Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Plans

When it comes to designing a school schedule, we’ve found that a year round plan meshes well with our lifestyle- allowing us the flexibility to take off for special outings on a whim without neglecting our studies.

For the most part, we’ve always enjoyed our year round schooling. This year is different. This year we all need a break. I need time to regroup, gather my thoughts, and plan for next school year as well as finish a few of the projects that I’ve been working on.

My kids want time to stay up late, sleep in later and be slothful teenagers for a change.

The problem with the entire summer off is they tend to get restless and bored and all you parent’s out there know what boredom leads to…picking and arguing and full-fledge fighting. So while we desperately need a break, we find the typical three month hiatus to be a bit much…for all of us.

So we discussed it and decided that we will take off the entire month of July.
I’ve already planned to spend the beginning of July at the Savvy Blogging Summit. I won’t be back long before my husband and I will leave to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary with a trip to the Hudson River Valley. We don’t get to go away every year but after spending the past fifteen months in our camper with our three teenagers, we decided we could use some alone time. So if everything works out (meaning if we’re able to stay on our budget and don’t have any unexpected surprises) we’ll go to New York while our kids are catching up with friends and family in Ohio. A win-win situation for everyone.

Since we already have two interruptions to our schedule I figured we might as well plan to resume our regular schedule in August. I have to admit it didn’t take much to convince the kids to take a break. They were more than willing. In the meantime, I have a list of things to finish up so we’re calling our unfinished business during the month of June, ‘Summer School’. I’ll post more about that later.

How about you? What do you have planned for your summer?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Soulstock 2010

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking my two youngest children to an amazing worship experience called SoulStock 2010. Though the event was essentially a huge concert, there was no denying why everyone had chosen to attend- they were there to worship the Lord share his love with others.

We'd attended the hot air balloon festival earlier in the day so we were a bit late getting there and arrived just in time to see Reilly. Though my kids were familiar with this band, I can't say that I'd really paid attention to them much before this event but I will from now on. I was very impressed by this band and not just with their music. I loved the fact that they made it clear Who their songs were about and shared their love for Christ boldly with the audience. In fact, we had a chance to meet them when they were off stage and I took the opportunity to tell them how much I appreciated them sharing their faith and a bit of their testimony.

I've attended 'Christian' concerts for years- since I was in high school- and I've taken the kids to some. I've been dismayed that some bands have chosen not to speak about their faith and I really think they are missing a wonderful opportunity because there are many people that go to the concerts that haven't heard about God's love. Which got me thinking- is it fair for me to expect these bands to talk about God? I assume that they will because after all, it is a Christian concert and they are a Christian band why wouldn't they want to share the salvation message with others? That no matter who you are, or what you've done, there is a God that loves YOU enough to send His one and only Son to die on the cross so that you can experience salvation? That is his gift to you and all you need to do is except it? So, is it fair to assume that these bands will share their faith just because they are in a position of influence? Am I sharing my faith? Hasn't the Lord given us all an area of influence? Hmmm...I have to admit that personally I was a bit convicted by that thought. In the meantime, I'll leave you with some pictures of our day. And if you missed it, be sure to check out my post on 15 Tips to Maximize Enjoyment at Summer Concerts.
Reilly at the end of their performance
Alabama native, Sarah Reeves performing
My daughter with most of the members of Reilly
Gotta luv Chick-fil-A
Is this a scam or what? Sweet guys though!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

15 Tips to Maximize Enjoyment at Outdoor Summer Concerts

1. Arrive early to get the seat you want- if you want to be close to the stage, this is a no brainer.
2. Take lawn chairs, a blanket or a light sheet to sit on.
3. Pack a cooler with plenty of ice, water, snacks and light finger foods.
4. Don’t forget the ear plugs if you’re going to be near the stage and want to hear later!
5. Binoculars, just in case you’re not as close to the stage as you’d like to be, or prefer to stake out a spot at the back of the crowd.
6. Camera- do you really need to be reminded not to leave home without this one?
7. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and hand fan.
8. Umbrellas (think beach umbrellas)for some shade.
9. Wear light weight, light colored, comfy clothes, but a light sweater or sweatshirt may come in handy in the evening.
10. Take a few balloons or a beach ball to pass around to the crowd. A Frisbee or soft kick ball perfect for the times when you want to get up and stretch, especially if it’s an all day event.
11. Glow sticks for when the sun goes down.
12. Mad money, even if it’s a free concert, to support the artists or event and for souvenirs.
13. Hand disinfectant or wipes- think Porta-pots!
14. Mosquito repellent or bug spray.
15. A Disposable raincoat and a towel- if rain is in the forecast.
16. I know you won’t forget you phone- but make sure to send tweets or to post to your Facebook profile from the event!

What are your favorite tips?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Hiking with a Naturalist at Monte Sano State Park

Welcome to Field Trip Friday! This week the kids and I had an opportunity to join one of the area support groups for a hike at Monte Sano State Park. We love Monte Sano, in fact, when we first began traveling in our motor home, we were parked here for several weeks. I'd love to say that we hiked each day but sadly it rained almost the entire time we were in the park. One of the areas that I'd hoped to have explored were the sinkholes so when I heard there was going to be a group of homeschoolers hiking in that direction, I couldn't wait to sign up for what was supposed to be a 3 mile hike.

We were actually a very small group, 11 of us total but that was great because we were able to hear and see everything clearly that the naturalist pointed out along the way. The first thing he covered was the importance of checking yourself for ticks after you've been in the woods, hiking or just outdoors in general. If you haven't read my experience with ticks, please take a moment to read my post Ain't No Ticks on Me.

The next thing he warned us about was to avoid the Poison Ivy that was plentiful. You are probably familiar with the saying,

'Leaves of three, leave if be.
Leaves of five, you'll survive,'

but are you able to identify this plant? If you're one of the thousands of people that are sensitive to it, I'm sure you do!

Next we learned about the May Apple plant. Did you know that only the plants with two leaves will produce a bloom which in turn produces the fruit which is shaped like a tiny apple. Don't eat it though- if it's not ripe it is noxious. If you look at the picture on the right, and find the fruit, directly above that you will see a V in the stem. This V shows the two leaves, one on the right and one on the left. Each branch is a single leaf.

This isn't a great picture of Daisy Fleabane, but it certainly is an interesting plant. considered a weed by many, this is actually a wildflower that is pretty commonly found in fields, along the road and in the open woods in many parts of the US. It has a reputation for repelling insects. In fact, it was added to the filling in straw mattresses to keep bed bugs down.

Like the Mulberry bush, the Sassafras Leaf can be different shapes. This means that they can be three lobes, two lobes or one lobe. The roots or the Sassafras have been used to make tea and is considered an anticoagulant. The roots were also used to make root beer until it was banned by the FDA. When I was in 5th grade, we actually made Sassafras tea and I remember it having a taste similar to black licorice.

We identified Wild Yams, Golden Seal which is used in tinctures and pill form to fight off colds, a Christmas Fern which stays green all year like an Evergreen, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Eastern White Oak, Tulip Poplar and Spice Bush which has a citrusy, lemony scent when you rub the leaves.

We found this plant, Doll's-eye or White Baneberry extremely interesting because I don't think we'd ever seen it before. Though the berries from this plant are ingested by birds, ingestion by humans can cause cardiac arrest and death. In fact the entire plant is considered to be poisonous to humans.

However interesting it was to learn about the different plants, the sinkhole was also fascinating and so was the trail that we took to get there. Much of the area is limestone and at some point over the years water found it's way through the different layers in the rock causing some of it to collapse, resulting in this huge sinkhole. Early spring is the best time to view the area before the trees have leaves.

By this time we were all getting a bit tired and hungry so we stopped right in the middle of the trail and sat down on a rocky ledge to eat the lunch that we'd packed. After a short break we were refreshed and ready to make the short hike to the Stone Cuts.

The Stone Cuts were so much fun, we could have stayed there all day exploring further! Years of erosion have resulted in a fascinating rock formation known as the Stone Cuts that offer tight squeezes, a natural tunnel and even a series of stairs. The hike to the Stone Cuts alone is a 2 mile hike.My kids would have loved to explore some of the crevices throughout this area but lack of time and the fear of snakes won out. However, we hadn't even left the area before we were planning a return trip with my husband. I see a family hike, followed by a relaxing picnic lunch somewhere in the near future.

The return trip to the hiker's parking lot had me wishing that I'd packed more water. By the time we'd reached the switchback trail leading up, up, up and out of the park we were all huffing, puffing, sweating and thinking, water, water, water...oh, and shower, shower, shower! This was a great hike, we learned a ton about plants, trees and the area in general, we met new people and got some exercise! What more could we ask for?

That's about it for this week's edition of Field Trip Friday. If you're just joining us make sure you stop by and take a peek at some of the other excursions we've taken. I'll also be posting some other pictures from out trip on the Facebook Fan page if you would like to swing by and have a look. Don't forget, if you've been on a field trip, you're welcome to link up. Until next week...Happy Field Trippin'!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Flat Traveler Adventure

Our Flat Travelers' have been home from Oregon for a few weeks now and are preparing to embark on their 2nd journey and this time will be hosted by an Air Force Family that is currently living in Hawaii. If you're like me and dream of visiting Hawaii, you'll enjoy reading about their Hawaiian Adventures and seeing the beautiful pictures that are posted on a regular basis. We had hoped to get our travelers' in the mail last week, but I think I've stated before how terrible I am at mailing things, haven't I? Besides, Military Guy was MIA for awhile. We finally uncovered him yesterday in plain view on our counter. Hmmm...not sure how I missed that, but the travelers' now have a new journal and are each adorned with a colorful lei so I think they're ready for all the fun they'll encounter while they are away. Safe travels little guys and we're looking forward to showing some new travelers' around the great state of Alabama!

Woo Hoo! I'm on the Crew!

I'm so excited to let you know that I've been selected as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew for older students that will begin later this summer. As a crew member I'll have the opportunity to receive and try out homeschool materials and curricula from a variety of vendors which I'll then review and post on my blog. I'm really excited about this and hope that you'll find my reviews helpful when it comes to selecting material for your own children. The program will start in the next couple months so be on the lookout for my reviews on some exciting (hopefully) new products!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Homeschool Swap hosted by The Homeschool Post

Last month I signed up with The Homeschool Post to participate in the Homeschool Swap. The concept was simple, you sign up, fill in the questionaire and you're paired up with a swap sister. When you receive your package, you post about it and send in the link to The Homeschool Post so everyone can see what neat swaps took place. I really couldn't resist. Today my package arrived from Brandy and I was so excited to open it and this is what I found:

    ~a beautiful kitchen towel with one of my favorite scriptures "Rejoice in the Lord always..." Phil.4:4.
    ~a yummy smelling vanilla candle, also my favorite scent
    ~a package of my favorite candy, red licorice
    ~my favorite hot tea (do you see a pattern here?) Vanilla Chai and a few other flavors I can't wait to sample like Jasmine Green Tea, Chai Spice Black Tea, Mango Passionfruit and Autumn Spiced Tea
Brandy thought of everything because she also added a book for me to read while I'm sipping my tea.
    ~40 Loaves Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker, a series of short devotions

This really was a lot of fun to take part in, and there will be another one starting in June! So if you're interested in making a new friend and getting in on the next swap, keep an eye on The Homeschool Post for more information, or sign up for their email list to make sure you don't miss out!

Finally, Brandy, thank you for being my swap partner and for sending such a thoughtful gift! Many blessings to you and your precious family!

I'm going to sit down, light my candle (if I can find the lighter my son ran off with), sip my Vanilla Chai tea from my super ugly (here's the story behind the mug)but favorite...ok...only...mug...and get to work. Until next time...Blessings!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The World's Largest Hot Air Balloon

What's pink, weighs 1,170 pounds, has sandals that are a size 98 EEEEE and is taller than the Statue of Liberty? I'll give you a hint, it's the World's Largest Hot Air Balloon and its ears are as large as a normal sized hot air balloon. Think pink and large ears...did I mention it keeps going, and going and going? Any guesses? Okay, I'll let you in on the about...the HOT HARE a.k.a. The Energizer Bunny Hot Air Balloon! Isn't it cute?
Would it surprise you to know that we woke up at 2:30 in the morning, to drive 2 1/2 hours south just to observe this specialty balloon take off as part of the Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Festival in Tuscaloosa, Alabama? After all, the Hot Hare is only scheduled to appear at three locations across the US this year, and Facebook Fans chose this specific festival to become the #2 spot? How could we resist? We really couldn't, ya know!

We arrived by 5:30 a.m. just in time for the Sunrise. The balloons were delayed for a wee bit due to the wind or something, but when they started taking off, it was really something. The event really got fun once we were permitted to go out on the field and get a close up view of all the action.

The Energizer Bunny Hot Hare Balloon wasn't the only specially shaped balloon to make an appearance. There was another crowd pleaser. Check out another one of our favorites, this huge can of my husband's favorite beverage, Pepsi!

There were about 30 balloons that lifted off and though we enjoyed each of them, the Energizer Bunny Hot Hare was certainly the draw for us.

And who could resist joining the fun and wearing the bunny ears?
This was our first hot air balloon festival as a family but it certainly won't be the last. We'll keep going and going and going! Definitely a thumbs up from the Traveling Praters'!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Letterboxing around Huntsville

It's time for Field Trip Friday again. I had an awesome field trip lined up this week but sadly, my gang were all suffering from some type of sinus/allergy thingy so we had to forgo our trip.

We did manage to get out though. Today we decided to do some letterboxing. Despite what you may have read before, my kids really were looking forward to getting out of the camper and finding our way around Huntsville a bit more.

So we gathered our gear, index cards (because I misplaced our special letterboxing notebook), our personal stamp, an ink pad, pen and clues and off we went.

Though I'd printed about 12 clues, I figured that we'd probably only find 4 or 5 before we were ready to call it a day. I was right. We ended up finding 3 letterboxes and though we made it to another location to find a fourth, there were too many people around to discreetly find what we sought. We'll save that one for another day.

The first one was incredibly easy. We literally jumped out of the van and found the letterbox barely hidden under a bush.

We always enjoy seeing who found the letterbox before us

The next one was a bit harder to find. Partly because we aren't familiar with the area so we had to do a search to find the park we were looking for. Once we found the park, finding the letterbox was easy enough, even if it was hidden well enough.

The final one was also pretty easy, once I found out where we were heading.
We took a short walk down a pretty tree lined path

Followed the clues that prompted us to peak behind the rock

Look what we found

We wound up with three stamps to add to our letterboxing notebook...when it's found

There you have it. We got out of the camper, explored our town a bit more, followed directions and fit in a wee bit of physical fitness. As a follow up the kids are planning to hide a letterbox of their own. If you aren't familiar with letterboxing, or you'd just like a bit more information be sure to check out this website.

Have a field trip that you'd like to share? Go ahead and link up to Field Trip Friday and please let others know you're linked up here. While you're here, don't forget to grab your cute button:
Until next week....Happy Field Trippin'!

Has this ever happened to you?

If you've ever been trapped in the car with other people, chances are you may have experienced something similar. Check out this new video by Tim Hawkins.

If you laughed at all you'll enjoy seeing some of his other work at his website.

Pink Palace Anyone? Here's a Free Summer Membership!

Have you heard of the Pink Palace Museums in Memphis, TN? Do you live within driving distance or will be planning a trip to Memphis this summer? If so you won't want to miss an opportunity to sign up for a FREE Summer Membership to the Pink Palace Family of Museums. That's right, FREE! I already signed up so I know we'll be headed to Memphis. If you're interested check out this link but hurry because this offer will expire on May 31st!

Squished NO More!

Okay, I did mention briefly that we went to Ohio over Mother's Day Weekend for my brother's wedding. Well, this is a glimpse into our car- (do you remember that my Trailblazer had a major breakdown on the way back to Alabama at Christmastime, so we left it in Ohio at my mother-in-laws and rented a car to get home)? Well, that was a mouthful, I'm really glad I got all that out! Well since then, we've been sucking it up without a vehicle, saving money for one that would be a better fit for our family. Check out the pictures from this trip in the largest rental "car" that I could get.And, yes, I could have rented a minivan or large SUV if they were available...and this particular day...that wasn't an option.
They do look comfy, don't they? Did I forget to tell you that we took the entire family along?
Vincent tried to get comfortable but just couldn't do it and of course everyone kept pushing him around. Here he is trying to lay on my lap with his head under the steering wheel. After the gear shift got knocked in neutral my husband forced him to sit on his lap the entire rest of the trip.

Well, on the return trip- it was an entirely different story. While my husband left a day earlier than us to return the rental car, the kids and I picked up our new to us vehicle and dropped my mother-in-law off in Knoxville, Tennessee on our way home.
Chelsea looks happy doesn't she? I can't say they were initially thrilled about being the proud owners of a custom conversion van with PINK interior, but it seemed to grow on them once they realized that everyone had their own space. When I say everyone, I do mean everyone. Check out Vincent now! He managed to make quite a mess, but that only means he was content and felt at home.
After we dropped off my mother-in-law, Joshua and Chelsea switched off and on between the front passenger seat and the back, but Nickolaus didn't budge the entire time. You see that lump stretched out across the back seat? That's him, sleeping almost the entire 11 hour trip! OK, maybe he did manage to rouse himself enough to eat and go pee but really other than that we didn't hear a peep out of him.
Now that's what I call room!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Won! I Won!

A couple months ago I entered a contest that Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers was hosting. If you homeschool and you've never ran across her blog, you really MUST go take a look. Right now she's offering a free webinair with Lee Binz that you'll appreciate if you're approaching the high school years with your homeschooled children.Kris also just wrote her first e-book: Get Your Hands on Learning, which she is offering right now for 40% off!

Sorry, I guess I got a wee bit sidetracked didn't I? Well, I entered a contest to win a membership to the Art for Homeschool website. I really, really wanted to win this because I thought it would definitely fill a need that we had. I was so thrilled when I won!

What appealed to me most was that as a member, I would have access to the Elements of Art videos, a collection of 8 video's cover the following concepts; line, space, value, shape, form, texture and color. There's also a video that tells you how to get started. Each video offers instruction on the concept while allowing the child to create their own project. This clip tells you all about the program:

Though I have watched most of the video's, my kids just began using the program this week. They enjoyed the lesson and project that they completed. If you're looking for an art program or to supplement your current program you should hop on over to Art for Homeschool and have a look around. Terry is also planning an online art show for August. My daughter is really bummed that she missed the first one so we'll definitely participate in this next edition.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What if She Was Your Child?

Today I'd like to introduce you to someone very dear to me. My cousin, Madison. Isn't she beautiful? Look at that sweet smile and adorable curls. She really is precious. But pictures certainly don't tell the whole story and Madison's is one that must be told. As a parent, none of us want to hear that our children have a terrible disease. Not so long ago if you would have seen her she wouldn't have had those curls and she certainly wasn't always smiling. She was on an adventure that we hope to never experience and yet this precious little girl endured it and by God's grace, she made it through. Madison is a cancer survivor. Today this active six year old is working hard, with her mom, to raise money for cancer awareness and research. If you feel led to donate, please visit the link you'll find below. They are grateful for any gift that you can offer. Just think, what if she was your child?

Madison's Story

Madison's story started on May 17, 2008 at the age of 4. With a trip to the local ER we get sent by squad to Akron Children's hospital and they diagnosed her several days later with Burkitt's Lymphoma. She endured 9 rounds of chemo and numerous surgeries and procedures.Now at age 6, she is currently in remission.
It has been a major roller coaster ride. I was a couple of months pregnant when we found out that Madison had cancer. I could not enjoy the pregnancy and neither could Madison. We spent the majority of May-December of 2008 in the hospital with chemo treatments, fevers, infections, and clinic visits. I wish I had had access to a computer in the hospital room, but we did not own one then. I could have recorded the entire journey for everyone to read. We did not start her Caringbridge journal until a year after she was diagnosed to help keep everyone updated on her condition. Her journal can be read at Caring Bridge.
One of Madison’s favorite things to do while in the hospital (besides bike riding) was to push a shopping cart around the unit filled with crafts that we had bought and stop at other kids rooms to see if they wanted a craft to do. She loved trying to brighten the day of another child. It put a smile on her face.

Madison walked in the Relay For Life event in 2009 and this year she and I are walking in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s event called Light the Night in Akron, Ohio. They help raise money for research and families going through the same things we did. Without their research money, Madison may not be alive today. Her motto for this event is “I may have lost my hair to lymphoma, but not my life”. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of two of her fellow cancer friends who passed away from Leukemia. Kyle was only three weeks away from his fourth birthday when he became an angel. Lydia was five and a half when she got her angel wings. We are trying to raise money for her team for this event so that more kids can have the same chance at life that she has now.
While not considered cured yet, she is doing amazingly well. She started kindergarten this past fall and recently got an award for academic excellence. I am so proud of her for everything she has faced and conquered and for keeping a smile on her face almost the entire time. She has been through things that no child should have to and that is another reason why it is so important to raise money to try and wipe out cancer.

Thank you for reading this post and I thank my cousin, Tyjanna, for writing it. There are several ways that you can help. First, you can donate to Light the Night and help Madison reach and EXCEDE her goal of $250 raised towards cancer awareness and research. Second, you can pray for Madison. It's been 17 months since Madison started treatment and though her mom had hoped to hear that Madison was cured at a doctor's appointment this past Friday, that wasn't the case. Though there isn't any sign of cancer, she is more susceptible to other cancer's now. Third, pray for other children and their families that are facing this same nightmare and that one day soon, a cure will be found.
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