's birthday party. It was a gymnastics theme, complete with a coach and some students teaching the kids some basic tumbling and helping them with it. Little Bit was WORN OUT but had a blast! 
  • Bowling! Our homeschool coop's teens went bowling. Since we live farther away than many of the families, I was going to try to figure out something for Little Bit & me to do nearby but the coordinator sent an e-mail to those of us with younger kids in case we wanted to have our own bowling party while the big kids did. The little kids had fun bowling while the teens had their fun :) 
  • Splitting wood. As the weather cooled down, we started using our woodstove. We have a nice sized woodpile in the shed from some trees (or parts of trees) that came down at the old house and this house, but none of it had been split. And some was still in the yard needing to be cut up. My parents came up for a few days and Dad did the cutting, and taught Lexie and Ashlyn to split it. They were AWESOME and did tons of splitting! Conveniently, it's been warm enough we haven't had to use the woodstove much, but we have a good stack of wood in the garage, and more in the shed, for when we need it.
Which brings us to . . . last week! 

After church we headed downtown to pass out lunches, hats and gloves, and hot chocolate to the homeless. We passed out over 100 lunches (and 50 cups of hot chocolate) and could have given away so much more if we'd had it. Each week, once all the lunches are passed out the pastor gathers everyone into a circle to pray, and invites anyone nearby to join us if they want. Not only did several people join us this week, but 2 or 3 of them took a turn praying as well. 

Once we got home afternoon the girls and I headed to my parents house. Ashlyn was happy because she got to play with my brother's 3 german shepherds. 

Sunday we headed to NC to visit my friend, V. She's been inviting us to come visit ever since they moved there a couple years ago, and we finally found at least a couple days that would work.

V has 2 girls near Little Bit's age, and the 3 of them had a blast the whole time we were there. Lots of giggling :) V also has 3 dogs, so Ashlyn was happy. I don't think Wiggy (the little one) touched the floor the whole time we were there. He likes to snuggle and all 3 of my girls were more than happy to oblige.

The first evening, it was chilly, so V was trying to start a fire in the woodstove, but not having much luck. The kids decided to try their hand at it after she gave up (and was going to wait for her husband to get home), and they were successful! And very proud of themselves :) 

The weather was GORGEOUS while we were there! So we took advantage of it and spent the first morning at a nearby park. 

After hiking around the lake, we headed to a playground. It has this awesome "spider web" thing to climb on that Lexie had to try out. V managed to convince Ashlyn to at least stand near the spiderweb for a picture (Ashlyn agreed as long as she could hold Wiggy). 

Lexie also kept V's youngest (age 4) happy by pushing him on the swing and generally being his buddy the whole time we were there. He was so cute.  "Wexie, will you pway a game with me?" She played tag (made more fun because it was in the house and Charlie (the dog) assumed they were running for his benefit and kept tripping her), board games, and took him out to play on the swingset. Which at one point, involved allowing all the kids to declare her to be a chocolate bunny and "eat her" . . . but at least the kids were all getting along (big sisters don't always like to include little brothers). Naturally, when she came back inside and told us they'd declared her to be a chocolate bunny, Ashlyn, V, and I promptly started singing the Veggie Tale "Bunny Song" hee hee.

V's 8 yr old had her very first cello lesson while we were there. Lexie was super excited to get to play with a cello, and taught her to play twinkle twinkle. Then everyone played Twinkle together. Lexie on her violin, K on her cello, Ashlyn on the piano, and E on her harp. It was super cool, if not "great music" :)

Since Monday night was the "Super Moon", we had a bonfire and made smores and looked at the moon. It was very pretty, though I couldn't tell that it was that much bigger than other nice big full moons.

On Tuesday we went to check out a fort nearby. There wasn't much there but it was another gorgeous day. There was a small playground so the kids had fun playing on the playground for awhile and then we went for a short hike on a trail through the woods. Much to the delight of the kids, there were some "side trails" (that might have just been deer trails) that we let the kids explore. The woods were small enough that they couldn't get lost, and the ids were loud enough that we could hear them the whole time, so it was nice to sit in the woods and talk and listen to the kids laughing and having fun :) 

Wednesday afternoon we drove back to mom & dad's house. Celebrated Dad's birthday that evening, then came home on Thursday.

Friday we had another park playdate with the same group of friends we met at the end of October. Another gorgeous day (I was plenty warm in a long-sleeve t-shirt) and the kids had a blast. 

Yesterday was the Reading Holiday Parade. Our church had a float in the parade so we walked (or rode) with the float and handed out candycanes. 

The theme was storybook characters so our float was Bible stories. Some of the talented artistic types in our church made a huge "Bible" out of plywood to have in our truck. And some of the kids dressed up as Bible characters and rode in the truck.

Little Bit dressed up as a giraffe. And Lexie resurrected the generic "Bible character" costume she made to use when I was leading the little kid Sabbath School class at church, and needed her and Ashlyn to occasionally play the part of various Bible characters.

While it was chilly waiting for the parade to start, it wasn't bitterly cold, and was plenty warm once we were walking. 

And then, much to Ashlyn's delight. Some friends joined our float with their 2 person recombant bike and, riding in a trailer behind . . . their DOG!!!! He was a super laid-back dog and happily rode the whole parade route. Ashlyn stayed next to him, pretty much the whole time. Some of the kids very happily took turns riding in the 2nd seat of the bike. So they were a welcome addition to our float all around :) Ashlyn hasn't stopped talking about what a sweet dog he is. To be fair, he WAS very sweet. A lab/pitbull/boxer mix. He was a big boy, but very well behaved.

When we passed out lunches, etc. downtown last weekend, after we'd given away most of the "winter wear" our pastor was talking to young homeless guy, and ended up giving him his sweatshirt that has our church logo on it. As we were walking the parade route, we saw the same young man, wearing his "new" sweatshirt. He asked if he could walk with us since he was wearing his sweatshirt that matched ours. I think he even passed out some of the candy he'd been given while standing on the parade route :)


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Belatedly Wrapping Up October . . .

I'm hopelessly behind, but going to try to touch on at least a few highlights from October before moving on to November . . . .

When we got back from the motorhome trip we got to dog-sit one of Ashlyn's favorite doggy guests for a weekend. Maggie likes us, we let her on the furniture and play frisbee with her until she's exhausted :)

Tracy (the cat) no longer attacks Maggie like she did when she had kittens, and mostly they ignore each other (the other cats wisely disappear to the garage, behind furniture, or outside when dogs come to visit). BUT Tracy LOVES Maggie's bed and claims it as her own whenever Maggie's at our house. Since Maggie gets to be on the sofa (during the day) and in Ashlyn's bed at night, she doesn't seem to mind letting the "enemy" use her bed :)

October brought the season's first frost warnings, so Ashlyn and Little Bit went out and harvested the rest of the tomatoes & peppers and we spread them on the windowsill to ripen. I have to say, more than I expected did, indeed, ripen. It's been nice to have a steady but gradual supply of ripe tomatoes for the lats month or so :)

The homeschool co-op that we joined this fall had a fieldtrip to an alpaca farm. All the alpacas are adorable, and some were super friendly. But the coolest was a baby who was only a few days old!!! Soooo sweet!

They also had chickens. The younger kids were trying to pet the chickens but the chickens weren't cooperating real well so, with the owners' permission, Lexie caught a chicken for the kids to pet. It doesn't show very well in the picture, but the chicken had a kind of pinkish tint. They said a few weeks earlier they'd had a "circus camp" on the farm and had colored some of the animals and some of the dye hadn't worn off yet LOL.

I didn't use my porch swing much during the heat of summer, but it's the perfect place to enjoy my morning coffee (or afternoon coffee) in the spring & fall. LOVE IT!!!

I asked the girls if they wanted to try their hand a building a sukkah (temporary shelter) for Sukkot this year. They spent the better part of 2 afternoons working with the pallets we had in the shed and some old boards and such . . . the plan was modified a few times to get it to work, but with some sheer curtains draped over the top, and cement blocks strategically placed to make sure the pallets didn't fall over, it turned out pretty cool. Wish I'd remembered to take daytime pictures, but the nighttime one turned out ok. It was fun to enjoy dessert on the deck, under our sukkah, while watching a huge, beautiful full moon :)

A friend from the church we attended when we lived in Maryland had sent me information about a Christian magician who was going to be at their church. We left right after church and headed down to hang out with friends before the show. They were taking the teenagers can collecting that afternoon so took Lexie & Ashlyn along while Rodney, Little Bit & I went to the church early to help set up for the magic show (or more accurately, refreshments after the show).  The friend who was organizing it all has a daughter Little Bit's age who's very outgoing, so as I expected, the two of them hit it off instantly and ran off to happily play until the show started. We had a great time visiting with friends, and the magician was pretty cool! Typical slight of hand and illusion but he used it to create object lessons about various Bible concepts :)

The next day was our church's second annual Trunk or Treat. I'm not a fan of Halloween, but this is such an awesome ministry. We host the Trunk or Treat in a school parking lot in downtown Reading. The school is near the boys & girls club facility where we provide crafts, activities and snacks to kids on Sat. afternoon once a month, so many of the kids are the same. The school principal and several teachers had trunks as well as church members, friends, and some local businesses. This year a police officer brought her police car and had it set up as a trunk from Zootopia (which would probably have made more sense to me if I'd seen the movie, but I thought it was great for kids to get to interact with a police officer in a fun, positive way :)  United Way had several trunks and in addition to the candy that everyone handed out, they also brought books, sorted by grade level, to hand out to all the kids. Little Bit was happy to get an Amelia Bedelia book (and surprisingly one she doesn't have), I was more excited to know that the local kids who probably have very few, if any, books of their own, were all getting a book too :) Lexie & Ashlyn came planning to help wherever needed (so did I, but they actually had quite a bit of help this year so I didn't do much, which was fine, it allowed me to take Little Bit around to the trunks and then let her play with her friends while I could keep an eye on her).

Lexie spent most of the time at the soldier table (we send the leftover candy to the soldiers overseas so we have a table with posters for the kids to sign to send with the candy), but one of the trunks had a Jurassic Park theme including a fancy inflatable dinosaur costume, but the guy wearing the costume was getting hot & thirsty (we had AWESOME weather that day!) so they were looking for someone to take a turn in the dinosaur and Lexie agreed. Doesn't she make a cute dinosaur next to Little Bit the cat? :) She was most amused when a little boy in a DINOSAUR costume was afraid of her :) Other kids happily ran up to her to get their picture taken with her though :)

As has  become an annual tradition, our pastor invited the whole church to a bonfire at his house on the last Sat. night of October, which happens to also be the night of the King Frost parade in the town where they live. We look forward to the time with friends (and Little Bit looks forward to getting candy at the parade) but Ashlyn also looks forward to getting to snuggle with their dog Sadie. Sadie's old and deaf and sweet as can be and she and Ashlyn adore each other :)

We again, had great weather! And a good evening!

The next day, much to Little Bit's delight, her Sabbath School class took all the kids who could say the books of the Old Testament to Sweet Frog as a reward (they learned the books by singing a song that talks about ice cream, so ice cream seemed like the logical reward). She'd been looking forward to it forever and then a few days before, the teen "Stage and Screen Review Club" that Lexie and Ashlyn joined in our co-op group, sent out information about a performance of a Little Women Musical that they were going to. Needless to say, Lexie and Ashlyn wanted to go to that, but Little Bit would have been devastated to not get to go to Sweet Frog with her friends. Conveniently, even though the co-op we joined is in the next county over, and most things, including this play, are about 30 min. from us, the mom who's in charge of the Stage and Screen group lives near us, so she agreed to pick Lexie & Ashlyn up and take them with her and her daughter to the play. So everyone had a great day!

We finished off October by meeting friends at a park to play all afternoon on the 31st. These friends are a group of moms I know from an online group, and it's a bit of a drive, but there are toddlers for Lexie and Ashlyn to happily chase (plus the park we go to often has people walking their dogs, so Ashlyn has to meet every dog that walks by), and one of the families has a girl near Little Bit's age and they have a BLAST together! They bring their dolls and I don't know what all and play together happy as clams the whole time we're there.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Camping in Central Pennsylvania

As my mom reminded me this week, I've been remiss in keeping up around here. I'll try to go back and catch up, but in the interest of not getting farther behind, I'll start by telling you about this past week.

Monday we went to the end-of-summer picnic for our homeschool group, then left straight from there to meet my parents at a campground in central Pennsylvania for a week of "camping" (if you call staying in a motorhome camping), and National Park visits.

Tuesday we went to Allegheny Portage Railroad National Park.  The film there is one of my favorites of all the national park films we've watched.

We originally thought we might be able to do that park in the morning and Johnstown Flood in the afternoon. But once we got there, we realized there was enough to see to keep us busy most of the day, so rather than rush through it, decided to postpone Johnstown till the next day.

Little Bit enjoyed playing with the old fashioned toys at the Lemon House.

My mom's started earning Junior Ranger badges along with the girls, so all four of them were sworn in as Junior Rangers there (Ashlyn was there, but she won't let me post pictures of her these days).

After we left the main park, we went to the Staple Bend Tunnel (which had been a tunnel on the Portage).  The tunnel is a 2 mile hike from the parking lot, but the girls wanted to see it, so we made the hike and walked through the 900+ ft through the tunnel in the dark (we did have a flashlight), but it didn't add much light. And, unlike the PawPaw tunnel on the C&O Canal in MD, you can see from end to end, which makes it less disconcerting. Here's Lexie and Little Bit at the far end of the tunnel. If you look closely you can see the light at the far end of the tunnel.

Needless to say, by the time we got through the tunnel, we were ready for a rest. My mom snapped this picture of us all resting on a cement platform at the far end of the tunnel. Then we headed back.

Wednesday we headed to Johnstown Flood. As it turned out, it took most of one day as well. There's a lot to see there, and the junior ranger requirements (for older kids) were rather challenging, even with Lexie, Ashlyn & Mom all working together, and me helping them, we finally gave up on one answer, and the ranger had to look it up, she didn't know it either. The ranger there was the same ranger who was at Allegheny Portage the day before, so that was kind of fun. :)

Thursday morning we went to the Flight 93 Memorial and got that Junior Ranger before heading on to Fort Necessity. Needless to say, Flight 93 is a sobering place to visit, but as you can see, the day was beautiful. Because we wanted to make sure we had time for Fort Necessity, we didn't really spend any time in the (newish) Visitor Center, since the Junior Ranger books pre-date the visitor center so all the requirements focus on things at the "memorial plaza". I have to admit, while I think the Visitor Center (what I saw of it) is well done, it was a bit intense for children (the ranger warned me, when we got the Junior Ranger books that one area includes recordings of the phone calls made during the flight, and said they leave that area "to parent's discretion"). So it was nice to be able to focus on the memorial plaza. While Mom and the girls worked on their Junior Ranger requirements (and I helped Little Bit), Dad met a volunteer who's been involved in the memorial since 2001, and got a much more thorough history of the making of the memorial than most people get to hear. 

We spent the afternoon at Fort Necessity. The girls and I were there in 2012 and at least the older girls had earned their Junior Ranger then. But that was in the winter time, when some parts weren't open, and they were so much younger, they can learn about it on a different level now. Also this year, as part of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the parks in that area have a special patch that you can earn by getting your Junior Ranger at the 5 area parks (the 4 mentioned in this post, plus Friendship Hill, which we did on a previous trip, and the rangers were willing to take my word for it), so the girls went ahead and did this junior ranger again. 
The main thing they remembered from last time was the playground, but I couldn't convince them to pose the same as they had before, so I had to content myself with snapping some pictures of Little Bit working on her Junior Ranger requirements.
And, of course, being sworn in. This Junior Ranger book implied that, like Harpers Ferry, there were different badges depending on how many requirements you completed, so since there were several requirements that Little Bit could do without being able to read, I encouraged her to do the same amount as her sisters did, but as it turns out, the badge doesn't indicate the extra work done. Oh well, she still has the satisfaction of knowing she earned the "Colonel" level.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wrapping Up the First Half of August

I think I like these twice a month wrap-ups . . . so we'll go with that for now.  Starting off with a cut picture of Little Bit and Tracy.  Just because, it's a cute picture. Tracy, other than having an obsession with peeing places other than the litter boxes (which I sincerely hope will be "cured" when we get her spayed next month . . . according to the almighty google, some intact cats, even females, "mark" by peeing. And since most of her peeing has been on piles of dirty clothes, I am hoping that's what this is about. . . Incidentally, "rustic" wood floors, with cracks between some planks, are not so great when a cat pees (or a kid spills water) upstairs . . . just sayin . . . ) BUT . . . other than the peeing, she's a super loving cat! She lets Little Bit "love on her" nonstop. And the thing that can make dog-sitting challenging is that, unlike our other cats, she's not willing to just disappear for the week, she insists on being where people are! She also randomly will decide she needs to sleep on my chest at night. 

So, the first couple of weeks were pretty quiet. Music lessons, playdates, park days, Mama and Papa were here doing some more stuff on our old house, that is under contract, but the buyer is using an FHA loan so we're jumping through hoops, sigh . . . hopefully the hoBops are all jumped through and closing will go as scheduled in a couple of weeks! 

This past week has been busier again. . . a local water garden store does a live butterfly exhibit in the summers, so we decided to check it out.  It's all butterflies native to PA so much less variety than the one in Maryland that we first went to when  Lexie and Ashlyn were itty bitty babies (2 or 3 months old), and have gone to many times since. BUT for a close to home, less expensive, option this one was nice!
This place had "feeding sticks" that you could buy for $1, which is a great money maker for them, since it was literally a cotton swab (the long, wooden stick kind) dipped in colored sugar water. So it probably costs them about $0.01 LOL. BUT it was so worth it, because you could "pick up" the butterflies that way and carry them around. The kids, even the big kids, loved it!  We met friends there, and played on a little playground there after we were done at the butterflies. 

For bedtime we're reading the Little House books. I'm so excited to finally be able to read books to all the kids at once :) One night this week, after reading about Pa playing some specific song on his fiddle, Lexie brought out her violin and played the song for us :) 
Also, the big girls and I have been fighting a cold all week. Conveniently we were all "staggered" by at least a day or two, so we at least had different symptoms at any given time. Which meant that, the nights where I had no voice to read, at least one of the big girls felt up to reading. They weren't willing to read as long as I usually do, but we could at least keep moving forward with Little House on the Prairie, despite me being sick. 

AND we're dog sitting again :) Jakey is here for a long weekend.  I am always amazed at how much he reminds me of Precious :) Plus he's my favorite because he climbs up on MY lap instead of just snuggling with the girls :)  He's also, apparently, learning Algebra with Lexie!
Also this week, we tried out an idea I read about in Sally and Sarah Clarkson's book The Life Giving Home. The idea is to take one day each year to think about and talk about how we've seen God working in our life over the past year. The Clarksons start their discussion by reading Joshua 4 (when Joshua tells the leaders of the tribes to each pick up a rock from the Jordan as they cross over, and pile them on the shore as a memorial of what God has done for them) so my PLAN was that we would have our first "Family Day" on Monday, when we read Joshua 4 for Bible anyway. BUT I was too sick to get everything together for it, so we postponed it until Wednesday.  We started our day with cinnamon rolls for breakfast (which is, of course, a wonderful thing to eat when we're all fighting colds, sigh . . . but I'd already talked to them about the idea BEFORE we were fighting colds). . . then we talked about God's leading in our life over the past year and started our notebook to collect these memories each year.
I was trying to think of a fun, easy, lunch that was something out of the ordinary and remembered the raw veggie pizza that was one of our foods at our wedding. So hunted down a recipe, bought crescent rolls, and that's what we had. It was a hit! AND it occurred to me that we could do the same thing with homemade, whole wheat, biscuit dough as the crust instead of crescent rolls and it would then be a healthy lunch too :) So . . . Lexie tried that yesterday and it worked great. Meaning that, as an added bonus from it all, we added a new lunch to our menus. The Clarksons include going hiking in the mountains in their Family day, but we don't have mountains to hike in and it was horrendously hot all week, so doing ANYTHING outside was pretty much out of the question, even if we hadn't been sick. Instead, we decided that since it was so hot, going for ice cream was a better option. YUM!!! Overall it was definitely a hit. And a fun way to remind ourselves of God's working in our lives.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Tracy the cat is not willing to hide when we have a dog visiting. Thankfully, now that her kittens are gone, she at least doesn't ATTACK dogs that visit (poor Maggie). But she does hold her ground. Jake is so funny. He's smart enough to stay out of her reach, but he's soo intrigued by her. . . Stare-downs like this are pretty common. The other thing he does that is SO funny, is he either thinks she's going to hurt "his people" (and yes, for this week, we are "his people") OR he's jealous that "his people" are giving her attention. So if she's sitting with one of us, or we're holding her, he barks at her and looks at us like "why aren't you worried about this?!?!?" Even more amusing, Lexie said that when I was gone one afternoon, Tracy was sleeping in "my recliner" and Jake was VERY disturbed about that. Apparently he was sure that was MY chair and Tracy shouldn't be there.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Not-Back-to-School . . . Learning Spaces . . .


I'm continuing my own Not-Back-to-School Blog series with Learning Spaces week . . . We aren't "sit at desks (or the dining room table) and do school kind of homeschoolers. We have learning spaces throughout our house, so I thought I'd share, in no particular order, a few of the places we learn, or store learning stuff, in our house . . . 

Right now Little Bit's reading program requires a white board, so we've been using the easel, set up in the sun room. The reading program came with cardboard letter tiles, but Little Bit decided letter magnets are more fun, so we use them on the white board as well as writing the words. 
She wanted a way to keep her magnets organized, but when she had them all organized ON the easel, it didn't leave any room to actually use the white board, so we re-purposed an old cookie sheet to be her magnet tray. I didn't realize until I started editing pictures, that her hair had gotten in the picture of the magnet tray, and I'm too lazy to go take a new one. So there you have, proof that we really do use these learning spaces LOL.
I have maps hanging in the sunroom, so we can easily reference them if we want to.

In the living room, I have a basket for library books on the hearth. The extra supplies for Little Bit's reading program live under that basket, so I don't lose them. The little white board has the current items Lexie and Ashlyn are supposed to be adding to their book of centuries. And my temperature blanket knitting project sits next to it. One of our cats thinks the rocks under the gas log are her litter box, so for now I keep "stuff" blocking the whole fireplace to keep her out of it. 
My tote usually sits down beside my recliner, but you can't SEE it there, so I set it on the coffee table for the picture. It holds basic office supplies, my planner, scrap paper, new paper, the stuff I'm currently using for Little Bit's school, paper work I'm currently using, and a folder of "to be filed" paperwork waiting for me to take it down to the file cabinet. The basic idea is that, with only a few minutes "warning" I can add anything specific I need that day, and grab my tote and be ready to do school anywhere.
Ashlyn does most of her school in her room. She has her desk all set up for art, and has our old laptop up there so she can do Teaching Textbooks and ArtAchieve. She also uses the laptop to watch the Grammar of Poetry DVDs so she can watch them without all the distractions and interruptions she'd have in the living room. 

Little Bit is much more likely to want to "do school" when she sees it sitting out ready for her. And I'm more likely to find time to do it with her if everything is all together ready to go. So we set up some "work boxes" of sorts for her in the front entry. Which isn't an ideal spot, but it's where the little white shelving unit happened to be sitting, so I just went with it.

She has a plastic bin for each day of the week. The "apple basket" to the left is where she puts things she's done with. Then I can either put them back in the correct bin for next week, file them, or put books we're done with back on the shelf. The purple canvas bin on the bottom shelf is where I stash things I'm going to want to put in her bins soon, but not this week and the white canvas bin has her school supplies in it. The basket to the right has some games that I switch out randomly from the shelves in the sunroom, to try to catch her attention and get her choosing different games instead of playing the same ones over and over. On the shelves next to the Thursday & Friday bins are things like a container of salt/glitter that she can trace letters in, and some extra art supplies I think are what's in the blue basket next to the Friday bin.

Ashlyn's piano is in the living room. And the picture also shows the corner of the TV which does get quite a bit of use in our homeschooling. In addition to Little Bit watching shows like Wild Kratts and Magic Schoolbus, we watch some YouTube shows for history (LOVE Crash Course History), and use the DVD player to listen to audiobooks. I also cast mp3 files up onto the TV using Chromecast so we can use the volume on the TV instead of being limited to the volume on my laptop. Under the TV are DVDS, CDs, and some games.

There are also a couple bookcases in the living room, and some books on the living room windowsills, but I didn't take pictures of those.

The sunroom has more shelves with some of Little Bit's toys, more games, and educational things like the Globe and some manipulatives.

The big green chair in the sunroom is a favorite place to read and Lexie can generally be found there, or on the sofa in the living room when she's doing her school. She has a desk in her room too, but rarely wants to be alone. She does go to her room to practice violin, and sometimes has the sewing machine set up on her desk, but otherwise, it's more of a "storage surface". She wants people around even if she's reading and telling us not to talk to her LOL.

One thing I was very excited about when we got this house was the room in the basement to have all my books together and organized. This is only some of them, it turns a corner and goes along another wall, forming a guest bedroom space in behind all the shelves, but you get the idea! Lots and lots of books, and I can actually find what I'm looking for. We don't generally "do school" in the basement, but it's where the books live when we're not using them :)

The other half of the basement is for active play. We have the trampoline down there as well as things like bilibos, bean bags (the kind you sit in and the kind you toss), etc. It's where I can send Little Bit if the weather is bad and she's getting too hyper.  The gray couch thing behind her folds out to be a queen size foam mattress, so it can be additional sleeping space when needed and also sometimes gets folded out to be used as a tumbling mat. When it's folded into a couch it gets used for reading when someone goes down to choose a new book and can't wait till they're back upstairs to start reading it :)

Tucked into the corner by the electrical panel and such in the basement are my file cabinets. They're messy, but more organized than I've been able to be in our other houses.  This is where I have various kinds of art paper, the kids old school papers and Junior ranger books and such, as well as household files. On top are some extra school supplies, and stacked next to the cabinet are more stuff that I found while unpacking and need to get filed but haven't taken the time yet.

In our last house we didn't have a place for a kitchen table. We had a drop leaf table that could be set up when we needed a table, but there wasn't really room to keep it up all the time. I didn't think that would be a big problem, since we don't tend to eat our meals at the table anyway, but what I didn't think about was how much the kids like doing art, and how necessary a table is for that. It's nice to have our nice big table in this house, with a water proof table cloth on it, so messes don't matter, so Little Bit can paint pretty much whenever she wants. I have one small cupboard in the kitchen designated for painting stuff so it's convenient to get out when she wants it.

And finally, the cedar chest/coffee table in the sunroom, for a little bit of everything. We have it on a rug so it slides easily so that it can pull up to the sofa when needed, like right now, when Lexie's using it to build something or other. Or it can push out into the middle of the room, or all the way over against a wall if we want the open space.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some places, and today it's beastly hot out so I didn't include the outside spaces that are nice when the weather is good . . . like the garden that Ashlyn maintains and the porch swing on the front porch and the tree where Little Bit tucked a "bug hotel" to be able to watch for different kinds of bugs. But you get the idea . . . :)