23 July 2015

A Mid-Summer "hello!"



Is your summer flying by as quickly as ours is?!  I am kind of sad that it's already almost the end of July.  It has been such a busy summer for us that there hasn't been much relaxing getting done.

However, this week has slowed down for us quite a bit {thank goodness!!} and the schedule doesn't look too terribly bad through the end of August.  I think that we even have a real vacation in there somewhere!

Anyway, I thought I'd post a little update on what we've been up to this summer so far.

Reading:

My personal reading list for this summer is clicking right along.  So far I've read:

  • Just RISE UP! by Sarah Francis Martin  {motivating and inspiring}
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel  {captivating story, twist in end really got me}
  • Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie  {loved ...as I love all of her books}
  • Crooked House by Agatha Christie
  • Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
  • Miss Marple, the Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  {good story, interesting narrative}
  • Soul Friends by Dr. Leslie Parrot  {very refreshing ...review coming soon}
Right now I am currently reading Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto--excellent read so far!  And I am deviating from my original summer list and reading the second Anne book: Anne of Avonlea.   

The kiddos are doing well with their summer reading challenge although their momentum has died down a bit.   So far Mr. B has earned a total of $13.55 for his total pages read, plus numerous coupons and even a golden ticket.  The Princess has earned $31.61, plus quite a few coupons and several golden tickets.  And they're both still reading away!  Very proud of them!  At the end of the summer I'll try to remember to post all of the books they've read.  

at the Creation Museum

Travel:

In June we took an overnight trip to visit the Discovery Park of America.  That was totally worth the trip~a great place to visit!  Later in June we took a church youth trip to the Cincinnati area and spent a day at the Creation Museum and a day at Kings Island.  We had a great time!  We don't have any other trips planned until next month.      

at Kings Island

Family Fun:

At the beginning of the summer we made our annual 'Summer Fun List' with all of the things we think would be fun to do this summer--although we know we probably won't be able to do them all.  

So far we have:
  • gone to see 'Inside Out' at the drive-in theater
  • gone to several ballgames to see the regional collegiate league play
  • gone geocaching (SO much fun!)
  • had a sleepover or two
  • had a blast at family VBS at our church
  • 'Camp Nana'--where the kiddos spent a couple of days straight with my mom and did lots of fun stuff, like science kit experiments

And that's what we've been up to lately.  

What about you?  I'd love to hear how your summer is going!

19 June 2015

Our Family Picnics: the Good, the Bad, and the Windy

From the archives.
This was originally published on June 27, 2013.


(just yesterday here in Kentucky)

Family picnics: these words may bring various visions to our minds depending on our families.  For my family these words bring visions of fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, mac & cheese, pickles, olives, deviled eggs....mmmmmm  Yes, as long as I can remember this has been my mom's standard picnic fare.

We ate A LOT of picnics when I was growing up.  My family owned a camper and traveled quite extensively when I was very young.  We hit every state park and national park that we could find for picnics.  And my mom would even whip up the a fore mentioned menu in our camper~amazing!

I've been hungry for one of those picnics recently and just yesterday my mom was gracious enough to make it happen (see top photo!).  She fried up the chicken and made her world's-best-potato-salad, I baked some beans and made the deviled eggs and we all packed up and headed to a local park.  The summer weather even cooperated and we had a nice cool breeze and some shade!  It was a perfect picnic day!

Which made me and my family begin to reminisce about other picnics we'd been on through the years--some not so perfect, but oh-so-memorable!


There was the summer we were in South Africa.  I was sixteen and fell in love with that beautiful country.  We made some wonderful friends there, too, and one day they took us on a beach picnic.  That was my first time to picnic on the beach (that I can remember) and it was amazing!  The men in our group all headed out to the large rocks on the beach's edge with their fishing poles while the ladies continued preparing the side dishes for our meal.  Eventually the men came back with loads of fish, which we promptly cooked over coals and proceeded to dig into one of my most memorable meals.  

It was delicious: fresh fish and Indian food on the beach!  I don't even really remember exactly what I ate (besides the fresh fish), but the experience is etched into my memory forever.  It was a wonderful day.  


Then there was the summer immediately following my high school graduation when my parents took my sister  (pictured above) and me on our first trip out West.  Even though we were no longer traveling with a camper, we still packed out cooler full of picnic supplies (sandwiches this time around) and looked for those state parks or roadside parks (in a pinch) where we could stretch our road-trippin' legs and have some lunch. 

 This particular day we had stopped at a rest area.  There were lots of other travelers picnicking there, too, and we were enjoying our meal on that lovely day ...when all of a sudden we noticed a state trooper pull in and begin stopping at each picnickers' table.  And each time he drove away from a table, they immediately packed up and began to get in their car to leave.  Strange...we wondered.  Then he came to our table, with the news that there was an armed and dangerous escaped convict on the loose in that area and we should get in our car and leave.  Which we did.  Immediately.  We weren't into any hostage situations that day. 

 Since then we have laughed about how quickly we all packed up and left because in retrospect, apparently, escaped convicts crashing your picnic is so funny.  And, of course, it's one of our most memorable picnics to this day.




A couple of summers later we were taking another trip out West and had lots of picnics along the way.  It was so lovely picnicking in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains or under towering Sequoia trees.


Just a couple of more years later we had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, where we rented a car and bought a disposable cooler for those inevitable picnics.  This has become such a tradition with my family (and has saved us much money in the long run: picnicking once a day, eating out once).  



You might remember that I mentioned the word 'windy' in the title of this post.  Well, that was especially for this picnic (above) in Washington state.  We affectionately refer to this picnic in our family as THE picnic.  As you can see in the above photo there are no smiles that day.  This place, chosen by my father, was so ridiculously windy that a picnic was completely out of the question.  But we tried it anyway.  It ended in a huge family argument and disaster.  But we will definitely never forget it!  haha



Within a few more years, I had gotten married.  But that didn't mean our family vacations and family picnics were over.  No, a whole new round of memories were being created.  We picnicked in the West, the East, the mountains, the beach ...making more memories.



Finally our littles came along and we had a new generation to introduce to family picnics.  They didn't care if there was fried chicken or not, but any kind of yummy snack would do.  And at that time in life I sure didn't have time to make one of those huge picnic meals.  Thankfully picnics can also consist of box lunches from Heavenly Ham or takeout from Subway, even whatever you can throw together from your kitchen pantry. 

 It's really about just making it happen, getting outside, going exploring, finding a new park, and spending time with your family where there aren't ever any good cell phone signals.  



Family picnics have always been a fun and special time for me.  They can even be healing.  One of the first things that my husband and I did one year after going through a particularly traumatizing event in our lives was to visit my parents and sister and go on a full-fledged-fried-chicken-kind-of-picnic.  It was a very hard time in our lives, but spending time with family, eating soul-comforting foods in the fresh outdoors was soothing to my soul.  I'll never forget that picnic either.   


So as I looked back through my photo albums (and scanned in all of these old pictures to share with you), I've realized what a lovely heritage my parents have given me in the ability to appreciate the simple things in life.  Family picnics may not sounds like a big deal or even fun to you (they can be a lot of work), but they are a special family tradition with us and I hold them dear to my heart.  When we sit around telling funny family stories, it's amazing to me how many of those revolve around a time at a picnic table at some park somewhere.  

So grab yourself a plastic tablecloth, some Cokes, and some takeout sandwiches (or, by all means, do the whole fried chicken menu--it's the best!), jump in your car and head to your local park to create some special family memories this summer!  I highly recommend it!

*****
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16 June 2015

Summer Scrapbooking Goals


 

Here I go again with my summer school scrapboooking goals!  Last year I failed miserably and got nothing accomplished other than ordering a few photos.  This year I am much more determined ...and I have a plan! :)  Anyone who knows me knows that I love to have a plan!  


My plan is to get one grade for one kiddo done each week this summer.  For instance, the first week of June I was scheduled to do The Princess' K5 pages.  This past I was scheduled to do Mr. B's K5 pages.  This week will be The Princess' 1st grade pages ...and so on, back and forth, until I'm current.  

OK.  I admit, I'm a week behind already.  

BUT I did get The Princess' K5 pages completed!!  Whoo hoo!!  And I'm planning to make up some time this week and maybe get back on my schedule :)  


I think once I get into a good rhythm I'll start moving more quickly.  Can't wait to be totally caught up!!  

A word to the wise: don't do what I've done and get 7 years behind.   

15 June 2015

My Personal {2015} Summer Reading List

So last week I shared my kiddos' summer reading plan but today I thought I'd share my own summer reading goals with you.

I'm afraid that my stack of books for this summer is a bit ambitious but I'm going to give it my best shot!

Here they are:

  1. Just RISE UP!  by Sarah Francis Martin: this is the book I'm going through with my church ladies for our summer Bible study.  I'm loving it!  Inspiring and challenging!
  2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel: I actually just finished this one this week.  It was such a good book ...and then the twist at the end really got me.  I have continued to think about it all week after finishing it.  Now I want to watch the movie.  
  3. Murder at the Manor by Agatha Christie: this is actually 3-books-in-1: The Seven Dials Mystery, Crooked House, and Ordeal By Innocence.  I'm currently reading The Seven Dials Mystery and thoroughly enjoying it.  Christie is one of my very fave mystery writers!
  4. Miss Marple, The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie: can't wait to read these!  Her short stories are always wonderful--perfect for wrapping one up at night before going to sleep:)
  5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I've heard such good things about this book, really looking forward to it.
  6. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien: I can't believe I've never read these yet, but this summer that will change!  I adore The Hobbit and I've seen all the movies (not that they follow the books...) so I'm excited to read the trilogy.
  7. The King's General by Daphne DuMaurier: her book Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite books so I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.
  8. The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier: a time-travel story, should be interesting
  9. The Glass Blowers by Daphne DuMaurier: another DuMaurier read that I know nothing about.
  10. Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto: this has been on my Amazon wish list for a while now and I finally decided to order it.
  11. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig: I've read the intro on this and am already loving it so much.  Can't wait to dig in!
  12. Soul Friends by Dr. Leslie Parrott: recommended to me by a trusted friend.
  13. Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson: I've skimmed this one and I always love her books, so I can't wait to go back and dig in deeper with this one.
...and there you have it!  A challenging but exciting stack to read one (or two) at a time (I often am reading one fiction and one non-fiction at the same time--am I the only one?).

What are you reading this summer?  I'd love to know!

12 June 2015

A Birthday & a Visit to Discovery Park of America


This week has been full and fun!!  We began Mr. B's 10th birthday celebration on Sunday (a day early) with our special meal out with my parents and sister (my parents are so awesome to take us all out on each birthday!).  Mr. B picked Chili's this year.    

On his actual birthday, Monday, he opened his gifts here at home.  Then we went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch (his total fave!) where we also enjoyed a birthday cookie cake.  Yes, celebrations around here involve LOTS of good food! :)

Then Monday evening we drove to Union City, TN to spend the night and visit the Discovery Park of America on Tuesday.  The whole family went and we had SO much fun!!  



If you have never heard of the Discovery Park of America it could be because it's practically brand new!  It's been open only about a year and a half.  It's located in a small town about 3 hours west of Nashville but it is well worth the drive!  And the ticket prices are incredibly reasonable for a museum/park of this size.


This place is massive!!  It offers state-of-the-art exhibits in so many areas: Energy, Enlightenment, Military, Native Americans, Natural History, Regional History, Space, Science, & Technology, Transportation, and Children's Exploration.  And that's just what's inside!!

Outdoors there are 50 more acres to explore!  There is a substantial 1880's settlement, a huge barn showcasing historic farm equipment, a mill ridge that includes a grist mill, blacksmith shop, and a one-room schoolhouse.  There is Freedom Square that depicts a typical main street in American in the early 1900's.  The depot is a replica of a station in the 1800's plus vintage train cars to explore.  And the chapel is over 100 years old and has been relocated to the grounds.  They also have lovely gardens to walk through.  

Our whole family thoroughly enjoyed visiting here!  It was so nice to have indoor (read: air conditioned) spaces to explore in between walking around outside (read: rather warm summer day).  When you go, I definitely recommend planning to spend the entire day.  There is just so much to see!  They have a fairly reasonably-priced cafe on the grounds so you can just take your lunch break there if you'd like (we did and enjoyed it).  

They also have special exhibits that cost a bit extra, such as the earthquake simulator, the starship theater, and the observation tower.  We only purchased tickets for the earthquake simulator and it was definitely worth it.  You go inside a round room with a 180-degree screen where they tell the story of the New Madrid fault in this region and you get to experience what being in an earthquake might feel like.  (Having been in a few earthquakes myself, the simulation wasn't very realistic but the film was definitely worth it).


All in all, it was just a lovely day!  So if you live anywhere near western Tennessee or you're passing through the area, this place is a must stop!!  You will not be disappointed, I promise.  

Disclaimer: I received nothing in exchange for this "review" of the Discovery Park.  We just liked it that much :)  

10 June 2015

My Kids' Summer Reading Challenge '15



Summer break is in full swing around here and we are at it again with our Summer Reading Program!  Last summer I decided to develop a little system all of our own and it was a big hit--so much so they couldn't wait to begin again this summer.  

It's really simple: 
  • They get to fill in a spot on their reading bingo charts each time they read for 25 minutes (yes, I upped the time by 5 minutes this year).
  • Every time they bingo they earn a coupon (things like: choose your fave dinner, buy one thing at the dollar store, go bowling, a family bike ride...  primarily these are free experiences or very cheap treats).
  • When they black-out their bingo chart they get to pick a golden ticket (these are things like: $10 at Books-A-Million, something from 5Below, a trip to our local froyo place...  things that cost a bit more but not too much either)
  • Every week they get paid .01 per page of every book that they've finished during that week and recorded in their reading log.

And I've added one more thing this summer: they have a summer Bible reading guide that they must keep up with in order to earn their money for books read.  

So far they are little, reading maniacs and I'm nearly $20 poorer after the first week of the program!  But I'm all about reading and I'm so happy they love it, too.

I'd love to hear what you do to encourage your kiddos to read through the summer...

29 May 2015

Our Year-End Wrap-Up {'14-'15}


I think I need a t-shirt that says "I Survived This School Year".  :)

Don't get me wrong, I love homeschooling.  It's not that.  It's just that this year has presented challenges in other ways and we've had to meet them head on.  But those challenges meant that we had some tough days, so this summer break is much needed.  

So ...yea!!!  It's summer break!!!

The kids hit the pool just as soon as they wrapped up their school work yesterday.  They're braver than I am.  The water is still too cold for me.  I'm a wimp like that ;)  


This morning we had our big end of the year finale with our homeschool group: Field Day!!  It's always so much fun, filled with teams and relays, medals and encouraging each other in being good sports.  I love our homeschool group!!


And that's a wrap!  Happy Summer, y'all!