Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wrapping up the Rest of February

The second half of February kind of went by in a blink . . . Little Bit asked Lexie to make her a "Little House on the Prairie" dress for her American Girl doll for her birthday. Her birthday isn't until the end of March, but Lexie finished the outfit already. Didn't it turn out cute?

One of the cute little towns near us does a "Fire and Ice Festival" in February. The website said the ice sculptures would be available to view all day, with music and such happening in the evening. I figured it would be warmer, and less crowded, and less chaotic if we went late in the afternoon and then we could decide to stay into the evening if we wanted to.

Unfortunately, most of the ice sculptures weren't even uncovered until 5:00 (when the "festival" started). Making me pretty confused about the website's assertion that the ice sculptures would be available for viewing "from dawn to dusk". And after having to wait around for awhile for them to be uncovered some of us were rather grouchy and we pretty much just walked through the park to see the sculptures and then left. There WERE some cool sculptures and we even got to see a guy carving one, with a chain saw. . . very interesting to watch. I can't imagine doing that with an "audience" like he did . . . well *I* can't imagine doing it at all, but even if I had the skills and talent to do it, I can't imagine doing it with a whole bunch of people standing around staring at me. I'm hoping we can go again another year, now that we know what they really do, and can plan to be there only when things are happening :)

Little Bit's friend, K had a birthday party a couple weeks ago. It was a "painting party" so right up Little Bit's alley :) She had a blast, but commented that she's glad HER art teacher (at that class she's taking through our homeschool co-op) lets them do their own work. It bugged her that the painting teacher at the party would come by and "help" by adding details to her picture. In addition to being glad that my personal belief that children should take pride in their work because it's THEIR work, not because it looks "perfect" because someone else did it for them, has apparently taken hold with her, I was also glad to hear that the art class she's in is a good fit for her (and my philosophy on art). I'm glad that she's willing to participate in things without me being right there, but it does mean I don't know the details of what's happening in class like I did when my kids were younger and didn't want to be out of my sight. Nice to get little insights into things and know they're working out well :)

We've had such a weird winter, weather-wise. January fluctuated between bitterly cold (and dry) and warm enough to not be snow and heavy rains! I'm (mostly) glad it played out that way, the amount of rain we got, if it had been snow, would have been . . . much more snow than we're used to. But would have been nice to get one or two good snows! And then, in late February we got frigid one day and high 60s another day! We have spring flowers!! Of course, all that also meant that last weekend, when we had temperatures in the 70s, and then a wet cold front coming into that, lead to tornado warnings and "straight line winds" strong enough to cause quite a bit of damage, thankfully no people were seriously injured. The damaging winds missed us, but within a few miles of us I've seen lots of HUGE old trees knocked down and some barns, outbuildings, and roofs being repaired. And now we're back to FRIGIDLY cold temperatures. Little Bit tells me that "Winter and Spring are fighting about who's turn it is". I think she might be right . . .

I had the audacity to tell the kids they needed to straighten their rooms enough to sweep and dust. There was some (minor) wailing and gnashing of teeth, but once that settled down and they did as they'd been asked, Lexie decided to take it a step further and do some minor rearranging to make room for an extra table in for sewing and ironing. I realized after I'd taken the picture that she's managing to completely hide the sewing machine in this picture, but it's behind her on the desk. She's been sewing at her desk, and that works well, but she was tired of having to use her bed for ironing and cutting. She moved our small rectangular folding table in there and it's perfect! I had to admit I took advantage of it to cut out the bathroom wipes I've been meaning to have her sew for MONTHS (she told me she'd sew them if I cut them out). And very much appreciated having everything nicely set up.

The girls have always liked that there are "holes in our floors" - the cracks and knot holes between the boards. If Lexie's in her room when I ask the older girls for their "resource lists" on Sundays (because they are responsible for their own schooling now, they keep a checklist of books they use and things they do during the week, then I collect those on Sunday and incorporate the information into my spreadsheets that keep track of everything in the format the state requires) she will generally drop the sheet of paper between the cracks in the floor onto the sofa. On the not so positive side, when she recently spilled a box of straight pins in her room we had a bit of a dangerous shower in the living room, and I would guess that we'll find more straight pins the next time we move the sofa to clean under it. (the cracks in the floor were also not appreciated when we were having issues with Tracy (the cat) peeing on any piles of clothes left on the floor. Cat pee showering down onto my dining room table does not please me! On a more fun note . . . recently when little Bit was bored, she took advantage of our "holes" to create a ride for her stuffed bear. She dropped the yarn down through her bedroom floor and tied it around "Pilly" the bear then went back upstairs and raised her up to the ceiling.

Every so often Little Bit decides to participate up front for song service at church. Last week I was able to snap a great picture of her and her friends, K & K all singing along with the adults! I love that our church encourages the kids to be involved :)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Whirlwind of Christmas Field Trips

Jumping back to the beginning of December. Because why bother to blog in order, right? . . .

The girls and I spent the first several days of December in a whirlwind of Christmas field trips with my parents.

We started our whirlwind at Brookside Gardens. We visited the greenhouse in the afternoon, went to Chipotles for supper (it was right next to a Costco that's parking was in a parking garage. We were most amused at the contrast between that Costco and the Costco we normally shop at in Lancaster, complete with horse and buggy parking!). After supper we headed back to Brookside for their walk through light display!

I convinced Lexie to pose next to old Mr. Frog so I could compare it to another picture of I have of her with the same Mr. Frog from a few years ago . . . She's changed just a tad in the past 10 years :)

And while we're sharing old pictures . . . this one is from Brookside Gardens too, in the green house, 11 years ago.

And a couple more pictures from this year's Brookside Garden lights . . .

The next day we hopped on Metro and went into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Greenhouse. Their "special" display this year was about the National Park sites and it was very cool! Though there seemed to be a disproportionate number of displays for west coast sites compared to east coast sites.  While we were at the Greenhouse we went through the permanent displays as well. Lexie entertained herself in the desert display by seeing if she could touch all the cacti without getting hurt, or something . . . 
Lexie and Little Bit humored me and posted together in front of the National Park Tree (As hlyn was in a "no pictures" mood. I've joked that 100 years from now people looking back over the picture record of our life would assume she vanished at age 12 or thereabouts LOL. Little Bit also posed for me in the "Train" . . . isn't if fun? 

When we were done at the National Greenhouse we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I had an ulterior motive, a few years ago when we were at this museum, Little Bit found a giraffe Christmas ornament in the gift shop that she HAD to have. I humored her, and she LOVED it but it somehow vanished during our move last year. I'm sure it will show up again someday, but in the meantime, she was very sad to not have it, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to at least check and see if they still had them (I didn't mention it to her until I'd made sure they did). She was VERY excited to get a replacement ornament. As you might have noticed from the pictures, she kinda likes giraffes.
By the time we left the museum it was getting close to dark, so we went ahead and headed down the mall to catch a glimpse of the National Christmas Tree, and all the state-decorated trees. I have to admit, most years, I'm not overly impressed with the national Christmas Tree, and look forward more to seeing how all the school kids have decorated the state trees, but this year's national tree was GORGEOUS!!! So simple, and patriotic (it's hard to tell in the picture, but the little lights are red, white and blue), and just plain PRETTY! Which isn't to say I didn't also enjoy the state trees. It's always fun to see what the different states, mostly school kids, though some states have a specific artist, or art studio, to do their ornaments, come up with.
After seeing the trees, we headed back to Metro. On our way into the city, Little Bit had caught sight of "a big panda with Christmas lights". We'd been in a hurry to catch a train, so hadn't taken time to check it out then, but at her request, we hunted it down before heading home, and got her picture with it. As you can see, it's a rather creative advertisement for the National Zoo's light display :) 

And finally, the reason we chose this particular weekend for our field trips. Harper's Ferry's Old Time Christmas. The whole town was decorated, and had re-inactors around. It was fun. We enjoyed a harp concert at the church, visited the horses, and learned some interesting information about how they train horses to be "re-inactors" (have to teach them to not mind the gunshots and such). . . saw a shooting demonstration. A demonstration of how they baked bread . . . lots of interesting stuff.

The last thing of the day, was a Civil War dance demonstration. We poked our head in the tent to check it out, and . . . stayed until the last dance was done. Lexie jumped right in and danced every dance. By the last dance, one of the instructors sought her out specifically and asked if she wanted to dance with him and be the "lead couple" because he needed someone who could follow the steps, and keep up a good pace. She loved it! It took longer for Ashlyn and Little Bit to decide to join in, but once they did, they had a blast as well. One of the dancers found out, in conversation, that we're from the Lancaster area, so told Lexie that they are from Lancaster, and offer free dance classes in Jan-March in Harrisburg . . . so that's how we knew to go to the dance class a couple weeks ago. :) 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

January Field Trips

The last week of January we went to my parent's house for a few days of field trips and fun.

We spent one day in Washington DC. The weather was AMAZING! Sunny and warm . . . can't ask for more than that in January! We spent most of the day in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The big girls and I found, and thoroughly enjoyed, an exhibit of old "science fiction" books. So fun! And we added some interesting sounding titles to our "to read" list.

Little Bit wasn't too enthusiastic about it,  but she ended up really enjoying the First Ladies and Presidents exhibit. We all enjoyed the First Ladies' dresses and china patterns. And exhibit of toys the various Presidential children and grandchildren. She also humored me and posed as if she were giving a press conference, and I believe the chair was a part of the Abraham Lincoln exhibit.

When we left the American History museum we made brief stops at the World War II memorial and Korean War Memorial before heading home.

The next day we went to the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Mead. Rodney and I lived "right down the road" in Columbia, MD the first several years of our marriage, and never knew this little museum existed. But it is such a great little museum! It's free, and not huge but we thoroughly enjoyed it. There were hands-on things, like invisible ink, and signal flags, with a "key" to teach you how to form the various letters.

There was also quite a bit of information about the more sophisticated code making, and code breaking that was all quite important during World War II, and on forward throughout the cold war. It was all very interesting.

And since we were in Columbia, we had a great excuse to go to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Manor, for lunch before heading home.

Monday, February 20, 2017

January Happenings

I figure I better keep writing posts while the momentum is good, if I'm going to "fill in" the last couple of months and not get just as far or farther behind going forward :) So . . . some highlights from January . . . I don't remember if I mentioned it on the blog last year or not, but throughout all of 2016 I was making a crocheted "Temperature blanket". I used a chart that assigned a certain color of yarn to each range of temperatures and then I added one row to the blanket each day, based on that day's temperature. It makes a REALLY BIG blanket, even just doing single crochet rows, but it turned out really cool! At first I wasn't sure what I'd do with such a big blanket, as you can see, it's longer than the sofa! And at some point it might move up to my bed. But for now, it's kind of nice. When the girls are all on the sofa watching tv or something, they can ALL fit under the blanket. So it's getting loved :) At some point I'd like to do another one but only do half rows or something each day so that it's more of a throw blanket size, but I'm glad I made this one huge one, it was fun :)

In addition to Little Bit getting some more 18" dolls for Christmas, Lexie let her move her (Lexie's) dolls, and some of the furniture under Lina's loft. One night when I went up to tell the girls goodnight, I couldn't resist snapping a picture of all FIVE dolls sleeping in Samantha's and Kit's beds :) If you look closely you'll also see there are at least two dogs sleeping at the foot of the beds :)

We have had very little snow this winter, much to the girls' disappointment. I was kind of concerned, when I saw predictions of a colder than usual, wetter than usual, December and January, that it would mean LOTS of snow, but somehow the stars aligned so that the really cold days were dry and the (numerous) wet days were mostly at above freezing temperatures.

We did get a couple light snows, and I snapped a picture of two of one of them. Isn't it pretty (the oddly placed lights are just a reflection of our kitchen lights in the window. Though the on on the far right side of the picture kind of makes it look like there's a Narnia-esque lamp post in the woods doesn't it? :)

Silly Moccasin insists he wants outside in all kinds of weather and then almost instantly comes and sits by the door to come back in. This time I made him wait a few extra seconds while I took his picture :)

One of Lexie's current obsessions interests is genetics. After completing My Name is Gene and declaring it rather easy, she decided she wanted to just read some books on genetics. So she browsed the library's online catalog and decided on The Gene: An Intimate History a mere 600 pages long, just some light reading on the subject LOL.

But look at how excited she is with her book! She hasn't finished it yet. I just reminded her today that it's due back to the library on Monday. But told her I'd ask the librarians about renewing it an additional time (I've renewed it as often as I'm allowed to online). But she's loving it! And constantly telling me about all the interesting things she's reading about (I try to be interested, but science SO isn't my thing . . . I love how interested she is though!).

We had planned to go to Rodney's mom's house for Thanksgiving but Rodney was sick so we couldn't go. We rescheduled our visit for the middle of January and thankfully nobody got sick that time.  While we were there the girls noticed that they have passed their Aunt  Lynette in height. Not that they would rub that in or anything . . .

The electric heat pump in our house is in the attic, with the air vents all in the ceilings. Needless to say, especially with our beam ceilings (no insulation between the floors) and "rustic" wood floors that have cracks between the boards, that means that using the heat pump for heat results in overly warm bedrooms and a chilly main floor. All of us prefer the reverse . . . well, not the overly warm part, but we all like sleeping in cold rooms and it's nice to keep the main floor warm enough that our guests want to remove their coats, at least. So we've been using the basement wood stove quite a bit for heat. Needless to say that means the basement is toasty warm. So when the wood stove is on we'll often go hang out in the basement for read aloud time. The cats love the basement, and laps, for warmth so when our laps move to the basement it's an added bonus! I couldn't resist snapping this fun picture of (some of) my girls and (some of) their cats while we were reading one evening! On a side note, I'd been trying to figure out a way to have comfortable, portable/storable seating for the living room. We usually end up moving kitchen chairs in, and people can sit on the piano bench and hearth, but none of those options are very comfortable any my kids tend to complain when I ask them to take the less comfortable seating. And with using the wood stove, we also wanted some kind of seating in the  basement but again, portable/storable so the space can also be used for kids to get their wiggles out. It finally occurred to me that butterfly &/or saucer chairs would work well for both. I ordered 2 butterfly chairs & 1 saucer chair to see which we liked better, would like to get a couple more, but it's working well in the basement and worked great to bring upstairs for Christmas :) 

During the library Ancient Civilizations class about the Greeks, the teacher asked for volunteers to help her model Greek clothing. Lexie volunteered :)  I was also interested to see how well both girls did when the teacher divided the class into groups to do presentations. It was pretty simple and straight forward, they only had a few minutes to prepare and all the information they were supposed to present was given to them but working with a group of students you don't know, and then presenting the information up front isn't something my homeschooled kids have ever done before. Both Lexie and Ashlyn took charge in their group, found ways to include younger, shyer kids without pushing those kids out of their comfort zones. I was proud of them. And silly kids, thought it was "fun" to get to do something so school-like. Though Ashlyn did comment that she'd really hate having to do a project like that for a grade because what if the other kids in your group don't do it right (yes dear, that's why I always hated group projects in school!).

And that's at least a sampling of what we did in January :) 

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 :)