Sunday, December 15, 2013


First, my apologies for not updating the blog in OVER A MONTH! Don't I hate it when other people do it??? And here I am again, long overdue.  But maybe that's the joy and blessing of being an unrecognized, fairly unfollowed blogger.  It raises very little emotion when you say nothing.

Vacation is over, warm weather is definitely over, and winter is here, along with one of my favorite times of year, Advent. And doesn't the season seem to be going quickly!?  Anyone else? Perhaps because we had a late Thanksgiving. Perhaps because life is so full, mostly of the mundane, but this time of year, it's also full of extra activities and places to go and things to do.

For me, the Christmas season truly begins with a few moments... putting up the Christmas tree, setting up the nativity, and yes, some cheery Christmas shopping.

This year we decided to cut a tree down from our property. The weather was quite balmy, so we grabbed the kids and headed out back.

Josh had his eye on a few trees. Now, you may not know this, but when you chop down your own tree, it's probably not a seven foot fur tree. It's probably more like 30 feet tall. You chop it down and lob off the top as your Christmas tree. And the tops of those trees can look excellent from 30 feet below. But usually by the time you've felled the tree and cut off the top, you have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

And that's what we got.  It's tall and skinny and could use a few prosthetic limbs... but once it was decorated, it was really beautiful.  And we love it because it came from our own backyard.

We've been using colored lights for the past few years.  We really only needed one strand because the tree was so skinny, but we put on two anyway.

"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot" Isaiah 11:1
I took a picture of the stump because it reminded me of the verse we read for the first day of Advent this year.  I didn't make the connection until the tree fell.  Then I got the kids to go with me to look at it... and even then the idea of a stump producing a shoot took on new meaning.

For Advent this year, we are doing the Jesse Tree, particularly using Ann Voskamp's book The Greatest Gift.  I abandoned my usual One Year Bible reading to meditate and reflect on the daily scriptures in this book, and to journal through the questions.  It's been such a blessing. I then read the scripture to the kids and we have had some great discussions.  Someone gets to put the ornament on our Jesse Tree, which has become something they all look forward to.  I've missed a few days with the kids, but I personally look forward to my time in the morning, preparing for, waiting for Christmas.

I tend to gauge the Christmas season by what I DIDN'T do.  There's often quite a list of things I didn't do that I wanted to.  For several years I've wanted to take the kids to a live nativity or Bethlehem Marketplace, something several churches in our surrounding areas do. We haven't made it yet.  I want to watch my favorite movies at least once, some twice.  This year, I've "watched" White Christmas while scurrying around my kitchen.  I haven't listened to Christmas music as much as I'd like, or decorated the fence with pine boughs, or hung the lighted wreaths in the windows.  We haven't even put the star on top of the tree.  I look at the pile of gifts in my closet and think "It's not enough, I didn't get enough".  I didn't get the BeyBlades.  I didn't get the stuffed Creeper. I didn't get the guitar.  I didn't get practically anything they asked for.

Or so it seems.

Is it possible to have done more...though it looks like a lot less?

Is it possible to have gotten what they really, truly want... even though it wasn't on their list?

Is it possible to have a truly wonderful Advent and Christmas even when the upstairs is a mess due to an insulation project?  And when the laundry never really seems to be done?  And when we really scaled back gift giving?

I think the answer to all these questions is... yes, it's possible. And highly likely.

So I'll forget everything I haven't done and enjoy what we have.  Our Advent readings often include craziness, fussing, and fighting over spots in front of the woodstove, but they also include amazing discussions and insight from my children. We read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in one sitting, because they simply wouldn't let me stop reading.  We've had lots of cocoa with whipped cream and giant bowls of popcorn. We've watched the second in The Santa Clause movie series because, even though I wanted to watch them in order, the second is everyone's favorite.  The kids have done their shopping for Daddy.  I've had two peppermint mochas.  My bulletin board is filling up with Christmas cards.  We went to see Frozen.  The windows are plated in snow.  

And we're all dreaming of a white Christmas, and looks like we may have one. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Ultimate Field Trip

We our back from what I call The Ultimate Field Trip-nearly three weeks on vacation in Florida!  We drove from our most northern state to the most southern with three kids in an overflowing Yukon! I went armed for the drive with snacks and a few gifts for each child and lots of audio books from our local library.  The drive was wonderful and it was so much fun to see our country from top to bottom.  We drove through or by some of the biggest New England cities, then through the farmlands of Pennsylvania, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Blue Ridge mountains all the way to the Sunshine state.

The first leg of our trip was spent with Josh's family, celebrating his grandfather's 90th birthday.  His parents and sister's family were there too! We stayed at his aunt and uncle's house and got to visit a few state parks in their area.

It was sunny and tropical, almost like we were in a rainforest those first few days.

Josh's cousin has a horse farm and we each got to ride on of her beautiful Arabians.  They said Brown-Eyed-Girl was a natural.

Most of the great-grandkids were able to surround Great-Grampy as he blew out a candle celebrating 90 years.

We got to see the wonderful manatees that flock to the warm waters of Florida at Homossassa Springs State Park. We got a real taste of the Florida wildlife here.

The second leg of our trip was spent in Orlando.  It was our first trip to Disney World.  We spent one day at the Animal Kingdom, one at Epcot, and three at the Magic Kingdom.

Petite loved the rides that were not enclosed.  Dumbo, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, and the Triceratops at the Animal Kingdom were her favorite.

The Magic Kingdom was so beautifully decorated for fall.  Main Street and Cinderella's castle were my favorite sites.

We rented a vacation home for a week, complete with its own pool- fabulous! We would definitely do this again. It was so wonderful having space and being able to make our meals.  I loved that the coffee mugs were oversize so it felt just like home.

When we saw Cinderella's castle, the excitement mounted as we rode the ferry to the Magic Kingdom.  It truly does make you feel like a kid again.

At Epcot, Mister did the Pick-a-Pearl exhibit in Japan. He had been anticipating this for some time!  He chose and oyster and in it was a 7mm pearl.

We made a side trip to Legoland to fulfill Mister's dream.  We were probably one of only a hundred families visiting that day so there were no lines!  That is my kind of trip.

There were so many things made of Legos here!  The pumpkin and otters were only a few of them.  The Mini Village was just amazing, with world landmarks like the capitol building, Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas attractions, and so much more made entirely of Legos. The details were amazing.

The third leg of our trip was spent in Fernandina Beach visiting our best friends who moved here in June.  Now, a trip to the beach is MY favorite kind of vacation. The kids had soooo much fun in the water.

Josh caught nine fish and even this young hammerhead shark! We had a delicious fish fry that night for dinner.

Mister really took to boogie-boarding. He would spend his life in the water if he could.

On the way home we stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania for the night.  We made a quick trip to Hershey's Chocolate World to see how they make chocolate and pick up a few goodies.

We had so much fun with our friends. The whole trip was full of wonderful moments, we just can't decide on our favorites. We feel so blessed that we were able to take this trip and do so much.  We're back home now, with the woodstove going and packing up all the warm-weather clothes we wore in Florida.  Reality resumes soon but we're thankful for the memories we made.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weeks 6 and 7- Wicked Good Fun!

So, no pictures from week 6 of our school year.  It was a quiet week with more study of Ancient Egypt and the usual 3 R's.  Week 7 detoured from the lesson plan book and leads up to the Ultimate Field Trip!

 I heard an ad on the radio for a special  Wizard of Oz exhibit celebrating it's 75th anniversary at a (somewhat-not-local) art museum.  But with friends, the hour and a half drive wasn't so bad.

 All the characters were there. Mister refused to have his picture taken with any of them, including the scarecrow, tin man,and lion.

Even the rest rooms were reserved for either the "wicked" or the "good".  You see where I ended up.

I'm so proud of the kids! This was their first visit to an art museum and they did an amazing job.  Yes, it was hard for these tactile learners not to touch, especially when the paint was textured or the sculptures were lifesize.  But it was hard for me too.  We weren't able to take any photographs of what we saw, but favorites from the Oz exhibit were the ruby slippers, Lollipop Guild character costume, the hourglass, and an original screenplay.  The other exhibits were wonderful too.  We saw a few of Andy Warhol's works and lots from Andrew Wyeth and the other two Wyeth artists.   I loved the discussions we had and the kids' comments.  I love that they appreciate art.

The second part of our field trip was visiting a light house that was near the museum.  We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day. Honestly, it's been the perfect fall. We didn't even need jackets. We had a picnic lunch and kids collected shells and snails.  They were tickled that some of the snails came out to visit.

To get to the lighthouse, we had to walk down a mile long breakwater.  We saw lobster traps, crabs, and even a sea star on our journey out.  We saw a school of fish when we got to the lighthouse.

On the way back we saw this sea gull eating a sea urchin.  So we considered this a day of Art Appreciation, Marine Biology, and PE.  The best kind of learning is by experience.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Week 5: Fall All Around

I love seeing each week of school pass by in these posts! Five weeks into the year already!  It's funny how I'm always so anxious to start school, but then I love counting down our days too.  I love the feeling of accomplishing something and making progress, I guess.

This week of school wasn't very exciting. We continued our study of Ancient Egypt, primarily pyramids, and I've been reading The Golden Goblet aloud to the kids.  We are all enjoying it, but it is a book we all have to reach for. It's not the easiest for me to read aloud and there is a lot to pay attention to when listening. But they beg for more, so it's worth it!

The real excitement this week was the weekend. On Saturday we attended a fun Harvest Party and on Sunday we went to the corn maze and enjoyed all the other great stuff they had to offer!

Most of the kids at the Harvest Party- complete with costumes, sweet treats, and pizza, plus some really fun games!

Is it any surprise that Miss Petite's costume was Minnie Mouse????

A classic game was rediscovered- bobbing for apples. So much harder than it looks. Believe me, I tried!

And I did it! I got one!

Our group of kiddos at the corn maze. I confess, we didn't make it through. We couldn't find the fourth post no matter how hard we tried.  So we took a short cut and quit. I think part of the fun is getting lost... the kids don't!

All aboard the cow-train!

Rubber ducky races were a hit, as well as the giant jumping pillow (I was jumping too, so no pictures of that).  It was THE perfect fall day.  I even stopped at my favorite apple orchard and bought honeycrisps, fresh homemade donuts, and fresh pressed cider. Any guess what we had for dinner?

That's my quick wrap-up of school week number five. Cause school isn't just in the classroom during the week!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 4: Keeping it Real

Being "real" is the new thing, isn't it?  Sharing what it's REALly like in our homes, what we're REALly thinking, what being a wife and mom REALly is. 

It's not perfectly Pinnable layer cakes and kiddy crafts.

It's not GapKids clothing in the sandbox and at the art table.

It's not every hair in place or even sexy bedhead styles paired with cute boots and skinny jeans.

Not in this house, anyway.  Life is REAL here.

So let me be real.  At the start of this week, I was all done. Ready to throw in the towel.  Quit doing one of the only things I know for sure that God has called me to do: homeschool my children.  The reasons why are a whole 'nother blog post, but rest assured, I'm still here, doing it.  Thankful I get to do it, once the bad days have passed and I've gained perspective again.

One of the things I'm learning this year is the flexibility that comes with home educating your children.  I've read all about it and how great it is, but I'm the girl who likes to run on schedules, rules, and charts.  And I'll admit my confidence has waned when it comes to how we're doing academically.  So I tend to want to hit the books and rely on curriculum to determine how well we're doing.  But with Josh's schedule change, I knew that, to make it work, I'd have to be a lot more flexible with our daily schedule.  The schedule is weird, in that it rotates between day and night shifts every three days, but it also affords us a lot more time together as a family.

Part of becoming more flexible means throwing out the things that aren't working for us or the things that don't interest us.  It's substituting better books and eliminating projects.  I've already chucked several elements of our prepackaged curriculum because we're just not interested.  And yet, this doesn't mean we're doing less.  It gives more time for what we do enjoy.  Mister was perusing one of our books on Ancient Egypt and wanted to make this King Tut mask.  I confess, I had zero interest in crafting that day, but because he was so excited about it, why would I say no?  I help him draw it out and size it to fit his head and now he has a cool costume for an upcoming party.

I can so easily get discouraged with a zillion things about home life and education, but seeing my children independently reading and looking at books really does make it all better... for a while.

These are the remains of an uneaten Fluffanutter sandwich and a cup of water with a napkin stuffed inside.  I don't understand why on earth a child wouldn't eat this, especially with the crusts cut off, and I'm sure the intent is not to make me crazy, but it does.

I pray that the Lord will help me see these "messes" as "signs of life" instead :)

One thing I truly dislike doing is searching for coloring pages online.  There are a zillion different results that come up for a Sonic the Hedgehog coloring page search and most of them are junk that don't print well.  But out of love, I spend twenty minutes trying to find a worthy web site and waiting for Brown-Eyed-Girl to choose the ones she likes.

Another keeping-it-real confession: This coffee snob resorted to Folgers a few years ago because coffee is just so darn expensive and we drink so much of it.  I've found their Colombian is pretty good first thing in the morning.  We do still splurge on Starbucks for our afternoon cup or for the French press.

If you haven't heard Andrew Peterson's music, you need to. He's an artist, pure and simple.  His music was a soothing balm to me this week, particularly reminding me that the Lord sees my tears and that the day is coming when they will be wiped away for good and forever.

Favorite words from his song The Reckoning:

And  I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight * You see the teardrops as they roll tonight* Down the faces of the saints who grow weary and faint in Your fields

How long? How long? How long until the curtain is lifted?
How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?

When I am standing in the stillness of the reckoning
The storm is past and rest is beckoning
Mighty God, how I fear you
and I long to be near you, O Lord

And I know that I don't know what I'm asking
I long to look you full in the face
I am ready for The Reckoning.

For the first time in 10 years of motherhood I had a child stick something in her nose that we couldn't get out.  Actually, I was unsure if this little Lego was still in her nose because at first she said it had come out, but then she still complained about it being her nose.  I was ready to take her to the ER the next morning when she came downstairs and handed it to me, saying "It came out."  Well, praise the Lord!

Everybody made a pyramid of some sort.  Petite and I made ours out of popsicle sticks.

We had a few new additions to our school this week:

 First, this $5 desk found at our local thrift store. I've long wanted some desks to prevent tipping in the chairs and to get the kids to sit flat on their butts so they can write better. As you can see from the picture of Mister, that last problem wasn't solved by getting a desk. But they both love it and I've got to find another so they don't fight over it.  Mister even wanted to take it onto the deck to write in his journal.

Another addition is our new foreign language course.  I took French in high school, Josh took Latin, and now we're all going to learn Latin American Spanish.  It is  definitely different than European Spanish, particularly the accent, but I'm catching on quickly and Mister was excited to give this computer based program a shot.

I had more "keepin it real" stuff to share from the week, but for now, that's it. We're on to week 5 now!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week 3- Apples, Field Trip, Fall is in the Air

Fall isn't quite in full swing, but it is surely in the air!  We had some lovely cool, breezy days with lots of sun this past week.  Great days for hanging out on the deck, getting some school work done.  We've been getting our wood in for winter and making apple treats- the first pie of the season and candy apples, too.

We had our first field trip of the year, to a local agricultural fair. Josh got to go with us this year, which the kids, of course, loved.  There is so much to see, but we just can't see it all.  The kids enjoy seeing the animals.  One of the exhibitors had a box full of ribbons her mules and horses had one and was giving them away, so they each got one.

Another highlight for the kids is the hill you can slide down using old cardboard pieces.  Love the smiles!

We saw found a giant piece of cardboard and some of our friends on the hill.



 The girls love the craft tent and made felt bugs this year.

My favorite part of the fair is seeing so many friends.  We meet up with friends from all three of the communities we've lived in, past and present. 

The day was very warm and sunny, so we embraced the shade whenever we could.  We topped our day off with fresh ice cream and a visit to the alpaca farm just outside the fairgrounds.  I kept calling them "llamas" (because  Petite loves the Llama Llama books) and I kept getting corrected by the taxonomy police. This is what happens when you homeschool- you get some smarty pants!

We're just about to begin our study of ancient Egypt. Mister has been impatiently waiting to make the timeline figures out of this book.  He has been making his own moveable figures since he spied this book in our school room.  This is King Narmer (or Menes) the first king of united Egypt.  This book offers two copies of each figure, one in full color, another to color- perfect for my two oldest kiddos.  We've been listening to The Story of the World volume 1 in tandem with our Creation to the Greeks scheduled studies.
A rainy weekend is ahead for us.  Just the kind I love!