Friday, February 26, 2010

All I Wanted was a Picture

I love to take pictures. It’s kind of crazy, but sometimes I plan what pictures I want to take before a trip.

On this trip I’d planned a couple shots that I didn’t want to miss. I wanted to take pictures along the way as we cross over each state line. This doesn’t normally work for us because we often cross into each state on a crazy three or four lane interstate; somewhere that would feel life threatening to stop and snap a frivolous picture.

Okay, maybe that’s not completely true. I’ll be honest. It’s not the highway that’s stopped me, it’s been my husband’s unwillingness to pull over- but I’m sure it’s only because he has our safety in mind.

Well today was different. Today we crossed into Mississippi on a slow moving highway. I had my chance to snap the elusive State Line Picture when all of a sudden, our beloved pound pal and faithful travel companion had a slight accident on my son.

I won’t humiliate my son by telling you which one it was or releasing further details I’ll just say that this type of thing hasn’t happened before and all I can think of is the tablets I gave my puppy to relax him must have made him a bit too comfortable. Let’s just say he was a wee bit too relaxed. Needless to say in that bit of unexpected excitement, I completely forgot about taking the picture.

Hmmmm….maybe next time...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Presidents & Mysteries

Nearly three years ago, I’d arranged a field trip for our local homeschool support group in Ohio. Of all the field trips I’ve set up over the years, this was one of my favorites. We had a great group of people, a great group of kids and it was one of those rare days when things just all fell into place. If you’ve ever set up a field trip, you’re probably aware that despite your best laid plans, things don’t always go as well as you’ve planned. This day was an exception.

From my journal:

Today we enjoyed a beautiful ‘almost’ fall day in Marion, Ohio learning about our 29th President of the United States, Warren Gamaliel Harding. We began our day with a tour of the Harding Home that he had built prior to his run of the presidency in 1920. This was the home where his famous ‘Front Porch Campaigns’ were held, sometimes drawing crowds of 30,000 to listen to his campaign for a Return to Normalcy to a post WWI America.

Our tour guides were excellent and my family enjoyed the tour of the home, each citing different aspects as our favorite part of the tour. Chelsea enjoyed the decorative bedroom of the President and First Lady Harding, while I enjoyed viewing the collectable China pieces and demitasse tea cups in the dining room.

After our tour, we explored the small on-site museum before heading to McKinley Park to eat our packed lunches, allowing the kids to run off some energy before continuing our day.

After eating we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the nearby Veterans Memorial Park. The memorial park is said to be the only one outside of Washington D.C. that has all the memorials in one place. There is even a memorial to the current War on Terror. We were fortunate to have a veteran of the Persian Gulf War in our midst and he took a few minutes to share some heartfelt words about one of his personal friends that perished in that war.

We continued across the street to the park-like setting to see the Harding Memorial. The kids found it exciting to know that school children had collected thousands of dollars in pennies to complete the project. Planned almost immediately after his death, this memorial is one of the largest and most beautiful presidential memorials outside of Washington D.C. It was built in 1925 of Georgian marble.

Our final stop for the day was to the Marion Cemetery to see the Mysterious Revolving Ball. For more than a century, the 5,200 pound polished black granite ball has slowly rotated on a pedestal in the cemetery. This mysterious phenomena has even been featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”.

We had a wonderful day with friends, beautiful weather and the field trip was educational, fun and relaxing.

Marion Things To Do on raveable

The Best Valentine's Day Present Ever

Last fall our refrigerator quit working. We made due without it for a week or two but running to the store everyday to buy the refrigerated items we needed or the alternative, eating canned goods, was getting old. So we packed up our home and drove it to the repair shop on our way out of town.

Sadly my newly repaired refrigerator didn't last long. By the time I got back from the store a couple days later, it was no longer working! Do I really need to tell you that I was not a happy camper?

Since it was nearly 10 years old, we decided not to spend another dime on repairs. But when it came to a new one, I was holding out for an RV refrigerator, while my husband suggested we take a less expensive route and buy a home model. While we were deciding, a friend of ours graciously allowed us to use their dorm size fridge.

RV refrigerators begin at about $1500 and go up from there. It really wasn't worth it for us to spend that much money when we wouldn't be able to get more money out of our camper when we sell it down the road.

My husband took careful measurements of the space we had to work with and after shopping around for weeks, we finally found one that would fit perfectly at HH Gregg. Unfortunately, it wasn't in stock and even the floor model on display was sold. They had no idea when a new one would arrive. So we looked and looked and just when we thought we wouldn't find one that would work, lo and behold, Home Depot had one left. The floor model, on clearance for $198! Less than what we paid for the repairs on our frig! I did have to give up some storage space that was above the old refrigerator, but I think my husband did a great job building me a new little nook there.

He actually installed it on Valentine's Day and you'd have thought this was one of the years he'd bought me jewelry and roses or some other super romantic gift for all the huggin' and kissin' he got throughout the day. All I had to do was get a glimpse of my new fridge and I was all over that man of mine! I'm not sure he'll ever be able to top that gift.

New dishes and a new frig, what more could a girl ask for?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

.75 Cents Later

I have no intentions of turning this blog into one of those money saving blogs that I really love to read and learn so much from...but I really had to share this with you.

Look what I bought for under a buck!

I ran into CVS just to buy margarine and cookies for my husband. Since we planned to watch a movie I picked up some popcorn. Then I saw batteries on sale for Buy One, Get One Free and remembered I would need them for our upcoming trip. When I got to the register I pulled out my CVS books and coupons. Final cost- 75 cents.

Here's the proof, look closely.

Here are some of my favorite recently discovered money saving blogs.

Couponing to Disney

The Bargain Buggy

Do you play the Coupon Game? What are some ways that you save money in your household?

Not Exactly Fine China

I've been searching for some new dinnerware that would actually match the decor of my camper. I wanted something really lightweight and durable. So far the only thing I'd found were cheap plastic plates, bowls and cups I'd picked up at Walmart. Certainly not the look I was going for. The red, white and blue clashed terribly with the brown and mauve interior. Though they worked for a time, I had never intended for them to become regular features in my cupboard.

I'd thought of replacing them with Corelle ware, but couldn't find a pattern that interested me. And though I'd spent quite a bit of time looking online and in every store I visited, I'd failed to find the perfect dinnerware set for our home on wheels. So, it was with great surprise that I found EXACTLY what I had in mind at Target when I wasn't even looking! These are acrylic, lightweight,chocolate brown and match perfectly to my updated decor.

Since I'd found what I wanted the only problem was determining how many place settings I would purchase. While at home I had a set of dishes to feed 20, we decided we don't really have the extra space for that now and settled on just enough for our family; five plates, five bowls and five tumblers. I guess if we do any entertaining we'll have to break out the Chinet. At least clean-up will be easy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Travel Tip: Glean Wisdom from those who have Gone Before You

When I'm traveling, I love to talk to someone who has already been to the area that I'm planning to visit. I want opinions from someone who has been there and hear what they think when it comes to attractions to visit, what to avoid, where to eat, where to sleep. You name it, I want to know about it. That's why when one of my friends from Families on the Road offered to give me information about San Antonio, I took her up on the offer and gave her a call. Since Melissa's family has spent several months in Texas exploring the area, I knew she would be just the person I needed to talk to and she was very helpful! I can't wait to put her tips in action. In the meantime, you can head over to her blog read all about their adventures at Discovering US.

I was fortunate to talk to Melissa. She gave me a ton of information and I took pages of notes, but what if you don't know anyone who has traveled where you are headed? Well, that's pretty easy too. Call the Chamber of Commerce. Explain to them what you are interested in and they should be able to give you a couple good tips. You can also stop in at a Visitor's Center or ask the campground, hotel personnel or Walmart employee for tips. Really, just ask anyone what they enjoy doing in the area or what their favorite restaurant is. You'll find that most people are very accommodating. We've gotten some of our best tips ever by asking the locals what they suggest.

Of course you can do research online and read reviews, but sometimes it's nice just to hear what a real person has to say.

When you are heading out of town, do you research your destination? What sources do you use?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Woo Hoo! We've got mail!

Check out what arrived today:

We don't get mail everyday or even often as far as that goes, but today we were surprised with not one, not two, but four packages! Woo Hoo!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Any guesses on how we spent our Sunday afternoon?
We've never encountered tree sap like this before.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Burritt on the Mountain

Here we are once again for Field Trip Friday and I have to admit that I'm feeling a wee bit lonely here. I'd really love for you to link up and share some of your own field trips. They don't have to be recent, but it does have to be a field trip. It's not necessary to be a group trip, some of our favorite trips have been spur of the moment outings as a family. So, link up so I can read about your adventures!

This week we visited Huntsville's very first museum, Burritt on the Mountain. I'd wanted to visit this living history museum since we first stopped in Alabama over two years ago. I was really excited when I heard they'd be hosting a homeschool day and offering FREE admission! Do I need to mention that we were also very happy to get out of the camper?

Located on Round Top Mountain, Burritt was originally built as the retirement home for Dr. William Henry Burritt. Sadly, the first home burned almost completely on the day he moved in on June 6, 1936. The home was reconstructed and completed in 1938 overlooking Huntsville. Take a peak at this fabulous view!

This unique home is built in the shape of an X, possibly to provide each room with a beautiful view or as his friends claim, to hold a cross grid of antennae to improve radio reception. We noticed the large, open and airy rooms, the unique fireplaces with decorative rock mantles and facings, as well as the beautiful foyer with the curved staircase.

The mansion was hosting an exhibit called Molded in Chocolate that smelled wonderful. There was quite a bit of reading that I admit I didn't read much of it. I learn so much better with guided tours and don't often retain what I read so I didn't bother; I know, what a great example. I did enjoy viewing the incredible display of antique molds representing chocolatiers from around the globe.

Highlights of the home tour included viewing the phosphorescent rocks, the Civil War soldier chocolate mold and the demitasse cups (my daughter collects them)located in the China cabinet. Burritt is much more than just the mansion though.

Also located on the grounds is the Historic Park demonstrating how early settlers of the area lived and farmed. Built around 1810, the Eddins home is the newest home to the park, but Alabama's oldest documented log structure. All of the structures in the park were originally located within 30 miles of Huntsville, before being donated or purchased by the park and reconstructed to their original condition in the Historic Park.

The Gardiner Cabin was a single room cabin that would have been typical to slave housing in the area. It has been restored to c. 1850. As you can guess, it was very small and contained a partial loft to allow more sleeping space. The buildings have all been decorated with period furnishings.

We also enjoyed seeing the Chandler House. This home featured a dogtrot, or open hallway betweent the two living rooms. This hallway allowed the homes occupants to take advantage of the breezes to cool the house in the summer. In addition to several other homes, you'll also find a Smokehouse, Spring House, Blacksmith Shop, Sorghum Mill & Furnace, Baptist Church and Farmyard on the property.

We all agreed that we didn't learn as much as we could have because we were too focused on FUN & FRIENDS to spend much time actually learning. I guess that's the downfall of planning field trips with friends, but you won't hear any of us complaining too loudly! I plan to stop back with my husband so he can see what he missed. I also want to stop in the gift shop (lovely) once more and to hike on the beautiful trails.

Now that I've told you about our trip, why not take take a field trip of your own with a Virtual Tour?

So, that's a wrap-up of our field trip. What'd you do this week? Do you have a field trip you'd like to share? Just add your link to Mcklinky and we'll hop on over and take a peek. And remember, we'll do this again next week. Same time. Same place. Happy Field Trippin'!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


A few years ago I was introduced to the Flat Stanley or Flat Traveler program. If you aren't familiar with this program you can read about more about it here.

Basically, you design a character, exchange travelers with a host family along with a journal and information about the state you live in. They fill in the journal and take pictures of your traveler while it's away while you do the same for theirs. After predetermined amount of time, typically a week or so, you exchange travelers once more and you can read about all the neat places that your traveler was able to visit.

Sounds pretty neat doesn't it? Well though I'd heard about it, we never participated in a swap until now. I ran across Sara's post, Our Homeschool: Flat Stanley is Home and thought it would be fun to atleast host a traveler. So I left a comment offering to squeeze their Flat Stanley into our RV and she agreed. Be sure to stop by her blog and take a peak at the adventure their Stanley had!

Surprisingly, my teenagers decided they wanted to play along and create travelers of their own. So this week they designed their character, created a journal and are eager to send their travelers away. They are especially excited that the travelers are heading to Oregon. Somewhere we've never been.

My kids opted not to go with the Stanley character, but instead designed their own travelers. Wanna peak?

Meet Tin Can Man:


Military Guy:

Ready for deployment. Stay tuned for updates from their important month long mission.

Have you ever participated in the Flat Stanley or Flat Traveler program?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Three Blogs you Should Check Out

I love it when I run across websites and online activities that enhance our homeschool experience. This week I decided I'd share three of my favorite finds so you can check them out too.

First off, this is one I'm really excited about, an Online Science Fair, perfect for our traveling family!

Coming March 5th, The Mac Rac: Everything is a Family Thing is hosting an online science fair. Registration is free, easy and painless. To learn more about this awesome opportunity or to sign up your student and receive the Science Fair Registration packet stop by their page for details about the Mac-Cyber Science Fair to learn how your children can participate.

Looking for FREE resources? What more could you ask for?

This is a great website to help stretch your hard earned dollars. Free Homeschooling 101 is full of links and websites that offer totally free lesson plans, videos, curriculum and resources for the home educating parents from phonics to chemisty, preschool to college. I really enjoyed the newest post. The title speaks for itself, Reducing the Pain of Spelling Class.

Need a bit of help in the writing department?

SmallWorld's WordSmithery

I stopped by Small World @ Home and happily stumbled upon these new lessons. So far there are six lessons that begin with creating a journal and follow up with lessons like using powerful words to enhance your writings, similes, metaphors & strong verbs and alliteration and spring flowers. These lessons are geared towards all ages, so get that journal and get started!Did I mention that Small World @ Home is the host for this weeks Carnvial of Homeschooling: Think Spring?

There you have it, three fantastic blogs that I have recently discovered. Each able to help out in someway with my homeschooling endeavors. I'll share a few more down the road. In the meantime, I'd love if you'd share blogs that you look to for homeschool help. Happy Homeschooling!

Molly's Money Saving Digest: A Review


I was recently asked to review the January 2010 edition of Molly’s Money Saving Digest. Excitedly I downloaded a copy of the e-book, eager to dig in. After all, who isn’t interested in stretching their dollars a little bit further in this economy? Within minutes, I was browsing the pages on my computer screen.

To be honest, my interest began to wane quickly. The first ten pages included a pie crust making tutorial. It’s not that this wasn’t interesting, I know some women love to bake, I’m really just not one of them.

The following pages pertaining to budgeting and record keeping sheets didn't really thrill me either. Since we live in an RV we don't have the typical expenses that many homeowners have so they weren't really didn't apply to me. That’s just my personal opinion, but after all this is my review, I think that’s what you’re looking for. I know some people really thrive on record keeping and filling out forms and there have been times in the past when I would have loved just that. However right now in my life is not that time.

I was beginning to think that I wasn’t going to be able to give a favorable review but as I continued to scroll down the screen, I loved what came next!

The next 30 pages were just what I was looking for in this digest. Packed with inexpensive, easy recipes, a fun and adorable kids craft that my teenagers are even eager to create and simple, inexpensive craft projects that will beautify our home on wheels were just the sort of tips that I could put to use!

I think what impressed me the most were the recipes. Lately I’ve had a really hard time coming up with a meal plan. I want to cut back on our grocery budget, but I don’t want to cut back on quality. I was especially thrilled to see five days worth of easy and complete dinner recipes followed by a grocery list that was ready to be printed and hauled to the store on my next shopping trip. All that’s left for me to do is match coupons to the items I need!

I couldn’t wait to give these recipes a try and we’ve already taste-tested several that proved to be especially yummy. Did I mention they are simple? I just printed the recipe for my 13-year old daughter and she made dinner and dessert all by herself in our limited motor home kitchen.

By the time I’d finally come to the end of this e-book, I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe I’d give that pie making tutorial another glance and try my hand at making the turnovers. My husband would be most pleased.

In the meantime, I’ll look forward to seeing the February issue of Molly’s Money Saving Digest which can be purchased for the low price of $4.95. The time I’ll save by using the pre-printed recipes, meal planning and grocery list alone are worth that to me! Don’t take my word for it you can get your own issue here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Travel Tip: Don't Overplan

Another simple idea. Yet one I have a hard time following through. As I mentioned, we are in the process of planning a trip. I had everything planned. Dig for diamonds. Visit the Alamo. Check out the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Stop along the Gulf. D-Day Museum in New Orleans and back to our home base. Simple right? It was until I decided to take a peak and see what else was in the area. After all, we'll be visiting three states we've never been in. Today I discovered that the San Antonio area has a lot to offer. Like Six Flags and the Texas Ranger Museum. Not to mention the nearby National Museum of the Pacific War. Our simple long weekend trip is evolving into something we didn't want it to be. So I needed to stop and reflect. This trip was never intended to turn into...'Let's see everything there is to see in San Antonio at breakneck speed so we're all so stressed we need a vacation from our vacation'...sort of trip.

So, when you are trip planning, my advice is keep it simple and relax. Plan what you can't miss. You can always find something to add if you have more time later.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What a Sweet thing to say...

We are planning a trip. And not a moment too soon. We've all been pent up a bit lately. Being used to hitting the road and going somewhere each day, it's been a huge adjustment for us to stay at the camper day after day. Originally when the transmission went out on my vehicle and we left it in Ohio- we'd planned to get a rental car every now and then. Well once we realized how much money we were saving with me not having a vehicle here...just on gas...saving money won out over renting a car. Until now.

Now we are at the point when we desperately want to escape. So we are planning a short, long weekend trip. We haven't decided yet if we'll take the camper or if we'll rent a car and stay in hotels. We've just started to plan.

I am trying to plan a trip that appeals to everyone. So far we are planning a trip to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas followed by a day or two in San Antonio to take in the Alamo, Riverwalk district and the Texas Ranger Museum. We'll finish up by stopping in New Orleans to see the D-Day Museum. Somewhere along the way from San Antonio to New Orleans we need to add in a stop along the Gulf Coast.

I think this sounds wonderful, but my husband thought the fun was missing. So, we've added Six Flags to the mix. This is where the sweet quote comes in. We asked our children what they thought of adding Six Flags. My oldest blew me away when he sincerely answered..."I don't really care what we do...I just enjoy spending time with my family." How sweet is that? What a great kid. Of course then we had to tease him and tell him he was just looking for brownie points!

But now, I'd like to enlist the help of my readers. Does anyone have any pointers, places to eat in San Antonio? Campgrounds that you'd stay at again? Any money saving tips? How about New Orleans? Any family friendly attractions that you think we shouldn't miss? How about stopping along the coast? Any suggestions? It's always so great to gain wisdom from those who have gone before...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Set backs

I’m not sure where to begin when it comes to wrapping up this week. I think we hit our all time low on Wednesday and bounced back remarkably on Thursday, finishing the week feeling that we had truly accomplished a great deal.

Of course, the kids and I did have a very serious discussion Thursday morning where I calmly told them they can begin doing what is expected of them or they can feel free to repeat their grade over again. I don’t think I’ve ever seen their jaws drop faster or seen their eyes wider.

I also found it necessary to mention that the assignments I give them are not open to negotiation. I do not need to explain why I want them to do their math or spelling or memorize a passage of scripture or poem. I just do. Period. End of discussion. Has anyone else ever had to have this conversation?

I also went over our rules once again. They seem to forget. As if they have changed during the 11 years we’ve been homeschooling or nearly 17 that I have been a parent. They are not allowed to say mean things to one another or call each other names. Stupid, retard and moron are now the equivalent of the F-word as far as I’m concerned. I’ve heard enough and it ends now.

They are expected to get up, feed themselves, shower, tidy up and be ready for school by 9 am. If they oversleep (how on earth could this happen in the camper anyway?) or chose not to participate, they will make up the work they missed on their time, when it is most inconvenient.

My wise husband also suggested that we implement a new rule. No phones during school. Since we are traveling, I have been lenient in this area but recently sending and receiving text messages have gotten out of control. No computer or Xbox until 5:00 P.M. or when Daddy comes home, whichever comes first. Oh, and that computer thing kind of goes for me too…gulp!

So, now that we’ve gotten our priorities back on track, I expect great things. If Thursday and Friday are an indication of things to come, we’ll finish with a great year. Right where we want to be.

Want to see how the week turned out for other families? Be sure to stop by Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers to read more Weekly Wrap-Ups.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Step Into a Masterpiece

Nestled just east of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in downtown Columbus is the one of a kind, unique interpretation of Georges Seurat’s post impressionist painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte, located in the Topiary Park in Old Deaf School Park. This unique park boasts the only known topiary garden that is based on a work of art. As you stroll through the park, you will find yourself stepping directly into a beautiful landscape that is comprised of meticulously cared for living sculptures that consist of 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, a cat and even a monkey.

The quaint gift shop/visitors center offers special items for the garden lover as well as the usual brochures and postcards. The visitors center also offers a short introductory movie that you can watch that gives background information about Georges Seurat, the creator of the painting while explaining the creation of the park. Use caution, unfortunately, as with many art resources they are not always appropriate for kids and this movie does have nudity. You can remedy this by learning about the topiary park before your visit. You will find detailed lesson plans here.

In the midst of the metropolitan city, this is a great getaway to stop for a picnic and enjoy the squirrels scampering up the trees. You should find plenty of on street, metered parking so save your quarters! The park also has nice, clean restrooms and drinking fountains.

The Topiary Park is located in Columbus at the corner of East Town St. and Washington Avenue. The park is open free of charge year round, although the best time to view it is April thru November. The museum gift shop is open Apr. 1 through the end of December. For information you can call 614-645-0197 or check out their website.

The Columbus Museum of Art, The Ohio Statehouse, COSI, The Santa Maria and The Franklin Park Conservatory & Chihully Collection are located within minutes of The Topiary Garden. If you love books, you'll find the German Village boasts a unique 32 room bookstore called The Book Loft. I certainly wouldn’t allow my children to run loose here for fear they may get lost, but you won't want to miss the opportunity to find some great bargains, much of the selection is discounted! Finally, if you enjoy unique sculptures, you won’t want to miss The Field of Corn located off Frantz Rd in Dublin. My kids thought it was hilarious!

A great follow-up to this outing is to create your own topiary. Usborne has a great book that will help you get started, so check out your local library for Usborne Starting Gardening.

Columbus Things To Do on raveable

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's next?

I am not a happy camper. In fact you could say I am a very disgruntled one. Especially after the day I had yesterday which culminated in me crying myself to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

You see, as wonderful as this adventure may be some times, there are others when it's not so great. And as happy as I was to finally get our motor home, that was when I thought we'd actually go somewhere on occasion.

It appears that I am not the only one that feels this way. We are all a bit fed up. Fed up with not having our own space or privacy. But we all display this a bit differently. My kids bicker. They argue. They call each other names like moron, stupid and retard. This frustrates me. It angers me. It makes me want to pull my hair out. It makes me feel like a failure. Because despite my best efforts to teach by example to encourage them to be content in all things. To believe the best of others. To do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. They still have some sort of hate spew from their mouths. Well not always. Just yesterday. Mainly in the morning and afternoon. By evening they'd come to their senses and were quite nice to one another. A bit late I'd say.

So what's the problem? They miss our house. They miss their friends and family. They miss some of the piles of stuff that is packed hours away in storage. Me? I miss my cute house that I painstakingly decorated. I miss the fact that I could get up in the morning and have a cup of hot tea in my china tea cups at the dining room table while watching the light filter in through the windows without waking everyone. I miss taking hot baths. I miss alone time with my husband. I miss my friends and family. But I also miss the fact that for the past year we haven't really traveled like we used to.

My husband has agreed to stay on with this company longer which means it's time to make some decisions. Either we can still sit here in our cozy camper or we can rent another temporary house or apartment. And for all my whining, it may sound strange, but I cried myself to sleep last night in part because it feels like my dream is dying. The dream of traveling around the entire country with my husband and kids before they are grown. Yes, we've experienced some of that and when we are traveling and we are seeing new places, it's great. And despite my earlier ramblings, we really are much closer as a family.

It may sound silly, but I have always felt like we had one chance. And the Lord has opened so many doors. I never dreamed we'd be able to see the things we've seen over the past four years. But it has been four years of back and forth. And I'm tired. We're tired. So...I'm a bit heavy hearted to say that I really don't know what's next.

So, I've resolved to trust my husband. To trust the Lord. To pray for direction and guidance. It could be that this adventure is over. It could be that I need to be patient a bit longer. It could be that our current adventure will turn into an adventure of another kind. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Check out this giveaway!

Check out this great giveaway that is being offered at Monogram Chick! This giveaway only runs until February 17th so if you want a chance to win your own monogrammed weekend bag head over and enter now! Oh yeah, when you stop by, make sure to mention that I sent you!

A Remnant...

...of the fierce snow storm that we had this week...atleast my son was able to fulfill his dream of making a snowman this winter...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Carnival of Homeschooling

For the past few weeks, I've been participating in the weekly Carnival of Homeschooling. I love reading all the posts crafted by homeschooling parents and have found the Carnival to be a great encouragement to me while we spend time on the road. If you're like me and in need of some homeschool encouragement or maybe just a bit curious about homeschooling in general, I hope you'll stop by this weeks Carnival of Homeschooling: Things Homeschoolers Love edition at Raising Real Men.

Travel Tip: Give Off Season Travel a Try

I love the fact that as homeschoolers, we are able to determine our own schedule and are not bound by our local school districts calendar. This freedom has been wonderful in the past, as we've sat down to schedule some fun getaways for our family.

Personally, we don't like crowds and prefer to travel during "low peak travel times" or a.k.a. "the off-season". In addition to lower crowds, we've also reaped the benefits of finding lower prices on hotels, food specials and discounted attraction tickets. We've found that for many destinations, off-season travel has worked out really well and have only experienced setbacks a few times. So, here are a couple pointers from our experiences to help you as you begin to plan your own off season trip:

1. Though you'll find lighter crowds, you may also find out that the attraction or exhibit you traveled to see isn't open or has reduced hours during these times. Make sure that you call directly before planning your trip and inquire about the hours. When you call, confirm that the entire exhibit will be open for viewing.

2. You may find that the local weather could really put a damper on your vacation. It could be too hot, too cold, too rainy, etc. We've traveled to the Smokey Mountains during the off-season and found that some of the hiking, etc. is inaccessible because some of the mountain roads are closed during those times.

3. Renovations also take place during the off-season. Call the destination directly and ask if any renovations are planned. A hotel we were staying at recently was undergoing major renovations. This wasn't a problem for us, but each day around 8:00a.m. we were awakened to the sound of power tools as work began. We weren't on vacation here so we just accepted the power tools as a wake up call. But had we been there for some R & R, we might have felt differently.

Here's a few tips to help you get started. If you have any tips that you've gleaned from your own off -season trip, why not leave a tip for us in the comment section?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nature Study: At Home and on the Road

One day as the kids and I were taking a break from “book work” and hiking on a trail through Monte Sano State Park in Alabama, it dawned on me that some of you may not have made a habit of nature study yet. You may even feel intimidated by the idea of a formal nature study, just as I was several years ago. Although I was very familiar with nature study in theory, I can’t say I really put it into practice until I met a group of homeschoolers on one of our travels that regularly met for an informal study of nature. By participating with them on just a couple hikes and play dates, I was able to finally understand how easy and practical nature study could be.

Since then, we have found some beautiful places to marvel at the wonder of God’s creation both close and far from home. Our country is full of natural areas to explore and it certainly doesn’t need to be difficult or take a large amount of planning or preparation to head outside and see what you find. In fact, I bet you already practice nature study in your home on some level.

Nature Study is simply the act of enjoying nature; God’s creation. Not worshipping nature, but rather learning about God through observing nature. When my husband and I first began homeschooling over eleven years ago, we attended a seminar on teaching science by the Institute of Creation Research (ICR). One of the practices they stressed was to begin a study of nature based on the attributes of God. What can WE learn about God when we observe nature?

I know I’ll never forget a lesson I learned while standing on a rocky beach one spring day in California. The sky was overcast and the wind was beginning to pick up; a signal of the coming storm. The waves were choppy and white tipped as they crashed upon the shore. My boys were in preschool and I had just helped them to memorize their weekly Bible verse which was taken from Mark 4:41, “…even the wind and the waves obey Him.” It was a very powerful moment for me as I gazed out over the ocean and became aware of the power and force of the ocean and yet knew that no matter how powerful the crashing water was, our Creator, the God of the universe, is mightier!As the true meaning of that verse hit me, I saw God as sovereign, omnipotent and incomprehensible.

We have enjoyed nature in a number of ways, not realizing that we were actually studying nature. The kids have each had pets that we have observed and learned from; tree frogs, anoles, Betta fish, hamsters, gerbils, cats, and a puppy. We’ve had “temporary” creatures that we kept only to observe for a short time before releasing them. This has included many insects, a praying mantis, mice, a box turtle and snapping turtle. We’ve gathered tadpoles from a nearby pond so we could watch them grow into frogs; only to be disappointed when our cat decided to eat them for a late night snack! The kids have saved a snapping turtle from being eaten by a snake. We’ve found wild mushrooms and made spore prints, gathered plaster casts of deer and raccoon tracks at a nearby nature center in the early morning. We’ve explored a cave at a local state park, marveled at the changing colors of leaves from atop the highest point in our county. We’ve watched a lunar eclipse from our front porch and meteor shower while laying on the trampoline in the back yard. We have gone seining in the ocean, hiking through the mountains and have enjoyed many programs that have been offered at the state parks we’ve visited where we’ve tasted wild blueberries, spotted wild horses and photographed feral pigs. The kids each have their own nature study notebook where they can sketch whatever interests them while on a nature hike, trip to the zoo or while watching the squirrels scampering around our back yard.

The best part about studying nature is that you don’t have to own hundreds of acres in the country to enjoy nature. We have enjoyed nature from our hotel window, watching two squirrels fighting over the same tree, or from a camper, watching a tiny muskrat appear each morning to swim in the channel beside our camper before disappearing in the lake beyond.

Nature study at our home has always been pretty informal. We try to go for a walk sometime during the week and the kids will find something that they find interesting and sketch it. It could be a flower, a tree, a bird or even my grandmother’s goat, Otis. Sometimes they find something that they are really unfamiliar with and will look it up in their field guide if they are curious. They may add an entry to their sketch book that includes the date, what they found, where it was found, the scientific name of their find and any other information that they think is important, but I don’t make them do all of that all the time. I don’t want my children to detest nature study, but rather to enjoy their surroundings and enjoy all that God has created. My children love to draw live specimens, but I’ve found for them that it is best to snap a picture for them to draw from. A copy of the photo is then added to their sketch book.

Some resources to help you get started:
A Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola- This book is hands down my favorite how-to nature study storybook! Written in story form as a mother begins her homeschool journey and introduces her young child to the marvels of nature. This book is wonderful if you have young children, or you want to “see” a picture of how to painlessly incorporate nature study into your normal routine.

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock- This massive book is my favorite intensive nature study reference book! This resource will pay for itself over and over again and something you will utilize for years! You can check it out for free here.

Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 1 (Christian Liberty Nature Readers) series">Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden- A beautiful example of a nature sketchbook and journal.

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth- This resource includes examples as well as some drawing exercises. You can find an online sample here.

Nature Study the Easy Way by Cindy Rushton

The Nature Study Idea Book Ideas for all Ages, Even Your High Schooler by Mary E. Woodis

Young children will enjoy reading and being read to from the Crinkleroot books and others by Jim Arnosky as well as books written by Thornton Burgess.

Helpful tools for nature study:
A sketch book
sketch pencils or colored pencils, water color pencils are nice
Field Guides
A compass
Magnifying glass
Insect nets
Bug cages

Helpful websites to help you get started:
If you've decided to jump in to nature study, this blog, The Handbook of Nature Study is a great place to begin and is my favorite online resource.

Visit this website to access free online field guides, animal track guides, games, migration tracking and much more.

Now you know what we’re really up to when we are going on all those hikes! I hope you’ve been inspired! So next time you head out-of-doors, won’t you “….Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God?” (Job 37:14)

How do you incorporate nature study in your home? What is your favorite resource?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Spicy Chili: an experiment

If you’ve read any of my recipe posts before, you know I’m not one to use proper measurements. It may surprise you to know that I didn’t even pack a measuring cup or measuring spoon in our camper. I know some of you just cringed reading this and are at this moment writing me off as a lunatic. Let me assure you that there is a method to my madness. I have adapted my own type of measuring things. I’ll save that explanation for another day but in my defense, if you’ve ever been invited to our home for a meal, or if you’ve been a recipient of a meal prepared by yours truly, you’ll know that I am a good cook, at least that’s what I’ve been told on several occasions. Notice I did not say a good baker, there is something to be said for using measurements when baking. Okay, moving on…

We may not have the snow that excited much of the Mid-Atlantic but we have had another drop in temperatures which means, it’s a perfect day for a big pot of chili!

I made this same recipe last week when I discovered I’d forgotten to purchase tomato juice and didn’t have any other option for dinner. So I experimented a bit to find out what would happen if I used a few other ingredients in my cupboard instead, like the salsa. It was certainly yummy so if you care to give my directions a chance, follow along:

I use a large crock pot and let it simmer all day, but you could use a pot on the stove and adjust the ingredients accordingly.

4 cans of light red kidney beans
2 cans of dark red kidney beans
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1 can of tomato sauce
A good sprinkling of Chili powder (probably 2-4 tbsp, I use a lot!)
Jar of mild salsa
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cubed
1 pkg. Taco Seasoning

Dump first six ingredients into the crock pot. Cook chicken thoroughly on the stove, drain if needed and add taco seasoning. Mix. Add chicken to crock pot. Cook on low 4-6 hours. Instead of serving our chili with crackers, we added Corn Chips and shredded cheese. Yummy!

What do you add to your chili to spice it up?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Harrison Brothers Hardware Store

We're back for week two of Field Trip Friday. I was so excited to see some link-ups last week! Feel free to grab the Field Trip Friday button- I'd be grateful if you'd link back to this site, and tell all your bloggy friends. Let's get started for week two!

As I mentioned last week, we went to the Huntsville Museum of Art but that was only part of our day. After we toured the museum, we also walked to the square to see the oldest hardware store in Alabama, Harrison Brothers Hardware Store. We were meeting with a group of local homeschoolers for an arranged tour.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Harrison Brothers Hardware was established in 1879 and was family owned and operated until the death of John Harrison in 1983. At this time, the Historic Huntsville Foundation purchased the store and the contents and began to run the store with volunteers in 1984 and it's been open ever since. Today you'll find a store packed with treasures from the past and special trinkets for today.

Our tour began at the antique hand cranked cash register where learned some of the history of the store. Built by an Ohio company, this National cash register is 103 years old and still rings up transactions today.

Along our guided tour we saw the rolling ladders that were used to reach items from the top shelves, saw a rope powered elevator, glimpsed inside huge safe that survived a fire and saw the original desk of the Harrison family that displays their unique filing system.

In the picture if you look on the wall behind my children, who by the way are listening intently, you will see a metal hanger with a bunch of scraps of papers hanging from it. This was the filing system. When the hanger would no longer hold any receipts, they would be removed, thrown in a box and stored upstairs. Pretty simple, but a modern day accountants nightmare, wouldn't you say?

If you ask my kids what the highlight of the field trip was, they'd tell you that was at the conclusion of the tour when they browsed through the selection of retro candies from the 40's, 50's and 60's. They bought the old fashioned stick candy, candy cigars, Chick-o-Sticks and candy cigarettes and a Sprite in a glass bottle.

So, that's a wrap-up of our field trip. What'd you do this week? Do you have a field trip you'd like to share? Just add your link to Mcklinky and we'll hop on over and take a peek. And remember, we'll do this again next week. Same time. Same place. Happy Field Trippin'!

RV Living: Get Fit in 2010

I'm sure you've heard enough about getting fit and losing weight to begin with, right? It's still new in the year, I'm convinced half of the American population over the age of 25 have some sort of spoken or unspoken resolution to lose weight or get fit. We are no different. My household is on a mission to get fit. Me, I'm on a mission to lose weight. But that's nothing new. I've been determined to lose weight since I was in 4th grade- no kidding. Yep. I was 11 years old when I began yo-yo dieting. Sometimes I lose and sometimes I gain back what I lost. Not this year. Not anymore. Why? I'm fed up.

Of course, I have a dilemma, I've recently discovered that living in a camper and traveling may have it's benefits, however, there are a few ups and downs as well. Mainly, I don't have to climb a set of stairs to go pee eighty times a day. And when I have to do laundry, I don't have to climb the stairs to retrieve the clothes from the bathroom before heading down more stairs to do laundry in the basement. When your home is 10 feet wide by 30feet long, you don't have to exert a bunch of effort to to go from one end to the other.

Okay, so I do have to go to the camp office to do laundry and we do shower in the bath house but both of those are a quick 50 foot walk across flat terrain. Not much of a workout.

I've noticed that though I'm not eating more and I primarily snack on fruit and popcorn (no butter for me, thank you very much) my jeans are getting a bit tight-er. Not at all the look I was going for.

Though some campers have quite a bit of room, ours doesn't. So Wii Fit and all those awesome exercise videos just won't work inside and if you think I'm going to go outside and do Pilate's for all my neighbors to see, well let's just say I only have their best interests in mind when I vehemently say...NO, thank you!

However, where there's a will, there's a way. For starters, we go on walks throughout the day. It doesn't take a lot of effort to walk around the campground and it can be done fairly quickly. So a couple walks around in the morning to get us moving seems to be a good fit for us. In the afternoons, we take a longer walk. Right now we only walk about a mile, sometimes a mile and a half but that's a start. On the weekends, if it's not raining we go hiking with my husband and we always walk much further partly because when you're walking on a trail you're normally distracted by the beauty around you and don't pay as much attention to how far you've walked.

We have a small set of dumb bells we brought from home and a jump rope that we put in use. Sometime in the next couple weeks we hope to get a bike for each of us and a pedometer so we can challenge each other to see who gets the most steps in during the week. Of course we'll have to award something to the winner so we all really work hard.

So, I'm wondering how all you full-time families stay fit on the road, what do you do specifically to stay in shape? Or have you noticed that your waistline isn't as trim as it used to be? Of course, if you're not a full-time RVing family but you have a great comment, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Warning: My Home is not Perfect

We live in a 31 foot, 20 year old Class A motor home, with NO slide. We don't have friends over much. For obvious reasons. When we do, we typically invite one or two people at a time. Today we were planning to have 3 families the same time! What was I thinking?

Believe it or not, I did not freak out. I am beginning to realize that my home is not going to look perfect when I invite people over. We do have a bit of clutter...a.k.a. necessities...that we just can't find a good hiding place for.

Oh, sure we could store them in the storage units under the camper, but it really is a pain to head outside, unlock the storage unit, dig through the boxes, just to retrieve the math book. No, my children have been known to beg off school work at less.

So, I've resigned myself to the fact that to live practically, there are going to be a books here and there. And a few extra blankets, after all, it is January and it does get a bit nippy at night. Oh, and there are a few pairs of shoes loitering near the front door because...well...I just haven't figured out what to do with those yet.

And then there's...OK...I'll stop. You get the picture. Our house isn't perfect. But you know what? When we had a stick house or in our case, brick and mortar house, I still found excuses not to have people over. It wasn't tidy enough, the bathroom wasn't finished, my couch wasn't new, I was planning to repaint, you name it, I thought of it and as a result when we found out we'd be moving there were many people that I had always planned to welcome into my home that I just never invited because things weren't perfect enough. And I missed out. So, I've learned.

My home may not be ideal, it may not be perfect, but this is my life. Do my friends really care? Are they coming over to sit on my couch because it's new? Are they coming over to gaze at my freshly painted walls? No. My friends are coming to visit with me. And if they are upset that things are a bit cluttered, I guess they'll just have to invite me to their clutter-free home next time. But somehow I don't think they mind. And the kids? They want to live here!

How about you, do you enjoy entertaining friends in your home? If not, what's holding you back?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Check out this Blog!

Blog Brew Review
My blog was featured at Blog Brew Review. This unique blog offers reviews of blogs and bloggers around the blogosphere. I've found some neat blogs to read and follow by stopping by and nosing around.

Why not stop by and check it out?

Travel Tip: Ask for Discounts

This week's travel tip is pretty basic, but often one even I myself don't always think of. Are you ready for it? Here it is...drumroll please...ask for discounts. Simple enough? Just ask. Everywhere you go. Why? Some discounts won't be offered unless you ask specifically for it. In fact, it may surprise you to know that some employees aren't even permitted to offer a discounted rate, even if one is available, ask. Think about it, why would a business give you a discount if you are willing to pay full price? So, take a minute and think of what type of discounts you could potentially be eligible for. Do you belong to AAA, AARP (50 and older), Good Sam's? Do you qualify for a senior discount or student pricing? Are you a pastor, educator, fireman, policeman or member of the military? Just asking may save you money.

What memberships do you have that could possibly save you money? Know of one that isn't listed? Please share...
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