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 . . . . :)