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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lessons From a Backyard Campout

When we bought our tent two years ago, we had every intention of taking it camping in all sorts of places. We have never made it any further than our backyard. When we are ready to go camping, it doesn't even cross our minds to take it anywhere else. Oh, I'm sure one day we will, but so far, we are content.
There are, as you can imagine, a few advantages to camping in the backyard.
1. Since we are familiar with all of the animals and bugs in our own yard, there are no surprises with what might wander into the camping area.
2. There are all sorts of strange sounds in the middle of a dark night spent outside. They are, however, not so strange to us since we live here!

3. The bathroom is never far away, and we don't have to squat to use it.

4. Because we are so close to the house, we can take LOTS of things to the tent. We have our board games, chairs, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. We have a very comfortable home away from home.

Believe it or not, along with the advantages there are a few disadvantages to backyard camping.

1. Yes, we ARE familiar with the animals and bugs in our yard and do not expect any surprises. However, this also means that the fat, hairy spider that I killed under our garage earlier in the day manages to make its way into my imagination every time I close my eyes to fall asleep.

2. It is comforting to know every sound that comes out of a dark night in our own yard. However, when you know every sound so well, a new one can cause you to conjure up all sorts of sources as to where it came from!

3. The bathroom is never far away, and we never have to squat to use it. Sometimes I wonder if we are missing one of the key ingredients of a true camping trip!

4. While I agree that it is super cool to have all of those fun things in the tent, I must also admit that it is a pain hauling it all back into the house when it is over. Suddenly, what seemed like such a short trip the night before can start to feel like miles!! Perhaps it's the change in our energy level after staying up half the night...perhaps it's only because the fun is over!
As a little extra, I will throw in two new lessons that I have learned"!

1. A tent with three rooms is, in fact, one room with very thin dividers, which means that you and everyone invited to the campout, including any animals that you were brave enough to bring along, may as well be sleeping together as if you were all piled into one bed. There are no walls thick enough to keep out the sleep induced sounds of those around you!

2. The trains that you no longer notice every night inside your house will sound as if they are stopping at "tent depot" to pick you up every time they pass by on the nearby railroad track!!!
With all of the advantages and disadvantages of back yard camping, some things remain a constant. Waking up to a thin layer of moisture covering everything, weighing you down, yet filling you with a refreshing newness. The kids pouring out of the tent ready to start the day playing. No one has any desire to retreat to the house or remain inside the tent. They are already outside and plan to make the most of it...not willing to let the adventure end too soon.

Breakfast always taste better when it is cooked outside over an open fire, as the flames are brought back to life after a night of rest. The paper towels are wet with dew and the drink cooler is watered down from the previous evening's ice. It all feels used and tired until the frying bacon spreads its thin layer of aroma over everything, bringing it to life again.

Everyone may be tired from attempting to hang on to the day before too long, but the new day has arrived...not stale, but instead full of life and promise.
Where you wake up is irrelevant...be it a new scenery each day or a home away from home, well, at home. It is what you make it.
Home Sweet Home!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Welcome To The Family!

We finally took the plunge and let white van go!! Jeff brought this surprise home for me today :)

I LOVE IT! Thankyou Jeff!!!

World Wide Day of Play!

Get out and PLAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm so impressed with how the Nick channel goes black today for the World Wide Day of Play.It's a BEAUTIFUL day, so we won't have any problem with being outside! When Jeff gets home, we're going to put up our tent and invite a few kids over to spend the night.....STAY AWAY MOSQUITOES!!! The kids are so excited..okay, I am too :).
So, GET OUT AND PLAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spider Web Fun!

We're studying spiders in Science this week. Today, we used black yarn to create a huge cobweb in our playroom. I started out having each one of the kids tell a fact about spiders and then add to the web. After we had gone through all of the facts we've learned so far this week, I just let them go wild with the web. It was so fun...they enjoyed it so much.

It's a mess, but I let them leave it up for Josh, the neighbor, to see when he gets home. They also want Daddy to see it. I think Madison even made one in her room. I'm sure it's not going to be nearly as fun to take it all down as it was to put it up!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What A Find!

Last week in Science, we began our study on insects. We are making an insect board to display all of the insects that we find. We're using a classifying system to place each one of them into its appropriate group. Some insects are easy to place without the system, but it is more difficult when we find an insect that we are not familiar with. Madison loved using the system. I was surprised with how much she enjoyed using it.

While walking out in the yard searching for insects for our study, we came across an unusual one that looked like a large velvet ant. We managed to capture it to get a closer look at it. Patrick told us that he had heard about something like it that he thought was called a cow killer ant. We Googled it...gotta love Google...and found that he was right. The insect is, while sometimes called a cow killer ant, a type of wasp that looks like a large velvet ant. It is pretty rare and travels solo, unlike ants that live in colonies. What we also found out is that its sting is VERY PAINFUL, thus earning the name cow killer ant. Its sting has been known to kill cows because it is so very painful!!! Not only is it very painful, but can also cause arthritis-like symptoms for years afterwards. Whew, I was glad that I didn't know all of that before we caught it, or I would have been to afraid to mess with it!!! Every insect on our board was found already dead, but I am ashamed to say that we killed this one. I frankly did not want to let it back out into our yard to maybe one day show us how painful the sting is!!! It also made a beautiful addition to our collection.
We'll continue to add to the board as we find new insects. We still have a few empty groups...can't have that! We hope to fill it up before the end of the school year!

Nice Job Jeff!

Jeff got a new camera yesterday. It looks like he already has the hang of it!!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Letters from Canada...To the Survivors of Katrina

Two years ago.
For some, it is a long time.
It was two years ago that we began homeschooling....it feels like we have been doing it forever.
For an 11 year old waiting to become a teenager, two years is forever.
There are, however, many who remember the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina as if it happened only yesterday, instead of two years ago. Their lives were changed dramatically, and it happened so quickly that it has taken this long to even comprehend it all.
In the months following Katrina, the world reached out to the victims in so many amazing ways. People offered their homes and churches for shelter, fed and clothed those who needed it, gave spiritual guidance, and provided shoulders to cry on. Many people sat at home and watched the events unfold wishing that they could do something. Others...those who lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, and surrounding states....were able to find shelters where they could work with the victims or for the victims. Children were encouraged to help the new students, the Katrina victims forced to start over, feel welcome.

Like many of the churches in our area, my church served as a shelter for a group of people from New Orleans....a pastor and many of the members of his congregation. Susan, a friend of mine from Canada, knew this and asked if some of the children from her local school could write letters and send them to me to be passed around at the shelter. Of course, I agreed. I waited with anticipation for the letters, but by the time they arrived, the shelter was no longer in service. Everyone had either gone home or scattered to more long-term arrangements. I considered taking the letters to one of the many temporary mobile home parks in our area, but never did build up the nerve to go door to door delivering them. As a result, the letters went undelivered. For two years, I have felt terrible about this. Sometimes I empty the big yellow envelope and get lost in the letters....words straight from the heart of so many boys and girls who took the time to write with the faith that actual hurricane victims would read their words. While so many people were donating their time, money, and material items, these children gave the only thing that they could. While the pages appear to be filled with mere words, they hold so much more. I would like to share some of the letters here in hopes that some of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina will see them and be encouraged, even now, 2 years after the event that changed so many lives. Though many people have forgotten them, there are families out there who are still victims of Katrina. While I, or these precious children from Canada, may not be there to help them, I pray that many will read the words here and be encouraged.

Here are the gifts that are held within the Letters from Canada. Some of them are full letters and some excerpts. They are so much more than just words.

The gift of sympathy:

From Rachel:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
I am very sorry to hear what happened to your home. I was happy to hear that you have found a place to stay until you can find a home of your own. It is hard for me to understand what happened to you, your family, and friends since I don't have to worry about that kind of thing.
I know if you keep praying to God, he will help you through this hard time. You can't give up. Something good will happen. I hope everything works out.

From Melissa:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
I would like to apologize for what has recently happened to you in New Orleans. It is very unfortunate that this tragic thing happened and so many people died. I live on a farm with many resources, so it is hard for me to understand the pain all of you are going through. Always remember to look on the bright side. There's always hope!!!

From Inke:
Dear Friends of New Orleans,
I am terribly sorry for the horrible experience you have had to face down in New Orleans. Although it's hard for me to understand what you've been through because I am lucky enough to have a house and fresh food, you still have my deepest sympathy. Our class is willing to raise money or other needed supplies. We are still discussing what our plan might be. I hope your family pulls through and know that God only throws obstacles at you that He knows you can handle. I, myself have a family of six. Four years ago my family and I immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands. From a caring friend who wishes you all the best!

The gift of spiritual guidance:

From Celina:
I'm Celina! I'm 10 years old. I live in Wartburg, Ontario, Canada. Up here, everyone can't believe what is happening to you! I feel so sorry for you. Have you lost any family members. If you have, I shall keep you and that member in my prayers. Remember, even in your darkest hour, God still loves you! Please write back on the back of the page!
(Celina even thought to tape a pen to her letter to give the recipient of her note the means to write back! I thought that was amazing!)

From Deanna:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
I feel very sorry for you all and everything you had to go through. It must be hard to go through so much all at once, but don't worry. It may seem that God has let you down, but he will help you get through it. There is always hope. Do not give up, and try to stay strong. I don't know what it feels like to go through what you are feeling, so it is hard to relate. But even though I can't, I realize how hard it must be to have faith. God saved your lives which is a huge
blessing. So in the morning when you wake up, thank God for your life. He loves you all very much. Also remember that there is someone thinking about you. Our prayers and thoughts will always be with you.

From Logan:
Hey. My name is Logan. What happened is not imaginable. Floods, fires, and drowning is what you have been through. You have lost your homes and all of your things. I hope you'll get your homes back and your family is safe. I hope you are not injured. Who knows how long this will go on. All I have to say is never loose faith, never give up, and remember God is with you through it all. I can't imagine something like this in Canada. Although we are in different countries we have to stick together in times of need. So stay strong it will be over soon, and your community will be rebuilt. After all, Oprah Winfrey sent you ten million dollars today.

The gift of friendship:

From Natalie:
Dear families from New Orleans,
I am sorry about what happened. I can't even begin to imagine what you are going through. You've probably lost a lot of family and friends. I bet some of you are feeling lost and lonely. Here is a poem to cheer you up:
When you are feeling lost and lonely
Remember that you're not the only
One who's lost someone
Be thankful you survived
And you have family still alive
Start a new life for yourself
And never forget
We will be here to support you

From Jessica:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
Hurricane Katrina was devastating, and I am honestly sorry for what happened to you and your family. I can't say I know what it's like because I honestly don't. My name is Jessica. I live in southern Ontario. I love to dance, play soccer, and mountain bike. I have a brother, a sister, a mom, and a dad. These are a few facts about me. If you send me a letter explaining a little about yourself, we could get to know each other better. Send a picture or anything. If you ever need anything like shirts, food, or money then mail it to me and I'll give it to you!

From Nicole:
Dear friends of New Orleans,
That is a horrible thing that has happened. I couldn't imagine what you are going through. You should never give up, and have hope. Look at the good side. You guys are the lucky ones. You are sheltered and are alive. I give you all my sympathy. If you need anything don't be afraid to ask. I'm sure we can give you things like clothes, everyday supplies, and money. Our school could raise money for food and send it down. Send a picture so we know who we're sending this to. I am a 13 year old girl named Nicole. I play hockey and soccer. Tell me some stuff about your. I am willing to help. Write back about any questions or needs. From a willing friend.

The gift of encouragement:

From Tasmin:
Dear families from New Orleans,
I feel so sorry for you. I wish you all the best. I cannot imagine if that happened to me. Well look on the bright side. At least you are alive. If I could do anything to help, I would. It's a good thing that you were evacuated before you got hurt. I am positive that you will be safe. God won't let you down. I should say that you are lucky to have shelter and food and water. My brother and I were adopted, and my brother's parents live in New Orleans. I know that President Bush will do anything to help you. I hope that church housing isn't too uncomfortable. You should be proud that you and your families are alive. Hopefully they will get all of the sea water out and build a new wall.

From Daniel:
Dear friends,
Hi. My name is Daniel. I am from Monkton, Ontario. I am ten years old. I like playing sports and playing Play Station 2. I am sorry you lost everything. I can't imagine that, but the best thing is that you are still here. People all over the world are inspired by you. What you are fighting is amazing. I hope you get a home back in New Orleans.

From Mackenzie:
Hi, :)
I'm Mackenzie. I'm 10 years old and have 1 brother and 1 sister. I heard about the hurricane. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose everything..your pets, job, house, car, and maybe even family. I hope you and your family will be back in New Orleans in no time at all. I hope your life will turn around soon. You will be back in your home in no time. Maybe get a new job, home, pet, and life.

This is just a small selection of the many letters that I received. If you know of someone who
would be encouraged by them, please send them the link. If you are someone who was encouraged, please leave me a note. I would love to hear from you.

Even 2 years after Hurricane Katrina, I know that many of you are still hurting from loss of loved ones and possessions. Even though you might be settled into a new life, a part of you most certainly still longs for home, wherever that was. I pray that you will find your way to these letters so that you will know you are still thought of after all this time....2 years later. These letters are for you....a gift from the children of Canada and a gift from me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What Is It About Fall?

Everything feels different when fall approaches.
Sunday night I was in my car..on the way home from somewhere...and suddenly had the urge to roll down my windows and turn up the 80's/today's hits mixdown that was playing on the radio. I actually just wanted to ride around and enjoy the breeze moving through the car and just listen and feel.
I woke up this morning to sunshine pouring down over my yard. It could be any summer morning with all of the sunshine, but it isn't. It has a certain "feel" to it. The trees look different....like they are more alive and able to absorb and enjoy the sun instead of being beaten down by it. It makes me want to run out there and be a part of it!
Someone was burning a brush pile last week. At just the slightest whiff of it, we were all ready to put up our tent and make our own little bonfire. I wanted to fill the tent with sleeping bags in anticipation of snuggling down in them to face a frigid night and damp morning.
I want to bake. I made cookies last night and bought all sorts of other things to help us put on that extra winter weight :).

Speaking of baking, Anne from http://annebradshaw.blogspot.com/ asked me to post the recipe for my double layer pumpkin pie.
4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 TBSP milk
1TBSP sugar
1 1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip
1 graham pie crust
1 cup cold milk
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin
2 packages Jello-vanilla flavored instant pudding & pie filling
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

MIX: Cream cheese, 1 TBSP milk, and sugar/Gently stir in the whipped topping. Spread on bottom of crust.

POUR: 1 cup cold milk into bowl and add pumpkin, pudding mixes, and spices. Beat (mixture will be thick). Spread over the cream cheese layer.

Anna, let me know how it turns out for you. We love it!

So, even though we still have some warm days ahead of us and can never really anticipate true winter weather here in the South, we still have our fall. It has a certain magic to it for me...like no other season. I know that spring is supposed to be the time for bringing things to life, but I always feel like I am coming to life in the fall. There's just something about being released from the heavy weight of heat and humidity that drags everyone down in the summer, like the leaves that are finally free to fall to the ground.

I love summer with the lazy days and water fun.
I love winter...the little that we get.
I love the surprise of spring when I once again remember how green things can be.

But there's just SOMETHING about fall!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Animal Defenses

Last week we continued learning about animals with emphasis on defense tactics. Here are a few pictures that the kids drew of some imaginary animals with very cool methods for defense. I loved seeing all of the different things they came up with!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Awana Begins

We've started back with the Awana program at our church. For the first time ever, all three of my kids are in the same group...the last one before youth. I remember when mine were in cubbies and sparks, and the T & T kids looked so much older. Well, now mine are all in T & T(Truth & Training), and it's so hard to believe that they have all reached that age. What is really hard to believe is that next year Madison will be with the youth!! I'm going to try to enjoy this year of having them all together without worrying about losing them all to the youth group.

Carter was SO EXCITED to get his T & T shirt last night, but that's how Carter is about everything in life. He slept in it and is wearing it today. He's always one step behind Madison and Patrick in everything, so when he gets to be just like them, of course he's excited about it.

We had "Camo Night" last night in Awana. This is something that I can't go all out with because Jeff is not a big hunter. We did happen to have a few camo hats, so we were at least covered for the theme.

I think the next special night is "Super Hero" night. We will have more than enough to get us through that! Oh, and by the way, Jeff and I missed the last "Super Hero" night....we were on our cruise. "sigh" How I wish we were missing this year too!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Little 80's Fun!

Madison and her friend, Elyse, let me have a little fun with them today. They let me transport them back to the 80's with all of the wonderful fashion, makeup, and hairstyles I could manage. This is the same friend who, along with Madison, let me dress her in styles from the 1800's once when she was here.
We spent probably two hours on our transformations, but they turned out better than I ever expected. When the two of them were completely made up, it truly was like looking at myself, as well as all of my friends, during the 80's and early 90's. They were complete with their big hair, big earrings, slouch socks, layered shirts, high collars, etc. They had such a good time and most probably thought that I was doing it all for them. They have to idea how much fun that was for me...it was amazing to take that little trip back......WHAT FUN!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm No Wonder Woman!

Do you remember those TV moms that always had it all together....Mrs. Beaver and Mrs. Brady? What about the "bring home the bacon" mom in her sexy clothes with supper made and a happy man...remember her?

Oh wait a minute! We don't have to turn on the TV to see these pretend moms because they surround our every day lives. I'm not being sarcastic...just realistic. Really, we all know the woman who loves to portray to others that she is perfect and has it all together. Just in case my name came to any one's mind (not as someone perfect but as someone who tries to portray it), let me set the record straight.
I have nothing to prove to anyone. I am not PERFECT at anything.
We love instant potatoes in my house. They make the best potato salad and do not involve standing at the sink peeling the real things.
Jiffy cornbread tastes so much better than the homemade stuff!
I'm cooking a nice big roast tonight, complete with potatoes, onions, and carrots. I might add that I found it all together in a Tyson kit with all of the vegetables cut up and ready to cook....wonderful. I'm sure it will be quite tasty, and hey, the vegetables are real!
A wet rag swiped around the sink does a great job of making the bathroom look freshly cleaned until I can get around to pulling out my cleaning supplies.
I hate to mop.
My car gets dirty.
My clothes pile up and sometime take a few days to make it from their folded piles in the laundry room to their respective closets/drawers.
Our dog doesn't get taken out at 7:00 sharp every morning and sometimes runs out of treats and has to settle for cereal for a couple of days.
We have a bowflex and an elliptical trainer in our playroom. I can't believe how well they toned up my arms and legs. It's really too bad that the results aren't still obvious a year after I quit using them.
My kids watch TV every day, play video games often, swim in the rain, sometime go outside in the evenings without bug spray, go trick or treating and keep their Halloween candy in their rooms, and don't take as many baths in the summertime because it doesn't make sense to bathe after 8 hours in the pool.

I often forget to call my friends for a long time or never return their calls.

Does all of this mean that I am not a good person, wife, mother, or friend?
You choose.
If you ask Jeff and the kids they will tell you that no one cooks as well as I do. It is irrelevant to them what methods I choose. I know Jeff will be very thankful that I picked the celery out of the vegetable mix that came with my boxed roast and threw it all into the garbage...he hates celery!
Most people say that my house is always neat and clean....okay, then I must be doing something right...if not perfect.

Ginger is probably one of the happiest dogs alive. She has three children who play with her every day and fight over who will sleep with her every night. She lives with people who know that when she looks at them a certain way that she needs to go out...then she gets to run around and play until she is ready to come back to the door and be let in. She might run out of treats sometimes, but it's because she gets them for doing almost anything. She's happy and loves us as much...no, more....than anyone who might claim to be a perfect dog owner.
No, I don't look like a body builder, but I know how to drop a few pounds when I need to, and I haven't had to go out and buy bigger clothes. As a matter of fact, I wear a smaller size than I did when I got married. I guess taking care of a family and home do more to keep a woman in shape than any exercise equipment or diet out there!

I have a lot of friends. They are all mothers and wives too, so they understand that I will call them when I can. We all know and understand this about one another....that's why we are friends.
My children have not shown any signs of violent behavior or rebellion as a result of their TV watching and video game playing. Luckily, their mosquito bites have only caused ugly red marks and itchy nights. They still have all of their teeth, and we haven't gone broke from dental procedures. As for the "pool baths"........they are just one of the wonderful things about summertime...no harm done!
Loosen up women! If the cameras had followed those TV moms home, we would have seen plenty of short cuts, unhealthy snacks, cluttered floors, and......well, REAL LIFE!!!
Let it be known...............................

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Back To School

Our first week back to school went well. We started out with a short week since Monday was a holiday, but it's always easy to absorb one day into the rest of the week. The kids...and I....settled back in better than I thought we would. As wonderful as summer break is, I am always glad to get back on a schedule.

The kids and I made biscuit donuts together for breakfast on Tuesday...our first day. Then, we ordered pizza for lunch. My kids love tradition and pizza on the first day of school has become one that they do not let me forget!

Last year, we began a study on the different continents, but concentrated mostly on North American history. This year, we will take each continent and do a deeper study on it. I bought boxes for the kids to decorate and fill with items from each continent. We'll work on the boxes throughout the year. We started decorating them this week.

We studied animals this week in Science. Each one of the kids picked an animal and had to find out different things about it (number of young, hibernation or not, form of communication, group name, etc.) We made a chart with all of the information that they found. We also talked about instincts, learned behavior, and habitats. On Friday, we went for a walk outside to find different animal homes. I let them take Polaroid pictures of the homes they found, so they could use them to draw pictures during their journal time. The kids loved this activity and enjoyed journaling it.

To help with our study of animals, we took a trip to the zoo. We went on Saturday, so our neighbor's son was able to go with us. I didn't try to turn the entire trip into a Science lesson, but it was amazing how much of our lesson they brought up during the day. I think it was fun for them to actually see some of the animals that we had talked about and looked at in our books. Carter and Madison rode a horse at the "Giant Horse Riding" exhibition they had set up. Carter has been telling me that he wants to ride a horse, so he was very excited about this! We also rode the boat, so we got to hear a lot of good information about the animals from the guide. The highlight of the day was getting to see a little joey kangaroo!!!!! It was SO CUTE, and we even got to see it climb into the mother's pouch.....WOW!!! It's still very hot here, so I took the kids for ice cream after we left the zoo...okay, I wanted some too :) !

I think we all had a good time our first week back. I spend so much time planning our lessons out during the summer, so it's always exciting for me to see them come to life. I'm so lucky that my kids enjoy the things that I plan for them, which makes learning so much fun! No, they don't always like to sit for the book work, but if I mix enough fun stuff in with it, everything balances out!