September 29, 2010

Day 12--Philadelphia

Yesterday evening was cloudy, but this morning dawned bright and beautiful, just perfect for spending a day in the city!  We left in good time.  I read several chapters out loud from Book 2 of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, which we are still enjoying immensely.  Crossing the bridge from New Jersey into Philadelphia was exciting!  I've always wanted to visit this city but never really expected to get there!  We knew our time would be limited, and we also knew we needed to be extra patient with the kids, who have probably been museum-ed out and are definitely getting on each others' nerves (and, truth be told, on our nerves, too!).

So we had a few ideas in mind of what we would see, but we did not set a definite agenda, deciding to play things by ear and see how much of a wait it would be for the two places that were must-sees:  Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  Wonder of wonders, we got our timed tickets immediately to see Independence Hall!  We simply walked across the street from the visitors' center, went through security, and merged with our group, who tromped inside the first building to listen to a brief talk from the park ranger.  Our ranger was very good, and she involved our kids (who were pretty much the only ones in this group of 85 or so people) with her questions and explanations.  Charis impressed a number of people with her previous knowledge of the historical situation, so it was a proud homeschool mom moment to be able to explain when people asked that we were on a homeschool journey to kick off our year of American History!

After the background discussion, we actually went inside Independence Hall and got to see the courtroom and the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were actually signed.  Wow!  So cool. 

And guess where we went next?  Yup...across the street to see the Liberty Bell!  Amazing.

We walked a few blocks away to Franklin Square, where the kids played on the playground while Ted walked to a vendor to purchase Philly cheese steak sandwiches.  (You knew that was on the agenda, right?!)  We enjoyed our picnic lunch, let the kids play on the playground some more, and then walked past Franklin's grave and to the Benjamin Franklin museum.  We watched the old Disney animated film "Ben and Me," which the kids really enjoyed (we did, too), and then we puttered around the museum just a short while before deciding that we really needed to be done.

The kids had time to play on the playground near the TLF while I worked on dinner, and now we're winding down another day of vacation.  Tomorrow will be our last--and longest!--day, as we will pack up and leave for home, stopping (Lord willing) at Valley Forge and the Flight 93 memorial on the way.  Originally we had thought we might camp outside Gettysburg, but after our last disastrous attempt at camping, we decided we would rather drive all night and just get HOME rather than try that again, LOL!

For pictures of our day in Philly, go here!

Day 11--Traveling/Sightseeing

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to the B family and headed north.  Destination: McGuire AFB near Trenton, NJ.  Around Baltimore we were already needing a potty stop, but it worked out well, because Ted saw signs for Ft. McHenry!  We decided to take an unplanned side trip and spent a couple of hours touring this site, which was extra special since we had seen the ACTUAL Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian the day before.  

We watched a short video about what got the U.S. involved in the War of 1812, which was good, because my knowledge of that whole situation was pretty sketchy!  In a nutshell (for those who need a refresher), the Brits were fighting the French (remember Napoleon?), and they kept boarding our ships and confiscating items so as not to allow our stuff to be taken by the enemy.  Hmmm.  Seeing as how our rebel spirit had just won our nation's independence, no wonder we joined the fight!  At the very end of the video, the curtain that was at the side of the room drew back, revealing a wall of windows facing the fort, where our current American flag is flying.  A small sign signaled that we should stand, and we heard a beautiful, a cappella men's chorus singing the National Anthem.  It was one of the most thrilling, patriotic moments I've ever experienced!

We walked up to the fort and got to explore all around it and inside some of the buildings.  The kids really enjoyed this stop, especially the boys.  (If you view the photos on Facebook, look for the boys with their muskets!)  We were so glad we saw the signs and decided to stop, as it really was a fantastic experience for everyone.  Before hitting the road again, we ate our picnic lunch there.

Then it was back in the Suburban for what seemed like a very long time, even though we were expecting the drive to only be a couple of hours.  As it turned out, Google gave us directions to...the airstrip at McGuire AFB, trying to route us directly through Ft. Dix in the process!  We were thoroughly confused and finally ended up asking a guard at the Ft. Dix checkpoint how to get where we needed to go.  When Ted viewed the maps later, we discovered that what should have taken us 15 minutes from our exit off the freeway actually took closer to an hour.  So, as you can imagine, we were rather tired and grumpy by the time we arrived, and I still had to get groceries at the commissary!  We may very well have ended up ordering pizza instead, except for the fact that we had the brilliant idea to have Ted get his haircut while I got groceries, thereby saving him a trip to base once we got home.  It actually worked out pretty well.  I bought frozen pizzas for us to eat for dinner, plus sandwich supplies, fruit, chips, etc. for the next couple of days.

The kids were pretty rambunctious by the time we got back to the TLF.  I ended up going to sleep before some of the kids, as I had a sinus headache and nose difficulties and was feeling wiped out (ha! no pun intended!  Gross, LOL!).  Thankfully I felt quite a bit better this morning after a good night's sleep!

Before I sign off, just a note...when planning a road trip that involves these small, New England states, be sure to budget for TOLL ROADS!!!  Holy cow!!  $4 here, $5 there...and we thought $2 was bad at the first stop!!  So far on this trip we have paid $16 for TOLL ROADS!!!

Time with Friends

One of the best things about being on vacation has been the chance to visit with friends!  Before I continue with our daily account, I thought I'd take time to show some "people pictures."

This is my friend Claire, who, along with her husband Bob, graciously hosted our family four days of our trip!  They fed us wonderful meals and gave us their roomy basement to camp out in.  Our families met when we were originally stationed in Ohio, and we've kept up with each other via our blogs and Facebook.  Claire is expecting their 8th child and has been an inspiration to me in many ways, so I truly enjoyed getting to visit with her in person, even though our time was somewhat limited because of all the sightseeing.  It was also fun to see her children in person--she only had the 4 boys when we last saw each other! 

Tobin, Jonathan, and Arden--I never did get a picture of Jonathan with his eyes open!

Faith and Lucan--they are about 6 weeks apart.

"The Princess Table"--Kenna, Grace, Anna, and Faith.  These girls had SO much fun together!

Charis with Tiffany and Rachel, adopted daughters of our friends Alan and Carol F of Maryland.  Charis and Rachel played together and were in church classes together when we were stationed in D.C.

My dear friend Monica and me--a too-short visit that left us looking forward to spending more time together at Leadership Training with Stampin' Up!

Charis was delighted to see her friend Amberly again.  Her family recently moved from Ohio to Virginia, and they spent a day in D.C. with us.

Caleb, Jonathan, and Arden.  These three boys were nearly inseparable the brief time they got to spend together!

Anna and Kenna--they are similar in so many ways!  Kenna will be so lonely without these sweet girls to play with!

September 27, 2010

Day 10--Last Day in D.C.

Today has been a cooler, rainy day, which is just fine with us, as we planned to be inside most of the day anyway!  The kids weren't so excited to be dragged away from the B's house this morning, though, feeling that they would rather stay here and play with friends (or read our friends' books) than go see stuff, LOL.  But Ted and I won that debate, so back into the District we went. 

We met my friend Monica and her twins, Erika and Nigel, at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  We went through a fair number of galleries, including a special exhibit, "The Star-Spangled Banner," where we actually got to see THE Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that was flown to give Francis Scott Key hope of victory and the inspiration for what become our national anthem.  Then we toured through the Price of Freedom, which began with the Revolutionary War and went through current military conflict.  It was so cool to see an actual redcoat uniform, Washington's uniform, and other REAL artifacts from our nation's history.  Lucan and Kenna both were getting squirrelly toward the end of this area, so we beat feet downstairs to the cafeteria for lunch, after which they were a bit happier for a short while.

We said goodbye to Monica and her children after lunch and then went through the Presidential Gallery.  It was at this point that Lucan was nearly beside himself, and the boys were dragging their feet again and proclaiming imminent boredom comas, so we quickly exited that area.  We thought the pop culture area would be fun for everyone...but it was surprisingly and disappointingly small.  Apparently they rotate the items on exhibit there?!  I did expect more than one room!  We saw the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, Ono's speed skates, Kermit the Frog, costumes from the Broadway production of The Lion King, and Archie Bunker's chair.  Big whoop!  I really wanted to see Darth Vader!

At this point Carol F, a friend from our Maryland church, met up with us, bringing her two daughters whom they have adopted from China.  Rachel was a good friend of Charis's during our year in Maryland, and Tiffany joined their family shortly after we moved to Las Vegas.  So it was fun to see them.  They walked around with us through the First Ladies' gallery and into the Transportation area, which I thought would hold the boys' attention at least, but we were having major attitude and behavior issues, so in the interest of keeping our sanity, Ted and I decided to just leave.

We had tickets for a 3:30 tour of the Washington Monument.  It was not even 2:30 at this point.  Lucan was NOT interested in falling asleep in the stroller, as we had hoped, and it was sprinkling outside.  Nevertheless, we went to the Monument area, and Ted checked to see if there was a chance we could change our ticket time to something earlier.  Sure enough, we were able to get all 10 of us on a 2:30 tour!  Woohoo!  That was a huge blessing, as Carol had checked online for tour times and saw that there were ZERO spots available at all during the day!  The rain probably had people bailing out.  So it worked out for us.  We didn't wait long at all and were able to see out all four sides.  We walked back to the parking garage, and Lucan conked out just as we arrived at the building, of course.  But it gave Carol and me some good time to chat, and all four girls enjoyed being together as well.

Now we're back at Bob and Claire's for our last evening before we take off again.  Lucan is no happier than he was this afternoon...I'm not sure if he actually napped very long, though we did try putting him down.  I'm wondering if he's getting some more teeth...he's so fussy and has a runny nose as well, plus he has awakened at night the last few nights.

So, with that, I'd better close and see if I can help either calm the baby or help Claire with dinner!  Pictures from today's adventure can be seen here.

Day 9--Day of Rest/Bike Tour

Sunday was a nice, relaxing day for us.  Ted make the whole crew whole wheat pancakes with strawberries.  (Bob did his part by microwaving scads of turkey bacon, even going so far as to finish the job in the basement when the circuits kept blowing in the kitchen!)  The service at the B's church didn't start until 10:30, so we had plenty of time to enjoy visiting and breakfast. 

The service was very nice--lots of hymns, which is a nice change of pace from what we typically do at Faircreek.  I do miss singing hymns frequently...we get one thrown in every now and then, but somehow it has to be "jazzed up" or made "contemporary" somehow, LOL.  I do like the variety of music we get, but now and then I do feel nostalgic for the good ol' hymns that I grew up singing.  Anyway, it was nice to be in church again, and the kids did quite well visiting a new place. 

In the afternoon Claire stuffed us again with a spaghetti dinner, after which Lucan and I took a nap.  Ahhh!  Then it was time for a much-anticipated event: the Bike'N'Roll Monuments@Nite tour!  Ever since Sarah B had told me about the tour, which was a highlight for her whole family when they visited D.C., I had been interested in checking it out.  When I finally sat down to finalize plans for our trip, I mentioned it to the kids, who responded with a hearty YES!!  We decided it would be best to leave Kenna and Lucan with the B family, and they (our kids) were pretty happy with that decision!  (As I mentioned in a previous post, Kenna has been having a blast with Anna, Grace, and Faith!)

We were a bit concerned about the weather--clouds had rolled in, and it had been raining in the afternoon.  But God really smiled on us!  While it did sprinkle just a bit in the beginning and toward the very end of the tour, the evening was absolutely gorgeous, quite cool, which was a welcome change from the heat of the day before.  Tobin actually borrowed Ted's sweatshirt for the beginning of the tour, so if you view the pictures on Facebook, you'll see him in a large black shirt.  He warmed up quickly, though, and passed the sweatshirt on to me when he got tired of wearing it!

Here's what all we got to stop and see on our tour, with our guide giving us interesting factoids about each place before we could (in most places) explore for a bit:
  • The Washington Monument
  • The White House
  • The World War II Memorial
  • The Albert Einstein Memorial
  • The Vietnam Memorial
  • The Korean War Memorial
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The FDR Memorial
  • The Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Seeing the monuments and memorials by bicycle was definitely the way to go!  We've done this tour (or close to it) on foot before--NOT as fun, trust me!  The kids really enjoyed getting to run around and see everything during the 10 minutes or so we were stopped at each place, and then we hopped back on our bikes and continued on.  There were 3 other adults in our tour group, so it was a nice, small group.  (They can take up to 15 at a time.)

All in all, it was a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)  All of us have decided that it was definitely a highlight of our trip so far!  We were very thankful that Bob and Claire didn't mind us leaving the little ones at their house, as it was a much more enjoyable experience for all of us that way.  So, if you're ever in D.C., we highly recommend this tour!  It was well worth the money we splurged on it.  Since so much of the rest of our vacation has revolved around free or greatly reduced-priced activities, we felt it was worth spending a little more on this, and we're glad we did!

September 26, 2010

Day 8--Hangin' in D.C.

Yesterday was a really fun day!  Some friends of ours from Ohio just moved to the D.C. area a few weeks ago.  Amberly is their daughter, who is one of Charis's very dearest friends.  The girls were so excited to get to see each other--it made saying goodbye in Ohio not so difficult to know we'd be able to spend a day touring D.C. before too long.  We met at the White House Visitors' Center, which was surprisingly uninteresting.  (I'm sure we adults would have enjoyed it without kids...)  So we pretty much made it a bathroom stop, then walked toward the mall.

First stop was the National Archives, where we were pleasantly surprised to discover there was NO LINE.  (During the several times we visited with family members during our tour in D.C., we ALWAYS waited in line!)  Even more exciting for me was getting to see a rare copy of the Magna Carta!  WOW!  There are only 4 existing copies, and we got to see one!  The kids were thrilled to actually see the Declaration of Independence, though they were surprised at how faded the document really is.  After spending some time in the Rotunda, we browsed the displays that talk about how documents are preserved and how they play a role in our lives today--references for movies, etc.

We had a picnic lunch sitting by the fountains in the sculpture garden across from the art museum.  It was quite pleasant in the shade.  Then we split up--Charis, Amberly, Kenna, Angela, and I went through parts of the National Art Museum, mostly with me carrying Kenna to make sure she didn't get us in trouble by touching things.  (If you've ever been to an art museum, you know how picky they are about that sort of thing, right, Dad?!)  We didn't see a whole lot--it's incredibly spread out--but we did find some paintings we recognized from some of our Sonlight art books, and the sculptures we saw were interesting.  Then we joined the rest of the crew at the Air & Space Museum, where the kids were lined up for a paper airplane contest after a presentation about the mechanics of flight.

We split up again, since Charis and Amberly wanted to see the Children's Discovery Center that the others had already gone through.  So Brian took them while the rest of us went upstairs, headed for the space section that the boys wanted to see.  The elevator spit us out near an exhibit about the Wright Brothers and the beginning of flight as we know it.  We decided that we can see the real thing in Ohio and turned the corner to go to the space wing.

Tobin did not come with us.

It took a little while to realize that we were missing a child, and then began a mad, frantic search, going in and out of the areas around the elevator, calling his name, and fighting down the panic that was threatening to overtake me.  SO MANY PEOPLE!  Ted, holding onto Kenna, was running around with me, while Angela stayed with Arden, Christopher, and Kiersten.  After what seemed like forever, we heard an announcement on the P.A. system--"If you have lost a child, please come to the security desk downstairs."  We flew down the escalator, praying that it was Tobin who was waiting for his parents.  I have never been so thankful to see his little face!  After a joyful (and shaky) reunion, we went back upstairs, with Tobin grasping my hand tightly.  We spent some more time maneuvering around the crowded museum before finally deciding that the little ones had had enough.  (Lucan did get about an hour-long nap in the stroller during our time there, which is probably the longest nap he's had since we left Ohio.)

We walked the D family to their Metro station and said our goodbyes, then trudged back to the parking garage, where Kenna got her fingers stuck in the elevator door.  Poor thing!  She was screaming like mad, and the only thing we could do was simply yank her hand out.  We did have an ice pack, which she kept on her fingers for a little bit after we were in the truck, and mercifully she conked out and had a good nap on the way back to Claire's house.  During the drive, we read more in our Guardians of Ga'Hoole book--we have 1 1/2 chapters left!  We also stopped at Whole Foods for Ted to pick up some wheat and strawberries so he could make pancakes for everyone Sunday morning before church.

Claire had a yummy beef and barley stew with homemade biscuits ready for us.  Bob and Nathan were at Nathan's football game, but they joined us soon after we had a fire going in the backyard, and the sticky goodness of kids and s'mores began!  Lucan had been bathed and put down for the night, but the other 11 kids and all of us parents enjoyed some time around the fire.

It was a bit of a rough night for Lucan, Ted, and me, since Lucan awoke at 1 a.m. and spent about an hour fussing and flailing for some unexplained reason.  But he did eventually go back to sleep and actually slept until nearly 8:00 this morning!  Ted is now working on the pancake batter--I helped him cut strawberries, and soon the pancake assembly line will commence.  So I will close here so that I can help with this process and also get ready for church.  I'm looking forward to visiting the B's church and worshiping corporately this morning!  Last week we were touring Monticello, so it will be nice to be in a church again!

September 25, 2010

Day 7--To Claire's House!

Yesterday was simply a travel and rest day.  We were up early (no surprise there) and able to leave the condo well before the 10 a.m. check-out time.  Actually, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to pack up and get out of there!  We did stop for a potty run not 15 minutes after we left...but since Ted was gassing up the Suburban, it worked out well.  Plus, we got Starbucks. :-)

It was about a 3-hour drive from Williamsburg to Claire's house in Virginia, not too far outside of D.C.  We stopped for a light lunch, since we had eaten an early breakfast, and got here in plenty of time for Lucan to get a good nap.  I really enjoyed just sitting and visiting with Claire and Bob and watching our kids have fun together.  This is an especially good place to visit for Arden, who I felt was getting lost in the shuffle of our other activities.  He isn't quite old enough to truly appreciate all the historical things we were seeing (listening to explanations got "boring" for him), but he is definitely too old to be entertained by, say, playing in the dirt and rocks like Kenna and Lucan were!  Sometimes I felt that all we were doing was nagging at him: pick your feet up; stop stirring up the dust; please stop annoying Lucan--he's trying to nap; please stop hanging onto the stroller--you're making it hard to push; etc.  His favorite parts of the day were getting to go swim or sit in the hot tub at the condo.  I do think he enjoyed some of the things we saw, but overall, I think in his mind, all we did was WALK, WALK, WALK!  And sometimes he got in trouble just for WALKING!

So, being here with boys his age has already been good for everyone!  (Bob and Claire have 4 boys and 3 girls and are expecting another baby!)  Yesterday the boys played lots of games, and Arden got his first chance to play street hockey.  Tobin played Star Wars monopoly with Luke and who knows what else with the other boys--all I know is, they were BUSY!  Kenna has been in heaven with 3 little girls to dress up and giggle with.  And Charis, the lone older girl, found some books on the shelf that will probably keep her busy when she's not playing with Lucan, who is just happy enough exploring a big new house.

Claire fixed us a delicious dinner (green beans, corn, salad, and chicken enchilada casserole) last night, and we settled down at a fairly decent hour.  It was probably good the kids had a chance to play all day, as they were much more compliant with bedtime than they would have been if we had just arrived here at dinnertime!

Today we're back to being tourists.  We'll be meeting some friends at the White House Visitor Center (in lieu of actually touring the White House), and then we'll explore some of the Smithsonians.  Our vacation is halfway over, and we're enjoying every minute of it!  (Well, mostly...see previous post for the asterisk to this statement...)

Day 6--Jamestown

Just the highlights...since I'm a little behind!

Thursday morning we headed to Jamestown, once again starting the day with a 2-hour tour.  Jamestown is much bigger and busier than the Yorktown Victory Center; there were lots of tour groups shuffling around, often intersecting.  We stepped back in time over 150 years before the Revolution and learned about the English attempts to get rich in a new world.  (And, for the record, I finally learned the difference between the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements!  My history lessons sadly lacked staying power...)

Our first stop was a replica of the Susan Constant, one of three ships that brought the English traders to the New World.  Made me slightly nauseated even just thinking about being below deck for 144 days, not to mention being crammed in with 53 other people!  After climbing around the ship, we headed to the settlement within the fort after a brief stop to see how to make an Indian canoe and compare/contrast the vessels.  We went in various buildings, and the kids got to see yet another musket fired, try on armor, build a wall, and see and feel the difference among coal, coke, and clinker.  We decided that Tobin is on track to become an apprentice blacksmith--he correctly guessed each of the lumps!  It was interesting to see the governor's dwelling--quite different from the palace at Williamsburg!  Much more, ah, rustic, shall we say.

Finally, we spent some time in the Powhatan Indian village.  Here the kids got to scrape fur off a hide, make rope, learn about outdoor cooking, and sit inside a dwelling.  Lucan was getting rather frantic around this time, so I lay him back in the stroller and walked around on the boardwalk until he conked out.  He got a pretty good little nap.

After this, our official tour was over.  We went back to see all 3 of the ships up close, but the sun was climbing higher in the sky and people were hungry and thirsty.  So before long we got our lunch out of the Suburban and found a shady spot outside to eat.  It was much hotter this day than it had been our other days--over 90 degrees.  The kids were tired and hot, but they held up pretty well, or at least, the older ones did.  Charis was somewhat miserable, as she had hurt her foot the night before while playing in the pool.  Ted and I took turns carrying her piggyback when we made the longer walks.

After lunch we gladly made our way inside the air-conditioned museum.  We viewed a few things before time for the movie to start, a 24-minute history of Jamestown Settlement.  Lucan had a poop blowout in the middle of it, so I missed the end of the movie dealing with that.  And apparently Kenna had a meltdown after I left, so the rest of the family also left the theater.  We managed to get a good overview of the museum before we decided it was time to go home.  Oh, yes, and we also had the obligatory stop at the gift store to look around!  We bought a game, Made for Trade, that actually has 4 different game variations and allows players to experience a bit of the decisions early settlers would have had to make.  We played a round that night at the condo, and it's pretty fun!  We look forward to trying the more complicated versions later.

Back at the condo, we put Lucan down for a nap, polished off the rest of the ice cream we had brought home the day before, and sent Ted and the kids to the pool.  I washed up some dishes, started some laundry, and did a short blog post, then ran a couple of errands before dinner.

After baths, when Kenna and Lucan were in bed, we tried out our game and then read a few chapters in Book 1 of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series.  We are loving the story!  We brought the first two books with us from our library, but unfortunately book 3 was checked out.  Apparently the movie covers material from the first 3 books, so we will try to finish reading that before we see the movie.  It was a fun way to unwind and relax together...aside from Lucan's yowls.  He had a hard time settling down that night!

September 23, 2010

Stress? On vacation?! Naaaah!

Lest you think all is rosy in vacation-land, I thought I'd do a reality check.  Here are the not-so-fun family moments that we could do without during our All-American Adventure.

  • 6:30 a.m. wake-up calls from our alarm clock, a.k.a. Lucan.
  • Ear-piercing shrieks from the highchair as Lucan decides to boycott food for the morning.
  • No coffee OR hot tea.  (Apparently they don't service condos like they do hotel rooms?!  What's up with that??)
  • (Very loud) fighting amongst 4 children over the army figurines during what is supposed to be breakfast.
  • More (very loud) fighting between the youngest 2 children over the aforementioned figurines after the removal of the two who actually own the toys.
  • Multiple wounds on children inflicted by a sibling (or two).  (Typically a wooden sword or toy musket is involved in these "flesh wounds.")
  • Leaving Lucan's shoes back at the condo and trying (in vain) to keep him in the stroller during our two-hour tour at Jamestown.
  • Loud wails when Lucan is overcome with exhaustion.  (Fortunately I did manage to get him to sleep in the stroller, and I only missed a short portion of the activities.)
  • Numerous complaints during the tour that tend to taint Mom and Dad's enjoyment of the experience  (I'm hungry, I'm hot, I'm thirsty, I'm bored, etc.).
  • A poop blow-out in the middle of the 24-minute movie about the history of Jamestown, resulting in Mom exiting the theater and dealing with an up-the-back-of-the-onesie mess.
  • A meltdown from Kenna during the 24-minute movie about the history of Jamestown, resulting in Dad and siblings exiting the theater.
  • Another meltdown from Kenna during our exploration of the museum.
  • Crabby parents who are tired of dealing with meltdowns and bickering and complaints.
  • Stinky socks.  (Do boys EVER grow out of this?!)
Heh.  Just keepin' it real, folks!

But there ARE wonderful, blessed moments.  Just a few...

  • Seeing Lucan ask for (and receive) a piggyback ride from big sister Charis.
  • Hearing Kenna say, "May I please play with your gun, Tobin?" AND hearing Tobin say, "Sure!"
  • Drinking a pumpkin spice latte that my hubby brought me early in the morning since we had no coffee in the room. :-)
  • Feeling a cool breeze while enjoying a picnic lunch in the shade.
  • Eating ice cream together and talking about our favorite parts of the day.
  • Piling on the bed together and watching a fun movie while giggling and eating popcorn in a heap.
  • Hanging out at the pool, getting cooled off and unwinding after a whirlwind day.
And now that Lucan is screaming beside me and tugging on my leg, I will end this post. :-)  Overall, our vacation has been good, despite the frustrations!

September 22, 2010

Day 5--Yorktown

Today was WAY fun! We got another early start (thank you, Lucan), but since we wanted to be on the road by 9 a.m., it worked out well. We're in a pretty good routine with getting showers and breakfast done, lunches packed, and everyone herded out the door. Today's first item was a family tour starting at 10 a.m. and lasting until noon. There were 3 homeschool families in our group with 17 people total, with "Mr. Jack," a tall, elderly, soft-spoken man as our tour guide. Jack was wonderful at engaging the kids, really drawing them into the discussion and helping them make connections.

First stop was a set-up of a Continental Army camp. As you can imagine, the boys were most interested in this! After a stop to learn about "medicine," however, both Tobin and Charis informed me that they weren't feeling so well, LOL. Obviously they take after their mother, who does NOT take after HER mother, who spent years in the nursing profession! Just TALKING about amputations, cauterizing blood vessels, infections, etc., was enough to make my kids woozy! Fortunately, their attention was quickly diverted as we saw the officers' quarters, the kitchen, and another demonstration of loading and firing muskets.

Next we went to a "middling" farm, a typical middle class homestead, with one building for the family to live in and another as the kitchen, a sign that the family was doing pretty well, to have the kitchen as a separate room altogether. Incidentally, I had never heard of this! I guess I always pictured something from "Little House on the Prairie!" But it makes sense...having the kitchen be a completely different building would keep the house cooler during the summertime, as well as prevent flies and smoke from invading and saturating the main living area. Inside the kitchen were lots of hanging dried herbs and vegetables, and even dried meats.

One amusing thing that happened in/near the kitchen was that a friendly turkey followed us in and began pecking at the snack mix on Lucan's stroller tray! Lucan looked rather alarmed at first, but then seemed to enjoy the commotion, which greatly distracted the rest of the class, LOL.

We saw the materials for dishwashing, soap-making, and cloth preparation and dyeing. We got a first-hand look (and sniff) at the building housing dried tobacco, the main cash crop of the day. And we saw the slaves' garden area. One thing I guess I didn't realize was that even this "middle class" of people, families who lived in a one-room house, typically had slaves. Again, I'm coming from a "Little House" mindset, which was a couple of decades after the Civil War in what was then "western" territory--so in my mind, I've always thought it was just the rich people on plantations who were slave owners. Not so. Quite sobering.

Mr. Jack next led us down a time line trail and gave highlights of events leading up to the Revolutionary War, and then he took us around the museum. This was good, because he pointed out items of particular interest, which helped focus the kids' attention and keep them from getting too bored. (Although I must point out that by the time we got into the museum, Arden had given up all semblance of paying attention and was completely absorbed with playing with a young friend he made on the tour, who was carrying Civil War soldiers in his pocket. The two acted out their own battle scenes and had a merry time.)

All in all, the two hours really did fly by! And Tobin mentioned multiple times how much he liked the things we did and saw, so that was encouraging. :-) We retrieved our picnic lunch from the Suburban and enjoyed eating together in a shady spot. Then we went back to the museum and watched a 20-minute video before wandering around the soldiers' camp and the museum a bit more to see some things we had missed previously.

We drove through Yorktown itself and out to the battlefield, where we realized we'd have to pay to get into the park. Since Lucan had conked out by this time, and we weren't entirely convinced that the kids would find it all that interesting, we turned around and headed back to the Victory Center parking lot, where we parked and let the older kids climb back out so they could mount a redoubt, an earthen defensive area actually used by the Welsh during the battle for Yorktown. I stayed behind with Lucan, who was supposed to be sleeping (remember?!). He had been awakened when Arden crinkled an empty Sunchips wrapper in his face. Honestly, son?! WHY?! I snapped at Arden, making him get out of the Suburban and go with everyone else, because I did not want him poking at Lucan anymore. This for some reason seems to be a thing with him. (This was not the first time this week that he had wakened a Lucan who had FINALLY fallen asleep after a looooong morning and afternoon!) So Arden stomped along but refused to get in any of the pictures. If you look at our pictures on Facebook from today, you'll see one of him looking AWAY from the redoubt, and you can just imagine him sulking in the distance, because that is what he was doing!

Thankfully Lucan fell asleep again, and the ride home was extremely quiet, with Kenna conking out along with her little brother and the older kids reading. We tried to stop for ice cream cones at McDonald's, but they told us they were "out" of ice cream. (How can you run out of ice cream?! Honestly!) So instead I ran into the grocery store and spent $3.08 for 1 1/2 quarts of yummy cherry-chocolate ice cream, which we took back to the condo and enjoyed once everyone was awake again. Since we returned earlier than we had the past couple of days, we also enjoyed about an hour or so in the pool with the kids, a great way to cool off after a hot afternoon.

We had frozen pizza (that we cooked, ha) for dinner, then put Lucan to bed and piled on the bed in Ted's and my room and watched Night at the Museum 2: Battle at the Smithsonian. The kids had watched the first movie with us a few months ago, so it was fun to revisit the characters. Plus, we plan to see some parts of the Smithsonian museums while we're in D.C., so the kids got a kick out of that.

And with that, it's time to sign off and get to bed! Tomorrow: Jamestown!

September 21, 2010

Day 4--Colonial Williamsburg, Part 2

We got an early start this morning with Lucan rising and shining at 6:15 a.m. Ah, well, it just allowed us to leave the condo and beat the rush, right?! This morning we actually had a plan and knew what we wanted to do, so we were able to make the most of our time.

We took the shuttle to the Magazine stop and saw the magazine and guardhouse, highly recommended to me by Eilene. That was a highlight for all of us! The soldier who interacted with us was wonderful, really engaging all the kids in his presentation of what it was like to be a soldier shooting at enemies who were shooting back at him. We saw all the steps that went into loading and firing a rifle (at least 3 teeth were necessary, LOL, to rip off the paper containing the gunpowder!) and heard a shot that was less noisy than a real one would have been.

Next stop, the shoemaker's shop. It was pretty interesting, but not quite as fascinating as the wig-maker's work (for me, anyway). Next up was the gunsmith, which we thought for sure would be a hit with the boys, but Tobin was too busy shooting his toy musket at passersby and waging his own private war in the yard to be bothered by actually going inside the building to see what was involved with the making of the guns. So we didn't stay as long as Ted and I might have liked.

Then it was a quick walk up the street to the Governor's Palace, to the rear garden where Thomas Jefferson spoke! Once the kids got a glimpse of him, their curiosity was satisfied and they were ready to go, LOL. We listened for a little while, though I did have to take Kenna and the boys out for a trip to the bathroom. We spared the kids any further grief and left to get in line for a tour of the palace and just missed a group going in. There were 7 in our party, and that would have put them over. I mentioned that there was a couple who was right behind us and maybe they could go on in. You would have thought I had offered to pay for their Williamsburg vacation--the character at the gate was just so impressed by that "kind and thoughtful act." I thought he was joking at first, but he and the lady who came to relieve him both told me I'd be "surprised" at how rare that was--something I would have thought would simply be common courtesy! So, I guess it was a good lesson for our kids, but gee whiz, doesn't everyone teach that kind of thing?!

Lucan was a little squirmy during the first part of the tour, during which we had to sit on benches (first outside, then inside the first room) and listen, but after that we managed all right, though he wanted up and then down and then on Charis's back and then all over again, so we kind of had to be creative in distracting him. It was an interesting place to tour, especially the entryway with all the guns and swords. The boys thought that was AWESOME! The rest of the house probably didn't interest them all that much, but since we were on the move, it was pretty tolerable for them.

We did the hedge maze after the house tour and were pretty un-a-mazed, LOL. There was only one way in...and no other way out! However, there were smaller paths cut through the "walls" of the maze, so you could escape any old way you wanted. Hardly a challenge. But the kids had fun, especially Kenna, running around and around and around.

We had our picnic lunch on the Palace Green--it was very nice in the shade, though quite hot in the sun. Then we tried to see the basket maker and the weaver only to discover that apparently neither of them were open on Tuesdays. We did make a brief stop at the wheelwright's shop.

On our way to the Bindery we stopped in to see the inside of the court house. We learned some interesting things about crime and punishment during Colonial times. One of the things I found amusing was how "accommodating" the court was; if you were assigned 39 lashes and found yourself fainting after only 20 lashes, you could go home and return the next week to receive the last 19! I'm sure that would go over well today, LOL!

I bought ginger cakes for treats for us, since I had left our chips in the Suburban. I knew I'd be hearing cries of "I'm hungry!" all afternoon, and I probably would have heard that even if the kids HAD eaten their Sunchips, LOL! Lucan conked out on the way to the Bindery, so I stayed with him in the stroller while Ted and the kids took a quick peek inside--there was a homeschool mom monopolizing the man's time, reading off a list of questions and videotaping all the answers. So the poor man wasn't able to actually DO anything, and, believe it or not, the boys got bored! So that was a much quicker stop than we would have anticipated, but visiting the post office next door made up for it. Charis bought a tin whistle (rule given by the clerk: no playing it in a vehicle!), and Tobin bought his own copy of the Declaration of Independence.

The kids really wanted to see the presentation at the Play Booth titled "Fops, Rogues, and Villains." Unfortunately, since it was a presentation of excerpts of plays from Colonial times, put together with what to the boys seemed like lengthy explanations guessed it, the boys were bored! Oh, and Lucan woke up and began wailing during the show, so we left after about 2/3 of it. Since Ted and the boys ended up taking a bathroom break, Charis and I got to stay behind and finish watching the show.

Lucan managed to have a poop blowout AFTER we left the bathrooms behind, so I left Ted and the other kids at the Children's Discovery Center while I went to change him. It was a good break, as the activities in the barn kept the kids engaged for quite awhile. In fact, I even played a round of Old Maid with Arden and Tobin and a set of very old playing cards (or at least a replica of very old playing cards, LOL).

Finally, we were ready to head to the Great Hopes Plantation, where I met up with a friend from college (Kimberly S) and her family. She lives about 45 minutes away from Williamsburg, and we had arranged on Facebook to try to meet up. I haven't seen her probably since a mutual friend's wedding in 2003, so it was very fun to catch up! The kids tried their hands at dipping candles while we chatted. We didn't get to see as much of the plantation as I would have liked, but it probably worked out well since I was busy visiting anyway.

We said goodbye to our friends and Colonial Williamsburg and arrived back at the condo around 4:15, which was perfect since I planned a Stauffer's lasagna for dinner, and it needed to bake for an hour. We sat around in the hot tub for awhile and I tried to read the first chapter in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, but when Lucan kept trying to dunk himself under water, we decided we had better wait to read. After dinner, when Lucan was safely in bed, we read the first 3 chapters of Book One. I think it's safe to say we're hooked!

Tomorrow: Yorktown!

September 20, 2010

Day 3--Colonial Williamsburg, Part 1

We had a MUCH better night of rest last night than we did our night of camping! Everyone was cheery and ready for our adventures...although an allergy attack did slow Ted down a little. We stopped and got some OTC meds for him, and that helped a lot.

We arrived fairly early, which was good because we needed time to orient ourselves. About the time we made the trek down TO the village, it was just in time to figure out where the boys needed to go for their "electronic field trip" and get directions to the art museum for the girls' class, "Scherenschnitte," or the art of German scissor-cutting. The boys learned about the life of slaves in colonial times, and the girls tried their hand at a couple of scissor-cutting projects. That is, Charis and I did some cutting on the lines, while Kenna merrily cut scraps of paper into even smaller scraps of paper, waiting for the chance to get a hold of the glue stick. We finished in good time and wandered around the art museum for awhile, a truly amazing place where I could spend lots and lots of time if I didn't have someone short tugging on my pants legs and saying "C'mon, Mommy!" We also got to see the restored/museum-ized hospital where mentally ill patients were treated, one of the first places to actually have doctors trying to help the patients as opposed to simply locking them up. It was a little sad and difficult to explain to Charis (for example, she was absolutely aghast at some of the restraining devices), but I'm glad she was exposed to the information.

We met the boys at the print shop, where Ted was listening interestedly while Tobin and Arden were practically falling over from boredom. Oh, yay! Family togetherness, learning and sharing! We went from there to the blacksmith, which held their attention better, then caught a shuttle bus to go back to the parking lot to get our picnic lunch. We ate in the shade and then waited again for another shuttle bus, this time getting off at the capitol building, which we weren't able to see as they only did guided tours. Thirty minutes of political information? No thank you. Not with our crew!

The jail, however, captured everyone's interest, even Kenna's! (Check out our Facebook album to see her in jail!) After wandering around there a bit (and learning that the building housed Blackbeard's pirates!), we made our way down the main street, stopping in to see the wig-maker (fascinating!!), the silversmith, and the tailor/milliner. Charis also bought a souvenir copy of the Declaration of Independence. We hung out in the street a bit and waited until the Marquis de Lafayette arrived on horseback to tell us about his involvement with the American Revolution. I think the boys were mildly impressed with this performance, which is good since they were slumping their shoulders and proclaiming their boredom during most of our other stops.

We shuffled back to the art museum, having just missed the shuttle at the stop we were heading toward. We arrived at the museum just before the shuttle would have arrived at that same stop, so it was worth it to arrive to our next event in time, a class titled "Crack the Code." During this presentation the kids learned about ciphers and codes in the Revolutionary War and got to try their hand at decoding and deciphering. Charis and I enjoyed this very much, and I think the boys would have enjoyed it as well but for the fact that each family only got one packet. As much as we tried to involve everyone in the decoding activities, it was difficult to keep their attention, and when Kenna needed to go potty and Lucan began protesting loudly, everyone else pretty much jumped at the opportunity to leave the auditorium. Charis and I stayed to finish the code booklet, and then we too slipped out just before the onslaught.

We made one last stop by the stocks and pillory by the courthouse to take pictures, and then we trudged back to the parking lot, more than ready to call it a day! The little ones are asleep, Charis and Tobin are reading library books, and Arden and Ted are watching Monday Night Football. The dishwasher and teeny-tiny washing machine are humming away in the kitchen, and I am ready to crash with my family. It's been a good day--not at all boring, though I suppose if I were to peek at the boys' journals (which I will do at some point!), I will probably find that very word in most of their descriptions! Oh, well--I hope someday they will look back on all this and think more fondly of the experience!

September 19, 2010

Day 2--Monticello

It took longer than the kids really wanted for us to be ready to leave camp, but there's only so much you can do to dry off two tents wet with condensation. We had a yummy breakfast (yogurt, homemade bran muffins, bananas, and OJ), though the kids were shivering all the while despite Eilene's nifty little heater. Tobin retreated to the Suburban to read his book in relative warmth, while I took the other 4 on another walk to the lake. The sun was coming out, and we actually enjoyed our morning walk! This gave Ted time to tear down the camp in peace. (We did have the kids help as much as they could, but honestly, they couldn't have been much help even if they hadn't been so pathetically cold!)

By 9:30 we were on our way to Monticello, which was only about a half-hour drive away. We got our tickets and caught a shuttle bus to the top of the "little mountain" (which is what Monticello means in Italian) to begin our tour at 10:40. By the second room Lucan was getting squirrelly, so I took him and a tag-along Kenna outside to explore. They told me I could catch another tour, so I figured it would be better to trade off rather than deal with a squirmy Lucan, who was apparently not so excited to stay in the stroller.

So I switched with Ted when they came out awhile later, after having seen some of the areas outside and below the main floor. Kenna decided she wanted to go with me, which was OK until we got to the dining room, and then she had a major meltdown over not being with Daddy (sigh--who let her come inside with me anyway?!), so I had to leave my tour AGAIN to take her out to find Ted. Mercifully he was right in sight, so I sent her on her way and went back to catch the end of the tour.

To make this a little less wordy, the house is amazing! Thomas Jefferson was amazing, actually. I've learned a lot more about him in the last 2 days than I ever remember learning before. I am SO glad Ted mentioned that we should stop there on our way to Williamsburg. I absolutely loved everything about the house tour. I'm glad we read the book we did yesterday, as it prepped both us and the kids to get the most out of the tour. During the short time I was with the whole family for the first part of the tour, I was so proud of Charis and Tobin (and maybe even Arden, too, I can't remember) for answering questions the tour guide asked. They were the only kids in that particular tour group, and she seemed happy to have them there and to be so involved.

When we lived in D.C., Ted and I went to Mount Vernon a couple of times. (Well, the kids went, too, but they don't remember!) There are similar elements between the two houses, but Monticello is definitely in a class by itself. I was just as fascinated by daily life as by the clever inventions and decorating style--it was neat to hear the stories that the guides told.

(On a completely unrelated note, I can totally see Ted and me being tour guides in some historical place during our retired years! Wouldn't that be so cool?!)

Instead of taking the shuttle back down to the Visitors' Center, we walked down the trail and were so glad we did--some living history interpreters were spread along the trail, working the crafts that were done (by slaves) on "Mulberry Row." So we saw a man making nails, a man weaving baskets, and a man making shutters and window frames. We were able to ask questions and interact and learned a lot about life for those who weren't fortunate enough to inherit wealth and freedom.

Lucan fell asleep in the stroller on our way down, which worked out well (though he never did nap later on when we really WANTED him to fall asleep!!), as we spent quite a bit of time in the Discovery Center, which had all kinds of hands-on activities for the kids. If you ever want to visit Monticello, and you have kids, you simply MUST go here!! (Even if you don't have kids, this is a great place to spend some time!) Ted and I had as much fun as the kids did. :-)

When we were finally ready to go--and by "ready," I mean "we would be pushing our luck to make the kids do anything else here"--we drove less than a mile away to Michie's Tavern, which was a stop highly recommended to us by our friends and small group leaders Bruce and Shirley. Oh, my, the food was AMAZING!!! The dining experience was slightly stressful, as Lucan did not want to eat anything and spent most of his time deciding he wanted out of the, in the, out of the, in the highchair... And Kenna ate a minimal amount and wanted to sit on someone's lap because she was cold. But other than musical chairs with the little ones, wow, what a yummy dinner! Fairly expensive for our family (though the little ones ate free, thank goodness), so the jury is still out--yummy food and great period atmosphere vs. squirmy little ones and high prices. I'm not sorry we stopped, but we'll definitely have to be careful with the budget from here on out!

After a stop at the gift store, from which Charis bought a real bullet from the Revolutionary War for $5.50 and the boys each paid $20 for toy rifles that should last MUCH longer than the pop guns we gave them years ago, we were on our way to Williamsburg. The trip was only a little over 2 hours long, but it seemed so much longer because of Lucan's melodious screams. (Did I mention he didn't nap when we actually WANTED him to?!)

Despite the fact that the older kids were convinced the exit sign would NEVER appear, we did in fact arrive and are now enjoying some peace and quiet in our two-bedroom condo. It is BEAUTIFUL! (Special thanks to my friend Claire for the info on this good deal!) I found a grocery store and got food for us for the next five days--it was a small store in a small town, so I didn't get the deals I might have elsewhere, but considering we're feeding 7 people three meals a day, Monday through Thursday plus dinner tonight and breakfast Friday...$112 isn't too bad! Ted took the kids swimming while I went out, and they were just getting back when I arrived.

Now everyone is fed and in bed, including Ted, but I am typing instead! (OK, it's really time to get to sleep--no more rhymes now, I mean it!)

Tomorrow, Colonial Williamsburg!

Day 1 of the Great American Adventure

We have computer access for a few days at our condo, so before I crash for the night (and I fully intend to CRASH), I want to quickly jot down my thoughts about our trip so things don't start to run together.

We left around 9 a.m. on Saturday, which was about on target. I did not, however, get to mop the kitchen floor, and there was more clutter left around the house than I would like, but hey--what's more important, coming home to a clean house, or leaving with my family and not being stressed about temporal things?! Yeah, I agree.

Many hours and "are we there yets" later, we finally pulled into our campground where we had a reservation for one night. It was a fairly good road trip, though Lucan only napped a grand total of about 20 minutes. We had a nice stop for lunch at a rest area in West Virginia, where we saw lots of gorgeous butterflies, raced each other in the grass, and ate a picnic lunch. Lucan wiggled himself backwards off the picnic bench, though, and conked his head on the cement. Poor fellow! He didn't seem too phased by it and only cried a little bit.

During the trip I read aloud one of Charis's readers that I stole from her stash, Meet Thomas Jefferson. It was very informative, though the writing was definitely intended for a younger reader--it was a bit choppy to read aloud, though I did combine a lot of sentences so it didn't sound so simplistic. Still, we all learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson, including the fact that he shares a birthday AND initials with Tobin! It made us excited for our trip to Monticello the following day.

We arrived at the campground around 5:30 p.m. and had just enough time to set up tents (Ted) and gather firewood (the kids and me, but mostly me, LOL). Charis was very helpful in sorting and organizing the sticks into neat little piles, and Lucan stayed content in the stroller after conking his head AGAIN by falling off the picnic bench. Sigh. Hopefully there's a life lesson learned there.

We roasted hot dogs and ate them sans ketchup, since I had left the Chick-Fil-A packets I had been saving specially for the trip at home. Sigh. But the kids didn't seem to mind, since I did remember the graham crackers and marshmallows...but forgot the chocolate frosting. Sigh again! Ah, well, roasted marshmallows by themselves were good enough!

I proposed a brilliant plan after dinner--I would take the older three kids on a walk in the moonlit night to see the lake, on the other side of the hill from our campsite, and we would stay gone long enough for Lucan to fall asleep in the pack-and-play in Ted's and my tent and Kenna to fall asleep in the kids' tent. The night was beautiful; we identified some constellations and enjoyed seeing the moonlight on the lake. Crisp, cool, and clear--perfect camping weather.

The plan worked...until the boys woke Kenna up while Charis and I were taking out our contacts in the bathhouse. [Insert another sigh here.] Lucan, though, stayed quiet, so that was a plus. About an hour later the kids were finally quiet, and Ted was snoring VERY loudly. Insert ear plugs...which unfortunately didn't help...and thus began the longest. night. EVER.

Three times Lucan awoke and screamed.
Twice he joined me in my sleeping bag.
Once I had to leave the tent to go potty, which was up a fairly steep hill.
Once Kenna woke and loudly protested against Arden's change of direction--he was lying perpendicular to all the other kids. This resulted in ALL five children waking, with various persons crying, hollering, shoving, and generally being non-conducive to rest.

Countless times we shushed the kids, and I rolled Ted over to try to prevent his snoring more than my tired brain could compute. While I was comfortable temperature-wise, the kids were apparently all freezing. (Tobin did learn, albeit too late, that it is not a good idea to sleep up against the side of the tent! He was rather damp this morning...)

It was not a great night for any of us, and I was relieved when it was finally 6:30 and light enough to officially wake up.

Tobin kind of summed up everyone's feelings when he said, "I NEVER want to go camping again!"

Privately, Ted and I were thinking, "We NEVER want to take you people camping AGAIN!"

Thus began Day 2 of our adventures...

September 14, 2010

Sweet 'n' Sour

I posted this on Facebook, but it's just too cute to not share with our non-FB friends and family. :-)

Arden at the lunch table: Know why I'm so happy, Mom? It's 'cuz I live with the 2 best brothers in the world.

Me: Oh, Arden, that's sweet! How about the 2 best sisters?

Arden: Mm-hmmm. Well, Kenna's kind of annoying.

September 11, 2010

Seven on Saturday

HOW is it possible that it has been 8 days since my last post?! So much blog-worthy material to write little time. Sigh. Time for blurbs.

1. This morning I ran my first 5K, a race to benefit missionaries our church supports. (Check out their web site.) Ted and Scott, one of our neighbors, also ran. It was wonderful weather and a lot of fun. There were about 200 racers altogether. We all finished in less than 30 minutes, so that was fun, and I actually won a door prize packet. I think I have Charis interested in running a 5K with me sometime!

2. Last weekend was Labor Day weekend, right?! (Time flies.) We did lots of fun family activities and managed not to kill one another with all the togetherness. The weekend included a pool party at a neighbor's house, teaching the art of Settlers of Catan to Scott and Eilene, and a hike at the gorge near Cedarville University (my old stomping grounds, as my dad would say).

3. Our first "full" week of school went very well! I should probably make that a separate blog post. One of the reasons it went well, I think, is that I am now beginning my 6th year of homeschooling. This does not mean I'm an expert--just that I no longer feel the need to be SuperHomeSchoolingMom! We are relaxing and enjoying the journey! (Hopefully this approach will last longer than the first week.)

4. AWANA started Wednesday night. I can't believe we have 4 kids in AWANA this adorable Cubbie, one last-year Sparky, and two T&Ters (Truth & Training)!

5. Tomorrow Ted, Arden, Tobin, and 5 friends are going to the Reds game in Cincinnati. Charis and Tobin each got 4 free tickets as part of their Bible Bee award package, and Charis had zero interest in attending a baseball game. I had zero interest in trying to manage two little ones at a baseball game. So we are staying home in the afternoon and will attend the church picnic in the evening, assuming it doesn't get rained out.

6. We found out our request to tour the White House was denied, as they did not have any available spaces during our requested available days. Sigh. Oh, well--there is a lot to do in D.C.!

7. I had a FANTASTIC response to a Stampin' 101 class that I hosted here at home on Sept. 2 and 7. There were 6 people here on the 2nd (2 of whom were downline members!), and 9 people here on the 7th. I had a BLAST! The ladies were so much fun. I gave away two hostess stamp sets and other little gifts, so that everyone who came got a goodie to take home along with their make-and-take project. Best part for me...THREE people booked workshops! That was very encouraging after quite a dry spell for me and my business. I'm praising the Lord and excited to get back into the stampin' routine!

September 03, 2010


It's Friday! Ted's off work for a 4-day weekend, and we're preparing for the first field trip of the school year. It's a "Wade in the Water" class at Wegerzyn Gardens. The older kids have play dates scheduled with friends for the afternoon, so it should be fairly quiet around here. Ted plans to take Kenna with him when he runs some errands during Lucan's nap time, so I'll have a chance to think about our menu and grocery shopping list--hopefully the last time I will do this before our big Williamsburg/D.C. trip!

The last three days we practiced our daily schedule, minus some key school activities, LOL. But the transitions seemed to go well, and that was mostly what I was wondering about, particularly the time Kenna would be spending with her older sibs. I'm hopeful that we have a workable routine, but we'll see how things go when we have a full day's worth of school to do! This week we just eased back into math (although there was nothing "easy" about that first day--oh, my, I really should have kept on the kids all summer!) and read the one read-aloud book from our Sonlight Core 2 that we missed last year. It was well worth reading! (The Apprentice, for those familiar with the core.) Charis wrote on her blog about the Bible Bee experience during her language arts time, while Tobin sneaked in some workbook time on his new Sonlight language arts books. (I've finally stopped worrying about keeping to the Instructor's Guide schedule! If Tobin wants to work ahead in phonics and vocabulary, why should I stop him?!) Arden spent time reading on his own, and all the kids did really well with their one-on-one time with Kenna. Hooray!

The other schoolish activity that kept the kids busy was Tobin's "Dig a Glow Dinosaur" project. We had bought the kit for him a couple of years ago for his birthday, but we never seemed to have an opportunity to get it out and do it. It's a very messy project--a block of plaster with dinosaur "bones" hidden inside. There are tools to chip away and brush off the plaster, mimicking archaeology, and then you assemble the skeleton and voila! You have a glow-in-the-dark artifact, LOL. The deck is covered with red plaster, and my kitchen floor has been too, though we've mopped a couple of times since! But it has kept all 5 kids intrigued; Tobin has generously allowed his siblings to bang away and excavate bones along with him. (The fact that the project wasn't finished in 20 minutes probably has something to do with him "letting" the kids "help!")

The Sonlight books have at least been separated into piles: Science, history, Bible, electives, and Charis's new readers, which is a VERY large pile! I've teased her that it looks like she gets to read the best books! The rest of the family may steal her readers and read them together, LOL! We will definitely read Meet Thomas Jefferson before our trip, since our first stop is Monticello!

The plan is for me to assemble the IG notebooks and start our regular school schedule next week. We may very well take two weeks to cover one scheduled week, but we'll see how things go. The kids are beyond excited to begin the next core! Tobin came home the other day, puzzled because he had told his (public school) friend that he loved school, and Daniel had basically told him he was weird, because no one else he knew even liked school! That made me feel extra joyful. :-)

Time to go pack lunches so we can enjoy a picnic after our field trip...that is, if it doesn't start raining!

ETA: I should probably mention--though most of our blog readers probably know this from Facebook--that Charis did not make it to Nationals for the Bible Bee. But she did rank #144 out of 912 primary contestants! (Only the top 100 can go to Nationals.) Hopefully this will be encouraging and motivating for her in future years!