Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pittsburgh Trip 2011 - Part 3

 On Wednesday, Rodney was meeting with a treasurer in Erie, PA, so the girls and I took the opportunity to go to the Erie Zoo. We couldn't have "ordered" better weather, it was sunny and in the 70s most of the day (I think the high was 81 degrees), just a great day, especially with as hot as it's been most of the time lately. Little Bit loved the "just my size" chair, and the big girls, not to be out done, had to pose in the 2 person chair.

 This donkey was SOOO friendly, he stayed right next to the fence "talking" to people.

 Little Bit has always liked penguins, and she absolutely loved the penguin statues at the zoo. Not sure why MiniMe was making such a funny face, but figured it was worth adding to show Little Bit hugging the penguin.

 The Erie Zoo had a nice "playground" area as well. The big girls had great fun with a spinning tunnel and other fun things up in a big climbing structure. Little Bit enjoyed a toddler sized slide and climbing structure, as well as riding the chipmunk.
 And then it was naptime . . . I wasn't sure how it would work, Little Bit generally does well napping in the car, or in her swing at home, but we don't use the stroller often, so I wasn't sure how that would work. But after lunch, I put her in the stroller and told her "it's time for nap, you need to close your eyes, and then we just walked for awhile, without stopping to look at animals, and she went right to sleep and took a nice long nap in the stroller.
 While Little Bit was napping, the girls noticed a BUNCH of ants on one section of the path, so they enjoyed watching, observing, and generally torturing the ants for quite awhile.
 The kangaroos were in a walk-through enclosure. They were pretty content to just lay in the shade.
The big girls liked the penguin statues too.

All in all it was a very fun day. The Erie zoo has a bunch of baby animals right now. By far our favorite was the baby gibbon monkey, it was SOOOO cute swinging around trying to keep up with it's mommy & daddy.

Little Bit was very excited to see a Jaguar, since "Baby Jaguar" is one of her favorites on the Nick Jr show, Diego.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pittsburgh Trip 2011 - Part 2

I already told you about the Laurel Lake part of our trip, here.

We got to Pittsburgh Sunday evening. Monday we went to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum (warning their site plays obnoxious music. At least it's obnoxious if you're like me & often use the computer while nursing). It was one of our favorite field trips when we were in Pittsburgh last summer, so the girls were excited to go back.

The big girls happily spent most of the day doing crafts and such, which isn't very exciting to take pictures of, so most of my pictures are of Little Bit. She LOVED the water area, pouring water out of things and splashing and such.

There was an area with books to read that Little Bit enjoyed when she needed some down time. The "theme" of the books right now was Dora the Explorer so she was happy as a clam to sit and read Dora books.

The clay was a BIG hit. She spent forever cutting it into tiny bits and then smooshing it all back together. Note to self, find a time to get out the playdough or clay for her at home. Second note to self, do this outside or with a protective covering under her chair, since cutting into tiny bits was her favorite activity, and we don't need tiny bits of playdough and clay ground into our carpet.

 This was one of MY favorites!!! What a great use for "obsolete" black boards!! In the toddler area, they had a big black board on the wall with paint brushes and spill proof "paint cups" of plain water next to it. Great fun to "paint" and NO mess whatsoever!!! Now to go hunting in my parents' garage for our easel so she can "paint" at home. . .

 The big girls' favorite spot. The "recycled sculpture" area. Lots of random recycled stuff (cereal boxes, lids off soda bottles, etc) that people donate, plus various colors of masking tape, popsicle sticks, markers, etc. They made countless "craft projects".
 Little Bit liked the "crafts" area too. This was the "messy" version of painting, but she thought it was pretty fun.

So that was our first day in Pittsburgh. A fun day, finished off with swimming in the hotel pool!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pittsburgh Trip 2011 - Part 1

In case you wondered why the blog has been quiet lately, we've been getting ready for, and leaving on, and enjoying, a trip to Pittsburgh. Now we're ready to leave, so I thought I'd share some highlights:

We left Sabbath after church and drove to Laurel Lake Camp, our church's summer camp in Pennsylvania. We had the "adventure" of staying in an un-air conditioned cabin, an adventure I would have gladly avoided, even the girls agreed it was miserably hot, though they did enjoy sleeping in bunk beds.

As luck would have it, a friend from our church was there for the night as well, to take her son, who had worked at camp all summer, home the next day. And she had the cabin/room right next to us. Sunday morning while Daddy was busy working, she took us to the nature center, where her son had worked during camp, and he showed the girls all the animals.  They had great fun holding a snake, petting a turtle, feeding bunnies, and petting a small (3 yr old) alligator.

When Luke first asked the girls if they wanted to hold the snake, Sassy immediately said YES!!! MiniMe was more hesitant, she said she wanted Sassy to hold it first. That kind of backfired though, the snake held perfectly still the whole time Sassy held it, and then decided it was time to "explore" when Luke took it from Sassy and gave it to MiniMe. She wasn't too excited that it was checking her out LOL.

While Little Bit and I didn't get to hold a snake (which was perfectly ok!!!) we did get to "pet" one of the snakes. Little Bit thought that was pretty cool. And I'm ok with snakes as long as someone is around to assure me that the particular snake in question won't bite me and isn't poisonous.

Little Bit's favorite part, by far, was the bunnies. Before we went in the bunny pen, Luke had the girls pick plantain leaves to feed the bunnies. Little Bit kept chasing the poor bunnies around the cage making this cute little whistling noise and saying "come HERE bunnies, you need to eat bekfast. come HERE bunnies!" SOOO cute!! And equally cute to hear her tell her Daddy all about it later LOL.  The big girls liked the bunnies too. And learned what albino means when they asked why the white bunnies had red eyes.

I have to say, Luke is a born teacher. It was so obviously that he was loving explaining things to the girls, and showing off "his" animals.

And that was the highlight of our stop at Laurel Lake Camp. Sunday afternoon we headed on to Pittsburgh and new, fun, adventures there. But I'll save that for another post or 3 .

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - July 18 (in which we intro the new school plans)

We began our new school stuff this past week, so, here's a run-down on what the plan is for this year:

Bible - Read through the Bible chronologically, we've been doing this for a few months now, we're currently in Exodus. I read, or let my phone read, 2-3 chapters per day, we discuss any questions the girls have, and then they choose a verse to illustrate and/or write as copywork.

Spanish - We're continuing to use the word-a-day calendar. This is working well to give them some Spanish exposure without overwhelming them.  Each day we say, in Spanish, "Today is Monday, the eighteenth of July", I introduce the word for today, and we then spend 10 minutes going over vocabulary.

History - We're studying American history again this year. I decided to re-use the curriculum we used 3 years ago. It's literature based, heavy on crafts, and most of the books are available from our library.  The first couple months focus on the Native Americans. So this past week we learned about the Seminoles (see the Seminole head dresses they made?).  The books we used for the Seminoles are:
History Pockets - Native Americans
Draw Write Now - Book 3
Night Bird
The Seminole
Seminole Children and Elders Talk Together

For Science this year we will start the year by learning about insects, at Sassy's request, however we didn't start that until yesterday.

Language arts are incorporated into everything else as they read, do copywork, etc. We will continue to use Wordy Qwerty, as time allows to continue building spelling skills, though I believe the best way to be a good speller is to be a voracious reader.

Art is incorporated into Bible, History, and Science.

Math is incorporated into life, though we may do some random worksheets to have something to put into their portfolios, since doubling and halving recipes and such is hard to put in a portfolio.

Music will be incorporated into the history curriculum, and we may do some hymn studies as time allows.

Health/PE/Safety - to a large extent this comes from life. We learn safety because we are a family, and part of parenting is teaching and reinforcing safety. We learn health because healthy living is important to us. We will probably pick back up with Vintage Remedies for Girls as time allows for some of our health.

Add to all of that, the fact that I am, again, on the TOS Crew this year (woo-hoo!!!) so we'll have all kinds of fun things to review as the year progresses, and I'm quite certain we will not be bored LOL.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homeschool Review: Well Planned Day On the Go Planner

I was sent the downloadable version of the Well Planned Day On the Go Planner to review.

I've eyed the Well Planned Day Planner for the last couple of years, but always decided against it because of their size. I prefer something closer to a "half-size" planner, so that I can more easily fit it in my purse and take it with me.

So when I saw that this year they were adding an On the Go planner to their line, I was excited.

This is a very nice household planner in a compact size. It includes pages for managing your finances, house cleaning, lots of blank "note" pages, etc. I also really like the layout of the weekly calendar pages. It includes a "while we're out" column, which is something I was wishing for in my planner last year, so I love seeing that built into the planner.

That said, I'm not real sure what to do with this planner in a .pdf format. With the download information, it was mentioned that you can use the Adobe "tools" to add sticky notes, typwriter notes, etc. anywhere on the planner pages. I played with that a little bit, and it does work well, however since the planner doesn't include a "Table of Contents" you have to either remember what page number each thing is on, or go through the whole book to get to your current week. It's possible Adobe has a "bookmark" feature, but I didn't find it.

I was hopeful, since I personally was looking for a "paper" planner, but was sent the .pdf version to review, that there would be an easy way to print the planner. However, because the size of this planner is slightly larger than half size, it doesn't fit 2 pages per sheet of paper, so it would have to be printed and then trimmed to size. That's alot of wasted paper. I tried using the print settings to tell it to print 2 pages per sheet, but then the pages aren't ordered properly to be able to print 2 sided, so again, lots of waste, and added bulk to the planner if it's only printed one-sided.  So basically, by the time you consider paper and ink costs, plus extra time trimming pages and such, I really don't see any advantage to purchasing the .pdf version over the print version. And I personally don't find it easy enough to navigate on the screen to use it online. Plus, if I want a calendar on my computer, Google's works quite nicely and is accessible anywhere :)

So, my summary. LOVE the layout, will definitely consider purchasing the paper version next time I'm in the market for a new calendar/planner, but don't really see the usefulness of the .pdf version.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product free of charge in exchange for writing an unbiased review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


 On Sunday my Grandpa passed away.  He was 96 years old, and had lived a full life. He fell while working in the garden last month and broke his hip. And things kind of went downhill from there. I think the bottom line was, he was tired, he was ready to go to sleep and wake up to Jesus's welcoming arms. And so, he did.

He will be missed. Today I thought I'd share a few random memories, in no particular order.

He loved to garden! He had huge gardens and we all benefited from his labor. When Sassy and MiniMe were younger and we were reading about how when we get to heaven Adam will be happy to have "his garden" (the garden of Eden) back to work in, the girls said "Grandpa will LOVE talking about gardening with Adam, won't he? Yes, I'm quite sure he will!

He loved his grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  When I was pregnant with the twins, he told Grandma that he hoped I had girls because "girls are fun to tease".  He got his wish! And he enjoyed teasing them LOL.

He had a special relationship with Little Bit. I'm not sure if it was because everyone else wasn't always clustered around her like they were the twins when they were babies (that whole "first grandchild thing") or what, but he would light up when he saw her, and she would light up when she saw "gampa".  And he would just sit and laugh and laugh as he watched her playing. It was a fun, special relationship. It makes me sad to know that she won't remember him, but happy that she brought him joy these last couple of years.

He was an avid reader. If he wasn't working in the garden, he was reading. As Sassy and MiniMe began reading chapter books, they learned to keep them out of Grandpa's sight/reach because he'd steal them to read LOL.  He had this annoying habit of NOT keeping your place if he stole your book. His response was always "if you weren't paying enough attention to what you read, to find your place, you might as well start over anyway."

Grandpa with Sassy when she was a couple weeks old.

He liked the "great-grand-pets" too. (and outlived them both)

Monday, July 11, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog for a Commercial Break . . .

Warehouse Wipeout Sale: S-T-R-E-T-C-H Your Homeschool Dollar

I try to do very few "commercial" type posts, but this one was too good to pass up! I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!! It's full of great homeschool articles, and it's BIG!!! Now, you can get a selection of back issues, PLUS a Homeschooling with Heart tote bag. I have one of these, and I LOVE it!! I seriously use it ALL the time! It's just the perfect size to toss stuff in and carry with us! Plus surprise bonus gifts. And free shipping (as always, from TOS store!) I think this is the perfect "back to school" treat for mom! Check it out HERE!!!!

A Timely Reminder

This week we started our history curriculum for the new school year (the truly observant, will note that it's the same curriculum we used 3 years ago, but I figure the girls are at a TOTALLY different level at age 8, than they were at age 5).  I LOVE planning things out to the last detail, so I've been happily going through the weekly schedules, figuring out what library books we'll need when, what field trips we might enjoy when, etc etc.  One of the "exciting" new experiences this curriculum is adding to our homeschool for the first time is specific assigned/suggested reading that THEY read, instead of me reading to them.  At first mention they worried, but once I pointed out that the books would be mostly STORIES, they got excited about it. So, this week's suggested readers included 2 books. I suggested that they each spend 3 days on a book and then switch. Without even realizing it, I was starting to instill in them (or try to) the "school" concept of "do the assignment for the sake of the assignment". It is completely outside my comprehension, even now, to pick up a book and WANT to spend days and days absorbing the book, writing extra copywork on it "because it's so interesting" . . . I just can't wrap my mind around it, and yet, today, our second day into things, MiniMe was stressing about exactly that. . . "Mommy, I just don't think I'll have time to do everything I want to do" . . . and so, I took I deep breath, pushed aside the huge part of my very being that was screaming "but we want to get done with this as soon as we can!!! Because then we can MARK IT OFF THE LIST!!!" and calmly told her, we don't HAVE to finish these books this week, if you need more time, that's fine, we can go at whatever speed you want. She got a beautiful smile, as if I'd just handed her the world. And maybe I had . . . the chance that is so foreign to the school-mentality, to the point that even all these years later, I can't quite comprehend it, to learn for the fun of learning, at the speed that lets you absorb every bit of everything . . . and so, perhaps, we'll turn this curriculum into a 3 year curriculum (instead of 2), or maybe 4 years, we shall see . . . And I will remind myself, no doubt countless times, that slow is ok! That cramming in every bit of possible information at the expense of absorbing and enjoying it, is a complete waste (as evidenced by how much of what I "learn" with the girls, I have absolutely NO recollection of ever learning, even things that I know I must have learned).

And, as a timely reinforcement of all of that, a friend shared this article today.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One More Thing!

Just because I think they're cute, and will forget later . . .

This evening Little Bit had a small (empty) cereal bowl and she took it over and put it under Daddy's foot. He wondered what she was doing and I had no idea but whatever . . . then, she walked over toward me and said something about "me wash feet" and proceeded to put the bowl under my foot. . . oooooohhhhh . . . last time we were at church (obviously last week, we didn't make it since she was sick), we had communion and foot washing . . . and she was obviously paying attention! She put the bowl under my foot, then used a playsilk to "dry" my foot, then carried the bowl over to a laundry basket and "dumped" the dirty water out, then went to MiniMe's feet . . . it was SOOO cute!!!

(Almost) Two Week Wrap-Up

Since I didn't get a wrap-up written at the beginning of the week, I decided to just write one now, while I'm thinking about it, even if we're not quite to the end of this week.

LAST week was good. We were busy working on the Cradle Roll Sabbath School program for our church, and doing school (we breathed "new life" into the spanish flash cards by agreeing to only go over them for 10 minutes each day. MOST days, I think we get through more in that 10 minutes than we used to in 20, it's like they know there's a definite end, so they're willing to focus), and . . . it seems like we were really busy, but that's all I'm remembering . . .

And then, on Wednesday afternoon, Little Bit got sick. She had a high fever, and just kinda laid there watching tv and nursing, and being miserable, poor baby. . . AND we had planned to leave Thursday to go to my parents' house, and then go with them, to my aunt & uncle's house for the weekend. Instead, I took Little Bit to the doctor on Thursday :o(  As I expected, the "diagnosis" was an unknown virus, just wait it out . . . I LOVE our doctor, she was completely in agreement with me on avoiding tylanol & motrin (though she did mention that if I chose to give Little Bit one of those, Motrin is the better option) even with her fever hovering around 104 F. She said, rather than worrying about a certain number, to watch how Little Bit was acting. As long as she was coherent and responsive, to just give LOTS of fluids (I can't begin to tell you how thankful I was that Little Bit still nurses!!! Made the "lots of fluids" thing a non-issue!).  So, that's what we did. On Friday morning, when Little Bit wasn't any better, Rodney took the big girls and dropped them off at my parents' house so that THEY could go as planned, anyway.  Little Bit's fever finally broke for good on Sunday morning, and by Monday she was back to her normal bouncy self, although she still has some hives that come and go on her legs, and a runny nose.

Meanwhile, while we were spending our days nursing and napping and watching tv, the big girls went to TN with my parents. They stayed at my Aunt & Uncle's house. They had been SOOOO excited to see my aunt & uncle's 30-some year old tortoise, Tort. But when they called me the next day, Sassy said "I don't understand why ANYONE would want a tortoise as a pet, they don't DO anything!" LOL. The girls found the cat, Alley, to be a much more fun pet. The whole reason for this trip was because, for the girls' birthday a couple months ago, my aunt & uncle had promised to take them to see Beauty  & the Beast, live at the Barter Theater. So that's what they did on Sunday. The girls were NOT disappointed, they LOVED the show!! 

Tuesday, Little Bit and I went down to my parents' house to pick the big girls up. I had to laugh, we ended up meeting my parents & the big girls at a restaurant for lunch, and the girls came running up to us and completely ignored me, they were soo excited to see Little Bit. And she was equally excited to see her "Sissies" (she had asked about them MANY times over the long weekend).

Mom & Dad had gotten some sparklers for 4th of July and the big girls had chosen to save some to do when Little Bit was there too, so we did sparklers that night.

Wednesday we all came home. We stopped at a Farmer's Market on the way home and got blueberries. . . 100 lbs (though 20 lbs were for other people) to be exact! Last year we got 60 lbs, and we ran out a month or two ago, so figured we'd better up it to 80lbs this year.

And so, obviously, TODAY has been spent freezing blueberries!!!! We have eaten or frozen about 50 lbs, which leaves another 30 lbs for tomorrow, sigh . . . the girls have been really good about helping though, thankfully! We've got it down to a system :-)  Little Bit is in high heaven with the table covered in blueberries for most of the day (I wash a "table full", lay them on towels on the table to dry, then once they've dried enough to not stick together, we put them all into freezer bags, and put those in the freezer, and then I wash another batch and spread it out to dry), she's been eating her fill! (I'm VERY thankful she's not still in diapers LOL). 

Tomorrow will be more blueberries and getting ready for Sabbath, and that's pretty much our week(s).