Friday, December 31, 2010

Who Would Ever Guess?

Okay, remember that gift card I won from GameStop before Christmas? One of the items I picked up was Dance Central for the Xbox Kinect. I knew my daughter would love it. What I didn’t expect was this:

boys dancing to Dance Central  

Who would ever guess that the girls would have a hard time convincing the boys to take a break and share the game?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

La Quinta Inn and Suites- Bowling Green, KY

With well over 100 nights spent on the road in the past two years, I guess you could say for our family, La Quinta is our home away from home.  Since our faithful travel companion, Vincent, our four legged pet travels everywhere we go, it’s important that we find hotels that will not only welcome us, but our dog as well.   La Quinta does just that and normally, at no additional charge.

Also important, is affordability. Though we love to see new things, as a family living on one income with three growing teenagers, it’s important to us that we spend a minimal amount of our travel budget on lodging so we can save our money on the fun stuff.  La Quinta fits the bill here, too. I don’t recall ever spending more than $70 a night for a room with this chain.

There are a few other amenities that I look for, such as free wireless internet and a complimentary breakfast and La Quinta has that covered too.  With those requirements in mind it probably doesn’t surprise you to know that I always search out a La Quinta when we are traveling, which is what I did when the kids and I took our spring road trip, and we couldn’t have been happier.  I’d selected the La Quinta Inn &  Suites in Bowling Green, Kentucky as a midway stopping point between Alabama and Ohio, and the kids loved it so much that they couldn’t wait to visit again with my husband- which is exactly what we did on our trip to Ohio last week.

La Quinta Inn & Suites in Bowling Green, Kentucky is one of the nicest La Quinta’s we have stayed at. It is fairly new, visible from I-65, comfortable with modern decor and clean, spacious, quiet rooms. What more can a tired traveler ask for? How about a heated, indoor pool for the kids, a large executive desk with ample workspace for mom, and a flat panel TV and recliner for dad?

As a La Quinta Returns participant that has reached Elite status (meaning: we’ve spent many, many nights at various La Quinta hotels) we were able to stay at this amazing property for a grand total of $17.02 after redeeming 6,000 Reward points.

We stayed in an incredible room with two queen size beds, a sleeper sofa and microwave and refrigerator. 

christmas 017

Large comfy beds with extra pillows and white, alternative down comforters

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                                               The desk with plenty of space to work 

christmas 022

The granite bathroom with laminate wood look floors

christmas 023

There was plenty of room for everyone to spread out and enjoy our stay

Whether traveling for business or a leisure trip with the family, if  you’re passing through Bowling Green, I’d highly suggest checking the rates at this La Quinta Inn & Suites. 

***I was in no way compensated for my review of my family’s recent stay at La Quinta Inn & Suites in Bowling Green and am not affiliated with La Quinta in any way. I simply offer this review as a satisfied customer.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Preparing for our Road Trip

We decorated everything else this year…it’s only natural that we’d include the van…

van 015

And yes, we don’t mind a bit of tacky (of course, my husband hasn’t seen it yet)…because it’s fun…and memorable….

van 018Just in case the other motorists don’t know what we’re celebrating…. the kids wrote it all over the windows.

van 020

Let’s get this road trip started!

Merry Christmas!

How Important is Socialization to You?

I had an interesting conversation about “socialization” with a homeschool graduate at my husbands’ company Christmas party a couple nights ago. You can read about it at The Company Front Porch and while you’re there, I hope that you can take a moment to share your thoughts on the questions I posed.

Just how important is socialization to you?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tips for a Smoother Traveling with Kids Experience

*If this post seems familiar, it originally appeared on my original blog on Homeschool Blogger and is mentioned in Travel Kits: A Simple Way to Bless Others e-book distributed by The Old Schoolhouse Store. 

car crammed with kids and travel gear

I often speak to people about our traveling lifestyle and one of the first questions they always ask is how can I stand to be in the car for over an hour with my children?  When they hear me preface my response by saying that my children are now 14, 15 and 17, they assume it must be a breeze. Yes, it is easier now that they are older.  However, we didn't begin traveling with our children when they hit the 'magical number' where they could suddenly behave in the car.  We traveled with them from the time they were infants. Yes, it was more work.  Yes, we had to stop more frequently for feedings and bathroom breaks. Yes, sometimes the kids were cranky and sometimes we were cranky. But I never thought about missing out on an opportunity because of the length of time we'd be on the road. Some trips just took some extra planning. 

Like so many other skills in life, I believe that traveling happily can be taught.  Today I hope to share some tips with you that have helped us as we've adjusted to life on the road, at all stages and for all ages.  

Babies and Toddlers                                         

The biggest challenge at this stage was to make sure that I was able to pack everything that I could possibly need for me, my husband and my baby for the duration of our trip.  A fresh diaper change starting out, plenty of food and drinks, a few baby toys, car seat attachments and soft, squishy books, etc. were normally enough at this stage.  Our babies always slept a lot in the car so this stage was relatively easy.  Our firstborn experienced Washington D.C. , Niagara Falls and Mammoth Caves before he was a year old.  He traveled very well and was very content.  If we kept him in a dry diaper, fed, smiled and talked to him occasionally, we could drive all day.  


As my babies grew into toddlers, it meant that I now had an infant and a toddler to occupy.  This became more of a challenge because my toddler loved to touch the baby and with car seats close together, he was often trying to share his toys with his brother.  We had to make him understand that when his brother was sleeping, he really didn't need to have all those toys thrown in his car seat! 

Going from one to two children was quite an adjustment for me, especially since they were close in age.  It didn't matter if we were going outside for a walk, or on a road trip to the zoo, as soon as I had changed one and diapered the other, I always had a messy diaper as we were walking out the door.  I had to learn to give myself some extra time to go anywhere.

At this age, you could keep a tub of 'car only' toys in your vehicle so the kids have some special toys to look forward to just for time spent on the road.  Take a potty break immediately before leaving the house and limit food and drink for your child while on the road.  If you are taking a long road trip, stop frequently so they can stretch their legs and run off some energy. You may consider taking a ball or Frisbee to toss at rest stops.  Keep a selection of silly children's CD's for your child to listen to.  When my kids were this age, the portable DVD's were not yet available, but now your child can watch their favorite cartoon while you're on the road.

One thing that will really help at this stage is to have Car Rules and consistently enforce them.   

Elementary Age- Up

Even though the kids may be older, they are also more vocal and more opinionated.  This could be the most stressful stage to go through.  Some parents choose to drive at night while the kids are sleeping, this never worked for my husband and I. We tend to get sleepy, too!  Here are some tips that did work for us at this stage:

Keep a journal of the trip.

Be creative with this.  You can allow your kids to journal whatever they want- my daughter loves to keep lists and documents everything. She’ll jot down what the weather was like, what time we crossed a state line or how many bridges we drove over. If that’s not the case with your children,  you can give them specific ideas to get them started. 

  • What was the funniest billboard that you saw? 
  • The most boring state to drive through?
  • The biggest disappointment?

The last prompt may seem odd to you, but it can help turn a very ugly situation into a laughable one. Several years ago, my kids and I planned to drive to Virginia to join my husband.  We weren't even an hour away from home when I was pulled over by a police officer!  Imagine my horror when the officer told me that my tags had expired! I'd forgotten to renew them on my birthday 6 months earlier! Luckily, he was very nice, ticketed me and directed me to the nearest BMV. 

After sharing the news with my husband, he suggested that we go home and wait another day to join him.  We were so disappointed until my daughter excitedly exclaimed that it wasn't so bad, they now had something to record in their journals! 

Even if the thought of keeping a journal doesn't appeal to your child,  they will treasure the completed journal later and will also have a neat keepsake to show Grandma and Grandpa,especially when they add in their own drawings, photos, post cards and travel brochures.  

Give your children a scavenger hunt.

One summer, my nieces had stayed in Ohio with their grandparent's over the summer break.  My sister-in-law asked if we would be able to drive them half way back to their home in Tennessee. We agreed, and to make the trip fun, I thought I'd prepare a scavenger hunt for the kids so they'd be occupied.  They were having so much fun, they kept adding to it. 

This can be really simple for younger kids, find a red truck, find a yellow car, find 3 cows, etc. while for older kids you could make it more challenging.  Find 5 out of state license plates, find a city that has 8 letters in the spelling, Can you spot 6 semi's in a row? Make sure that you have crayons or pencils so the kids can record their answers.  It may also be helpful if they have a clipboard to write on.

If you don't have the time to make one up on your own, you can do a quick search online and find travel games. This website has a basic city, rural or suburb hunt ready to be printed, as well as some other travel games.

Put together a 'SURPRISE BAG.'

Before one trip, I snuck away alone for a few minutes at our local Dollar Tree (everything in the store is $1) and chose a gift bag for the kids and filled it with trinkets to occupy them on the drive.  Some of the items I included were coloring books, travel games, handheld games, simple craft projects (not anything messy), stickers, etc.  The kids received the bags after we'd been on the road for awhile and they were just beginning to get restless.  A variation to this idea would be to pick up a few simple items, wrap them individually and distribute them along the way.  This gives the kids something fun to look forward to. 

Give your kids a map or children's travel atlas so they can follow the route on their own. 

Or give them a list of the towns that you will be driving through so they can mark them off along the way.  This will take a bit of time on your part, but in exchange, your child can track your journey and you'll potentially cut down on the "Are we almost there yet" question.

Play the memory game.

You’ve probably all played this game or a variation. Someone begins with: I'm going on a camping trip and I'm going to take a tent.  The next person has to repeat what you've said, plus add their own item and the game continues until someone forgets what everyone's taking.  This is actually a great game for pre-readers, although older children will enjoy it as well.  Almost every time we're in the car, one of my kids will suggest we play this game...doesn't mean we always agree...

Don’t forget to pack magnetic board games, the Nintendo DSi, iPod, etc.

Need I say more? These inventions are high on my children’s list which you can read here, Roadtripping with Teens: What they Consider Essential.

Pack the audio books!

Listening to audio books is a favorite way for my family to pass time in the car. We’ve spent many hours listening to Adventures in OdysseyJonathon Park CD's, recordings by Jim Weiss and many books on CD that we found at the local library.

Don’t stop with the audio books though. My kids also love to listen to their favorite CD’s. If they can listen to my favorite music, I figure I can listen to theirs as well.  

Give your kids their own camera.

The first time I did this, was when we went to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with the kids.  I couldn't wait to get their cameras developed to see their pictures and couldn’t believe it when I saw what caught my oldest sons eye!  He didn't take one picture of  the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island!  He used all of his film taking pictures of the inside of our vehicle when we were stuck in traffic!  I guarantee you'll get a fresh perspective when you view your trip through the eyes of your child!

Set realistic expectations for yourself, traveling is always an adventure.   Finally, no matter how old your kids are, accept the fact that sometimes, you may get annoyed.  That's okay, we are not perfect people. It's how we handle that annoyance that can and will affect our trip. 

What tips would you like to share that make travel easier for your family?  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Introducing the 2:1 Conference

Have you heard about The 2:1 Conference? This is a faith based conference for you; homeschooling parents that blog (not just about homeschooling), or are otherwise interested in social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
Blogging is a journey and so is homeschooling; each changing with the seasons of our lives. As the seasons change, our needs do as well. Our goal at 2:1 is to equip you with the resources, encouragement and community needed to succeed in your personal journey-no matter the season.
Firmly rooted in Titus 2:1, which states "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" we seek to help you strike a balance between achieving the goals of online pursuits and living a life pleasing to God. It is possible!
Mark your calendars! You don't want to miss it! The 2:1 Conference will be held in the Washington DC area, early April 2011. We will bring you dynamic speakers, interactive break out sessions, sponsors wishing to connect on a higher level and new friendships!
A website with detailed information and exciting surprises is set to launch later this month. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you don't miss the launch or any announcements. We are so excited about this venture and treasure your input and excitement.
If you are interested in sponsoring the conference (big or small) please email Cheryl at 2to1info @ gmail dot com
The 2:1 Conference is a joint venture, brought to you by Cheryl at Somewhat Crunchy Mama, Stef at The Homeschool Village, Angie at The Homeschool Classroom and Dan at Got Hands.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Homeschool Days will be back in January and February at the Creation Museum

 viewerThe Creation Museum in Kentucky will once again be offering a special promotional price for homeschooling families that wish to reinforce what they are teaching at home with a trip to the museum during the months of January and .

Between Jan. 4  and Feb. 24, 2011, each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday's are Homeschool Days. Admission to the Museum is only $12 for adults (13 and up) and $8 for children (5-12).  The Stargazer's Planetarium is also specially priced at only $5.

As a special bonus, you will also receive a 5% discount on all purchases made in Noah’s Cafe or the Dragon Hall Bookstore when you present your admission ticket.

To take advantage of the special Homeschool Days pricing, you will need to present the coupon found on the flyer at this link or you can download the flyer by clicking on the photo at the top of this post.

Our family is hoping to visit the Creation Museum on our way home from Ohio at Christmas so stay tuned for my review the beginning or January!

Quick and Easy Gift Tags for FREE!

 wfmw-300x198 Christmas is quickly approaching and I decided it was time for the procrastinator that I am to get my butt in gear and begin to wrap the few gifts that I’ve picked up for my kids.

I found gift wrap, ribbons and bows at Wal-mart that compliment our tree perfectly. But it wasn’t until I was home and began to wrap packages that I discovered I’d forgotten to buy matching package labels! Not one to make an unnecessary trip back to Wal-mart, I decided to put my noggin to good use.

I decided to cut letters, representing the first name of each family member, out of the wrapping paper scraps that were left over and affix them to the package instead of gift tags or labels and I know I’m a little prejudiced here, but I love how it turned out!

tree 011

This post is linked to Works-for-Me-Wednesday. What neat tips do you have to share?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why you Should Never Read Your Emails in Front of Your Children

Surrounded by my family in the living room, I opened an email and could not believe my eyes! I managed to kind of scream OH.MY.GOODNESS. a couple times before the message the email contained literally took my breathe away. 


I should have kept my news to myself . And now I’m really kicking myself. But since I’d managed to suck all the air from the room with my gasp,  all eyes were intently on me. My family didn’t know if they should give me a minute to recover or grab the phone and dial 9-1-1.

What I did next was stupid. I blurted out the amazing news that I should not have uttered from my lips.  I HAD WON THE GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY OFFERED VIA TODAY’S MAMA FROM GAMESTOP!

My family didn’t even know that I’d entered and to be honest, I certainly didn’t think I’d ever win. But my kids LOVE all things xBox, Wii and PSP and have a wish list a mile long,  as if I ever doubted. So I half-heartedly entered the contest, which happened to be a  fun holiday meme not expecting to win, but hoping…just maybe??? 

I tried to explain to my what I’d won to my family but they couldn’t quite understand my incoherent screeching. When the news finally clicked,  they thought surely it must be a mistake. So I read the email again. and again. I even had to visit the Today’s Mama website so they could read the original post themselves. They even wondered if she was a fake (sorry Erin) but I assured them if that was the case than it was quite an elaborate hoax. Especially since I was directed to her site through an email I’d received directly from GameStop.  That must have made them feel a little more hopeful. So they began to analyze each and every phrase.  An xBox 360 with 250GB and a Kinect!  A Nintendo Red Wii bundle. Three Nintendo Red DSi XL Bundles. AND…a $1000 dollar shopping spree!     

Now, if only I’d not opened this email in front of my family  - my kids would have been absolutely stunned on Christmas Day since we’d already told them we weren’t buying a lot of presents. 

Of course, they are still pretty stunned and I have a feeling I’ll still enjoy the look on their faces when our package arrives.

Thank you to Today’s Mama and to GameStop- I guess you know where we’ll finish our Christmas shopping!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

ALEKS: A Perfect Math Program for Roadschoolers


I’m going to cut right to the chase here. I recently reviewed ALEKS, a complete web based math program, and I have to say, I LOVE this product.

I’m even convinced that I’ve found a new market for ALEKS-something they’ve probably not even thought of- Roadschoolers. That’s right. This product would have been so helpful when we were on the road, traveling in our motor home! Why? I can think of several reasons.

  • The program is web-based and available anywhere via your computer as long as you have internet access, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The program is fully self-contained. You do not need a textbook for any of the courses that ALEKS offers and as all full-time RVer’s know, books are heavy! Now you can leave them behind!
  • If you are on the road and your child finishes a book there is no need to fret over where you’ll have the next level shipped. When you subscribe to ALEKS you have access to the entire program! You simply continue to the next level. You don’t even need to pay an additional fee!

Sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it? But what about those of you that are not on the road? What else do I like about this program? 

Now that I have your attention, you may be wondering just what is ALEKS? As defined from the website, ALEKS- an acronym for Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces- is a Web-based computerized program that assesses your child’s level of understanding quickly and efficiently by prompting your child to complete a series of questions or problems to identify the level of mastery. Since no two children will be at the same skill level, an individualized program will be tailored for each child.  It can be used as a core curriculum , to supplement your existing curriculum or as a tutor in areas that your child struggles.

This program is very user friendly. We literally logged in and started immediately. While my son was taking his assessment to determine where he was, I was watching the 12 minute video that explained the ins and outs of the Master Account which is included with every subscription.


Think of the Master Account as your game plan. It enables you to:

  • Manage multiple students at once
  • Monitor your child’s progress through automated reports
  • Assign quizzes
  • Access customer service
  • Send messages to your student,
  • and even send the student reports via email which is a great option for those of you that live in a state where an annual assessment of your student is required or for those that are working with a tutor.

My 15- year old son loved that the program is computer based. The questions are clear and easy to understand.

aleks 1

If he makes an error, he’s alerted right away. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am by this. This means that if he messes up, he doesn’t finish the entire lesson or the next or next before I get around to grading it. He knows right then that he messed up and he can make the corrections necessary.


If he needs additional help, he simply clicks on the button at the top of the page for more information. 


After each lesson your child will see how much progress they’ve made with easy to read pie charts. I really didn’t expect this to have as large an impact on my son as I thought that it would for someone who has struggled with math this feature serves as both an incredible motivator and confidence booster.   

aleks 2

As the parent, you also receive regular updates on how your child is progressing.

There are two other reasons that I really love this program:

  • We may lose books at my house from time to time, but I guarantee, my children will not lose the computer! As long as we have the computer and Internet, there is no reason that they can’t complete their work.
  • I’ve homeschooled, unschooled and roadschooled for a combination of 12 years and the exception of when they were very young, my children have never asked me when they could ‘do’ math. EVER. Until we began reviewing ALEKS. Right there makes this program a winner in my book.

ALEKS has a number of courses from early math to higher education and add new courses regularly. There are even a couple chemistry courses.

This innovative program is available by a subscription month-by-month basis or 6 or 12 month increments. Beginning at $19.95 per month, per child, I’m thrilled to tell you that ALEKS offers family discounts as well. And if you take a break for the holidays or need time off due to an unexpected circumstance, you can even put your account on hold so you can come back to it later and pick up where you left off.  

ALEKS has generously offered homeschooling readers of Live the Adventure access to ALEKS for a FREE 30-Day Trial which is much better than the 48- hour trial you’ll find at the company website. 

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

Go ahead, check it out and tell me what you think.  I hope you’ll love it. We do.

You can see what other reviewers had to say about this program at  The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew review blog.

This product was given to me free of charge by ALEKS in exchange for offering my personal opinion about the product.

Friday, December 10, 2010 A Review


Six years ago, I would have LOVED this product. Before we downsized and began traveling in our 31 foot motor home, I had bookshelves that sagged under the weight of books. Every basket, corner and room in our house had books. Even our vehicle had books! Can you say “typical homeschooling family”? Was it hard to keep track of what we had? You bet! Did I ever purchase a copy of a book I already owned because I had forgotten that I already owned it? Yep, not once, but on several occasions! Did I ever search high and low for a particular title only to remember after the fact that I had loaned the same book to a friend? Too many times to count!

This is why Book Collector offered by would have been extremely helpful to me. This product allows you to catalog your collections. Whether that would be books, your music selections, games, MP3’s or movies, you’ll find a  program that will help you organize your collections before they get out of hand. There is even a separate app that can be downloaded to iPhones and other mobile devices so you always have your list handy- whether that would be titles that you already own or books on your wish list.


I found the program, that can be downloaded to your computer (both Mac and Windows) extremely easy to use. Within minutes of downloading the software I was able to catalog an entire shelf of books by inputting the ISBN from the back covers, allowing me to search my collection by title, author or category. If you really want to be organized you can even sort by groups, subject, publisher and much more. 

book collector 1

If you have a ton of books, like I used to, you can purchase a hand held scanner from the company that will speed up the cataloging process.

I love the feature that allows you to make notes about the book- was it a favorite? Did you read the book during a particular study? Did you lend the book to a friend? Just make a quick note of it and it will save yourself hours of searching for something that isn’t currently in your possession.

There are several different packages of Book Collector currently available. You can purchase the Standard Program for $29.95 or upgrade to the Deluxe Program (what I received as part of the TOS Crew) for $49.95- or for only $9.95 more you can have Book Collector Pro mailed to you on CD in a DVD case. 

Plus, you can visit the Collectorz website and download a free trial version of the software that will get you started on the path to organization. 

You can read what other review members had to say about the product at the TOS Crew Review Blog.

I received this product from in exchange for may honest opinion and review.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mama’s Holiday Wish List Meme- Something Completely Different

When I saw this in my inbox, I knew I had to join this meme. The Kinect is already on my family’s wish list for Christmas and who wouldn’t turn down a chance to win an incredible stash from GameStop?  Read on….

TodaysMama and GameStop  are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What is your holiday wish for your family?

That we will actually make it safely to Ohio and back to see our family and friends.

Two years ago we ran in to some terrible weather in the mountains of Kentucky. The roads were icy and the traffic wasn’t crawling, it had stopped completely. Thankfully there was a hotel within our line of vision so we crawled there like everyone else who had spotted it. After waiting in line for nearly an hour at the front desk we were checked in and tucked into bed in our rooms.   

Last year we were heading home from Ohio when the transmission went out of our Trailblazer. We ended up renting a two door tiny car for my family of five to return to Alabama. My three huge teenagers sat in the miniscule backseat while the dog tried unsuccessfully to get comfortable laying stretched across all their laps. That was a LONG ride. My butt still aches thinking about that one.  

2. What is your Christmas morning / Hanukkah Nightly tradition?

We don’t really have any traditions now. I like to read the Christmas story from the Bible and then we open presents and visit our family. Of course, that is what we did before we moved.  

3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be?

That would be a toss up between traveling somewhere with my family or getting an SLR camera all to myself.

4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money?

We have an Advent story that we read, reminding us of the true reason for Christmas.

We love to watch the sappy Christmas movies that run on the Hallmark Channel for the entire month of December. 

We also drive around and look at the lights that people put up on their houses.

5. What games did you play with your family growing up?

I remember Yahtzee, Scrabble, Monopoly –oh how I hate Monopoly now- Uno, board games. Definitely board games.

6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood?

If possible we join the rest of the family at my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve. 

7. Where would you go for a Christmas/Hanukkah-away-from-home trip?

I’d love to stay at the Biltmore Farm’s Hotel if I could take my entire family.

8. Check out GameStop  and tell us, what are the three top items on your GameStop Wish List this year?

The  Kinect Fitness Bundle,  a PS3, a Wii Fit to see if we like that or the Kinect better.  

The Homeschool Village is Talkin’ Field Trips

The Homeschool Village Panel is sharing their favorite field trips this week so if you love all things field trips, why not hop over and see where everyone’s been? 

What has been your single- most- all- time –favorite- field trip?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Building New Memories


When I read about the Christmas Ornament Show & Tell that Jolanthe is hosting at No Ordinary Moments, I just knew that I wanted to participate! How fun is that? To share the ornaments that are near and dear to our hearts. And then I remembered. I don’t have any Christmas ornaments anymore.

Every since the kids were old enough to help us decorate the tree, we’ve had a tradition in our home that I loved. We’d gather all our Christmas ornaments around our artificial tree and I would tell my children the story of each ornament, they were all so special. Some of the ornaments had been lovingly made from my great-grandma’s arthritic hands. Beautiful beaded creations. Angels, Christmas Bells and Icicles. My kids loved the way the beads shimmered when placed in front of one of the tree lights.

When I was a teenager, I began collecting ornaments. Each year after Christmas I would visit expensive department stores and I would purchase a couple special pieces. Most of these were beautiful cloth ornaments in rich burgundy and mauve colors. Victorian style ornaments with lace and ribbons. I loved pulling them out of their individual boxes and watching my children’s eyes glow.

And yet, some of my most treasured ornaments were simple, dough ornaments formed with my own children’s then tiny hands. They carefully decorated and painted them ever so carefully as I shared the story of Christ’s birth and the true meaning of Christmas.

As I write this post I can’t help become a little bit sentimental and even teary eyed as I think of those precious memories. Several years ago, our area experienced terrible flooding. One morning I awoke to a gushing in our basement, water was pouring in. Though we were able to save a few items, almost all our ornaments were  lost.  We lost some of our possessions, other’s lost their homes.

I’ve thought about beginning another collection, a new collection but it’s just not the same. We have a few pieces waiting for us in storage and I’m sure I’ll treasure them all the more when I see them again.

Last year we were in the camper so we bought a tiny tree that was already decorated. Not very exciting but it served the purpose. This year, the first year back in a house, the kids really wanted a tree. Mentally I began adding up the cost of a tree and decorations….we didn’t have anything.

So, I did what I always do. I visited the local thrift store and I found EVERYTHING that I needed. Wow. The Lord really takes care of us, doesn’t he? Not only did I get a beautiful tree with lights, I also got all of our ornaments (in just the exact colors we wanted), a star for the top of the tree and lights for outside. When we lived in Ohio as long as I could remember I wanted to decorate each of the front windows with those fake candle lights and a wreath. It seemed as though I just never had the extra money at Christmas, but this year I found EVERYTHING that I wanted- including brand new Christmas cards and a Santa hat and beard for our dog for under $60.  The only thing I haven’t found is a tree skirt but I’ve been so blessed with everything else I found that it doesn’t bother me one bit. 

decorations Our stash

christmas tree at night

 Decorating our tree 

Everyday I wake up and the first thing I do is turn on the lights of the tree. My tree may not be filled with the same one-of-a-kind ornaments that I once had, but when I look at the tree now it’s not with sadness over what’s missing, or lost, I look at the tree and I’m amazed at the Lord’s provision and blessings.

This year we have the opportunity to build new memories, in a new home …TOGETHER. 

What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Ten Alabama Field Trips of 2010

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost the end of the year. Wow, has 2010 really flown by! The kids and I have been discussing some of our field trips and compiled a list of the best of the best here in Alabama. So, if you’re planning a family trip or need a few field trip ideas, here are a few, well- ten,  to get you started.    

10. Harrison Brothers Hardware Store, Huntsville


Known as the oldest continuously operating hardware store in the state of Alabama, this blast from the past is located directly across the road from the Madison County Courthouse. You can browse the store for unique trinkets or retro candies or begin a tour of the building at the 103 year old cash register that continues to ring up purchases today.  FREE

9.  Weeden House, Huntsville

the weeden house

This little gem is nestled in the historic Twickenham District of Huntsville, an easy stroll from Harrison Brothers Hardware Store. Once home to esteemed artist Miss Howard Weeden, the Weeden House is the oldest home in the state that is still open for tours.  Call ahead to confirm hours for admission so you won’t be disappointed.  ADMISSION

8.  Tiffin Motor Home Factory, Red Bay

Tiffin Motor home factory tour

As former full-time RVer’s this incredible factory tour was a must for my family! Highly recommended for those planning to purchase or considering one of the Tiffin Motor Home beauties whose line includes the Allegro and Phaeton series.  FREE

7.  Bill’s Honey Farm, Meridianville


You’re welcome to stop in and visit this beekeeper but if you want to know what all the buzz is about, you’ll have to arrange for a field trip ahead of time. Great place to buy honey, bees wax candles and our favorite, the sweet honey candy. ADMISSION

6.  Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ave Maria Grotto is truly a prime example of what it means to turn trash into treasure.  Each of the handcrafted miniatures was fashioned by Brother Joseph Zoettl, essentially from trash and discarded building supplies.  From the tiny replica of the city of Jerusalem to the whimsical dragon you’ll discover lurking beneath Hansel and Gretel’s Temple of the Fairies, today you’ll find over 125 masterpieces, including the focal point of the park, a grotto which contains the Virgin Mary and other statues. Before leaving the property of St. Bernard Monastery,you may consider a peaceful stroll through the cemetery and a quick peek inside the church. ADMISSION 

5.  Russell Cave National Monument, Bridgeport


Beautiful and serene, you’ll love the visiting Russell Cave National Monument any season of the year. Don’t leave home without your camera, you’ll be disappointed if you miss your chance at snapping a picture of the mouth of the cave, shrouded in mist. The cave entrance looks as though it could have been the setting for the Lord of the Rings movie.  The visitor’s center has a small museum and movie available for viewing but the real gem of this attraction is the nature trail that winds through the hillside behind the cave, but be prepared. The hike may be short, but it is steep. FREE, DONATIONS WELCOME   

4.  North Alabama Veteran’s Museum & Archives, Athens

north alabama veterans museum 

Housed within the walls of a 100 year old freight depot, you’ll find artifacts from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Everywhere you turn you’ll discover uniforms, guns, medals, and photographs offering a hint of the cost of our freedom.  Visit often if you can, new objects are frequently added to the displays. Guided tours by Veteran’s are available. FREE, DONATIONS WELCOME

3.  Jerry Brown’s Pottery Studio, Hamilton


A nationally known folk potter, you’ll find a fine example of his ugly pot on display at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.  Jerry Brown is a 9th generation potter that uses material that is found locally and processed by his mule, Blue, to create his sturdy stoneware cookware, jugs and ugly pots. If you’re unable to stop by during the Jerry Brown Festival in early March and you  find yourself along I-78 near Hamilton don’t pass by without browsing in his shop. FREE

2.  Athens Storytelling Festival, Athens

Athens Storytelling Festival 1

This is one show that will keep you perched on the edge of your seat, as the master story tellers share tales that are guaranteed to make you express emotion, whether that would be laughter or tears. This annual show is held each year on the square in historic downtown Athens. You won’t want to miss it!  ADMISSION 

1.  The Global Village at SIFAT , Lineville

stick home at global village

From homes constructed of bamboo, to rock houses accessible from rope bridges, you’ll be amazed at the thought and planning that has gone into recreating this global village. Today you can arrange a tour and learn how SIFAT, Servants in Faith and Technology,  is partnering with leaders in Bolivia, Haiti, the Philippines, Nigeria, and many other countries to teach the residents how to improve their living conditions by using simple, proven technologies.  If you’ve never given a thought to the basic luxuries that we have in here in the US, prepare to be humbled.  ADMISSION

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday. 

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Monday, December 6, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Teenagers


The TOS Crew has a weekly blog cruise that I rarely join. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just don’t often take the time to write up the weekly post. I’m so bad about that. Anyway, this week I was glancing through my reader and noticed that the hop was for your children to answer three questions. Hmmm….as I read, I wondered what my children would have to say. So I decided to ask them. If I was going to take the time to ask their thoughts, I may as well share there answers. Of course I was expecting a profound revelation from my teenagers. I just knew they would say something brilliant. Yeah. Right.

Which leads me to share our lunch conversation. I know you’re dying to read about the interview but you’ll enjoy this. Trust me. First, we don’t normally have lunch as a family, I’m the kind of wonderful mother that forces her children to fend for themselves for lunch. Today was different, my husband was working near home and since it’s cold here, he wanted to come home for lunch to warm up with Josh, who is helping his dad out today.

We are having a pleasant if not goofy conversation when my daughter says, “Don’t you ever want to know what all those bad words we’re not allowed to say mean?” We just kind of stared at her not really knowing where she was going with this. Proudly she continues…. “Well, I looked them up”. Aren’t teenagers a blast?    

chelsea goofy

Anyways, without further ado…here are the three questions I asked and the thought provoking responses that I received. It was Joshua’s turn to work so he was off the hook. I could ask him later, but he doesn’t enjoy being interviewed. Remember when we lived in the motor home and I interviewed Nickolaus and Chelsea about their life on the road? They loved it, Josh never would consent. I may have even offered to pay him. But I’ll never tell.

Why does our family homeschool?

Chelsea- “That is something you have to answer.” Me- No, they want to know your thoughts. “Because it’s better than public school? Because that’s what you felt the Lord wanted us to do. Personally, I think homeschooling has to be better since we take more field trips.”

Nickolaus- “We’ve homeschooled since the beginning because my mother went to public school and didn’t think it was the best choice for our family.”

What is your favorite part about homeschooling?

Chelsea- “Ummm…more field trips.” (Duh…didn’t she just answer that in the first question? How dare I ask again!)

Nickolaus- “Spending more time with my family.”

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Chelsea- “Photographer.” Me- do you want to expound on that? Chelsea- “Professional photographer?” Giggle. 

Chelsea loves to take pictures. You don’t normally see her without her camera. I think she’s pretty good too, but then she is my daughter. I could be biased. I don’t think so though. You can see some of her pictures here

Nickolaus- “A pilot.” 

In October he flew for the first time with the Young Eagles program and now he’s participating in an online pilot school. You can read more about that here.

Well, there you have it, the answers to these three important questions in the universe out of the mouths of teenagers.

You can stop by the here to see how other crew members answered this, or rather, how their children answered the questions.

Just for fun, you should ask your kids the same questions. Do you know what they would say?

Call Me Crazy…

I know sometimes the words I write can be misconstrued. It’s impossible to read the “tone” of written words or see the tears or smile behind them. Still, it never ceases to amaze me when someone takes the time to leave a hateful word or two as a comment. Ever have one of those? It doesn’t bother me too much if they really just disagree with me. That’s fine. But you could be nice about it, couldn’t you? What bothers me is when people clearly don’t even take the time to read the entire post. I’m sorry. I just think that if one is going to take the time to lash out at someone, one should take the time to read what they’ve written in it’s entirety. Call me crazy…but I’m just sayin’.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thank you to The Pioneer Woman

Ever have one of those really crappy days when you just want to step outside and scream at the top of your lungs?

Or cry your eyes out?

Or maybe you’ll feel better if you do both?

That’s the kind of day I had yesterday. Completely frustrating and discouraging,  until last night,  when I checked my inbox and read an email from Heather at The Homeschool Post.

It seems that The Pioneer Woman didn’t claim her prize for winning the Best Blog Design for the recent Homeschool Blog Awards. I’m sure she’s busy cooking those yummy Christmas cookies that she’s mentioned a time of two on Twitter. Oh to be able to cook like that…to have a blog like that…to take pictures like that…I really do love The Pioneer Woman. Do you ever read the homeschooling posts that she writes? That woman is FUNNY! I want to be a blogger just like her when I grow up. Hmmm…on the other hand, maybe it’s too late for that…

Anyway, since she didn’t claim her prize, as the first runner up, Live the Adventure has been declared winner of the 6th Annual 2010 Homeschool Blog Awards!


Haven’t I always told you that my blog designer is wonderful? Louise, from Adori Graphics took my idea and turned it into a design that I LOVE!

I hope you’ll click on over to her site and give her a pat on the back. She deserves it. And next time you need a blog button, business card design or a total blog makeover, I hope that you’ll consider Adori Graphics for your design needs.  I heart her. She is AWESOME!    

Without sounding like I’m totally gushing here, I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU  to Adori Graphics (just in case it wasn’t clear above),  the HSBA Post for hosting the awards, to everyone that voted for Live the Adventure and to The Pioneer Woman, who unknowingly gave this blogger a blast of much needed encouragement.

And now, bring on the prizes… :)

Time for a new Suitcase

Remember that cruise my family took in August? Well, we didn’t get off to the best start when the zipper on my largest suitcase busted as we were minutes from leaving the hotel to head to the cruise terminal and board the ship. Certainly not the best thing that could have happened, but fortunately it wasn’t the worst either. We didn’t have time to go to the store and buy new luggage, but we did have options.

1.  We could duct tape the suitcase closed- of course that would be pretty tacky at best. Not to mention a huge problem if they chose to search that piece of cargo. And honestly, with our broken luggage wrapped in duct tape, why wouldn’t it be targeted for inspection?


2. We could attempt to shove all of our belongings currently contained in that one suitcase and redistribute it into everyone else’s suitcases and bags.

As much as I disliked the idea of placing my unmentionables in my mother-in-laws bags, it couldn’t be helped. I’m happy to say that with a bit of rearranging on everyone’s part, the crisis was averted.

I’m currently in the process of planning another quick getaway in January and as much as I’d like to make do with our remaining pieces of luggage, I’m afraid it’s just not going to work.

So, I’ve been looking at luggage sets, searching for a new large suitcase. Comparing prices, looking for the best deals and in my search I’ve discovered some really cute patterned pieces that I would absolutely love. I’m not sure that my husband would appreciate sporting a shiny pink, black and white polka dotted bag on his next business trip, now would he?  

Shiny Large Dot 4 Piece 4 Wheeled Set in Black

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Our Trip to Bill’s Honey Farm

A couple months ago I heard about a field trip to a Honey Farm. Sounded intriguing and in all our field trips, we somehow never managed to speak to a beekeeper so I signed up. As the day approached, I was beginning to wonder if this would be a field trip that maybe we should have skipped.  Were we in for a surprise!

Bill Mullins, owns Bill’s Honey Farm near Meridianville, Alabama. He has 35 years experience under his belt and is full of knowledge. One of the perks about field trips is that our children (and ourselves) often have the benefit of learning about a subject from someone that is passionate about what they do. Any subject can be fascinating when you are learning from someone who really loves what they do.    


First, we learned about the basics of beekeeping through a lecture style lesson. The setup of the hive, some basic information about the bees, and the benefits for the beekeeper of tending a hive.

One hive may contain as many as 80,000 bees! There are three different honey bees: queens, drones and workers.  Each hive will contain only one queen. She can lay over 1,000 eggs a day. Drones are male bees and exist to mate with the queen. They are driven out of the hive by the worker (female) bees at the end of the summer. Worker bees are the female bees that keep the hive running smoothly. They do all the jobs around and outside the hive. From comb construction, to gathering nectar and pollen and everything in between, you’ll find these bees hard at work.   

Mr. Mullins talked to us in detail about all the products that he collects from his bee hives. He raises queen bees that he sells to other beekeepers. He makes candles from the bees wax he collects. I couldn’t believe  my eyes when I discovered he sells votive candles the exact color of my living room walls! He gathers pollen, which we were permitted to taste, sells the honey that is collected, makes candy with the honey- which we really enjoyed eating, and sells the Propelis- a sticky resin or bee glue that is scraped from the inside of the hive.  He showed us the ball of the Propelis he had on hand. It looks like…well, you can see for yourself what it looks like.  


Since  the group mainly consisted of older kids and everyone was pretty well behaved that day, he took us to his extraction building to show us how the honey is extracted from the honeycomb and the steps it goes through until it is bottled. 


Extracting the honey


Believed to be the only gravity fed honey bottling system in Alabama


Bottling the honey


I just thought this made a fun picture


A Beekeeper in uniform        


While checking out the hives outside on the property, a bee with swollen pollen sacs landed on my arm

This was an amazing field trip. I loved it and the kids loved it. If you have the opportunity to visit a beekeeper in your area, I’d highly recommend it. If you live near Northern Alabama, you may consider setting up a field trip for your own family or homeschool group. You can read more about Mr. Mullins and his honey farm here.

Until this field trip I have to admit that I didn’t fully appreciate all that bees do. Do you realize that 1/3 of our food supply relies upon bees for pollination?

Additional resources:

A FREE unit study on Honey Bees by Marybeth Whalen

If you love lapbooks, and have younger kids, here is a complete Honey Bee Lapbook that is available FREE of charge.

Here’s some good information for older students who may be interested in a beekeeping career.

So, what have you been up to? Have a field trip that you’ve gone on? Link up to Field Trip Friday. And, so you know, our next Field Trip Friday link up will be Friday, January 7th. Until next time…Happy Field Trippin’!  

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