Plans to Prosper

I've always been one to think about my life in seasons. I think this comes naturally to a military brat, we think of our time not in years but in places and seasons. When tough times come I try to remind myself that this is a season, it comes with certain challenges (and benefits oftentimes too!) but it won't last forever so just keep on going.

I'm an introvert, a INTJ if you are into those types of labels like I am, I know that I need time to myself, time to think, on a daily and weekly basis. And I've found ways to make it happen even when surrounded by little people (naps and outside play time for the win!), but what I've started to realize is that my seasons also tend to go like waves, out and in. Some seasons have me reaching out to others and forming new relationships, ministering to others and overall just being more outwardly focuses. And normally those seasons are followed by one in which I'm focused more on myself and my family, our home, renewing and replenishing our spirits, and just soaking up God. Often times new pregnancies and then the following new baby seems to trigger a change but right now its all these changes. Maybe God didn't think I was listening to my health issues screaming "slow down" so he helped me out a bit. Whatever the reason, God is showing me a different path to take.

And I'm ready for it. I've been thinking of the loss and that is still there but I'm no longer feeling down about having spent time and energy on things that are in the past like I had been. Just because those communities aren't the right place for me now doesn't mean that I was wrong in being there before nor that the time I put into them wasn't used for God's glory.

But God is giving me new opportunities are being put in my life,  smaller and less involved and will leave me more breathing room, more space, more margin in my life. New passions and a vision for our family and our home and the family culture that Craig and I want for us and our kids. Slow and deliberate. And with those changes, I hope to have more time for reflecting writing here instead of just "what we did this month" type posts, I miss that.


World's of Learning Year in Review

We still have about 6 weeks of Worlds of Learningpreschool work left. I'll be back with June/July and August monthly reviews later but I’ve recently started planning next year and I wanted to take some time to think how it went, what worked, what didn't, and what I would do differently before I plan for the next year.

Overall, we had a great time learning together this year. I had pretty much the right amount of stuff planned, the daily work got done probably 80% of time and having 1-2 activities a week during the spring and fall, a bit more in the winter when we start to get stir crazy was just what we needed. I always had options when I needed them but rarely felt overwhelmed or behind.

What Worked Well:

Table Time

We loved Table Time. It’s not even really “school” now, it’s just what we do at lunch for fun – and to keep everyone in their seats until a reasonable amount of food has been consumed. And if we missed it at lunch because we were gone or ate outside, we would normally make it up during afternoon snack time. We didn’t get everything done every day but we did since it was a daily thing, I never felt bad about skipping or missing if life happened.

As far as the work we did (hymns, poems and folk/fairytales), Lucy memorized most of the poems just from repeated exposure. When it came to hymns, we all improved a great deal. When we started, neither kid would sing along but enjoyed listening to me. This past month, both kids sang the hymn (Jonah’s version was  “may may bread may may KNEES!” but the rhythm was quite clear – and adorable).  And both kids request some of their favorite hymns at bedtime and since I had been practicing I could sing all the verses instead of just repeating the first and last over and over again. The story was longer so it become the first thing to get dropped but it was still Lucy’s favorite part. I’m sure it will change a bit but we will definitely be keeping Table Time.

Lots of books. 

We love books and I like having quality books around to pull out.  The weeks we didn’t do preschool and just relied on picking things up on the library, we ended up with a lot more twaddle and reading time because more of a chore for mom.  I know there is some “controversy” in CM circles over having too many picture books for preschoolers but I’m confident that our reading time doesn’t replace outdoor or free play time and we keep things in balance.

Lots of outdoor time.

At the beginning of the year I read Charlotte Mason’s recommendation for 4-6 hrs outside and just thought there was no way I would make the happen. But with concerted effort, we’ve made it up to 2-4 hrs average and have even made it to 6 several times.  We normally eat one or even two meals outside on a nicer day.

Art appreciation/Picture Studies

Simple but perfect and I know we both learned a lot. Lucy even spotted a few works she recognized and told me the artist while we were in Hobby Lobby once. My favorite art memory of hers was probably when she saw The Little Dancer in person and was shocked by how small it was. Honestly, even though I had seen it before, I was too. It just seemed bigger in our books and print. We had some issues with review which was an issue with our Table Time work as well so that will be its own issue.

What didn't work:

Relying on the library

We’ve got a fairly decent library and the ILL normally works pretty quickly but several books I had looked up earlier were not available (disappeared!) from the library by the spring time and other times it just wasn’t a good week for me to swing by. It was frustrating not having them right when I wanted them. The plan I’m working on for next year will be a bit more flexible but the few books that I need at a specific time I will just plan on buying. There is always room in the budget for books. If not, we’ll cut our food budget and eat less dessert. I’m only partially kidding.


I didn’t have a plan for reviewing our table time work. We need one. And I've got a plan. It involves Evernote and is based on the Charlotte Mason review system we've used for bible memory. I’ll let you know if I get it all worked out.

What needs some tweaking:

Classical Music 

The semesters were we listened to specific works were perfect. I wasn't sure how this would go because I didn't have much planned in terms of activities. Turns out, we didn't need them.  Just having a specific piece picked out that we listened to over and over was fun and the kids learned to recognize and love it. Carnival of Animals and Peter and the Wolf were both big hits and are still requested on car trips. But the semester we focused on an artist (Vivaldi) wasn't the same. I don’t think this was an issue with Vivaldi himself but we listened to too much so the kids didn't really learn any piece or care. It just became background music. Nice background music but there wasn't the same interaction. 


Just Who Do They Think I am?

The "Who" in this case being Pinterest. I really enjoy the newish "Explore Interests" page. Not really for the ability to explore my interests but because I get such a kick out of what they think my interests are.

Some of them clearly make sense:
  • Gluten Free - my new life
  • Basements - my ongoing project
  • Children's Books - my forever love

Some of them don't make as much, although with a bit of thinking I can think of the reasoning behind them, even if it is a bit of a stretch to think I'd want to explore it.

  • Minnesota - The place where my husband went to college?
  • Flour - Hello, didn't you see the GF board? Get it away from me!
  • Homemade yogurt - Been there, done that. Not really interested right now but thanks

Some of them are probably accurate but make me feel lame because apparently I spend my limited free time exploring paint colors and slow cooker recipes. What a life I lead!

  • Paint Colors
  • Paint Color Combos
  • Neutral Paint Colors
  • Grey Paint Colors - Yes, I've been searching for a paint colors but don't make me sound so desperate
  • Carpet
  • Bathroom Shelves
  • Slow Cooker Recipes

Some are just really random and oddly specific but not very accurate
  • Connect the dots - I'm trying but I still don't know why you picked this category.
  • White cakes - I prefer chocolate :-)
  • Teaching geography - Any other subject I would probably be interested in but geography? Not so much. 
  • Deer Resistant Plants - We actually don't have deer issues although we do have deer. And just a few days ago a baby deer somehow got itself stuck in our yard and was surprisingly difficult to release. But it didn't eat our plants and it was so adorable, I don't think I would have minded if it had.
And some my friends are way too accurate, it's almost scary.
  • Lee Min-Ho - No, seriously, he was the third board up there and a big one too! And those of you who follow me on Pinterest can back me up on this but it's not like I pin pictures of him daily or anything. I don't! But still, pinterest knows. 
  • Kimchi - I love it but I don't ever look for it or try recipes for it. In fact, I can't currently eat it so this is a bit cruel of pinterest. Just rub all your kimchi and flour pictures in my face, why don't you?
  • Ikea - It's coming to our town Fall 2015! Save your pins!
What about your pinterest interest? Do they match the real you? Any random ones that make you laugh?



Oh my, it's been a spring of changes - and boy am I ready for summer! I'm not really a fan of changes and these have been some big ones. The diet stuff is actually probably one of the smallest but that one's going well. The others are more emotional (not that the lack of bread/flour is always purely physical, especially on certain days of the month :-)

Probably the biggest and hardest change is my leaving La Leche League. I've mentioned here several times that I've worked as a lactation counselor. Reading between the lines you might have known it was for LLL and I've enjoyed this volunteer work immensely but the time has come to say goodbye.

This all started a few months ago when La Leche League International announced a policy change which allows men to apply for leadership. While it might seem to be semantics, this was clearly done to address transgender issues and, as LLL states in its press release, because "the cultural understanding of gender has expanded." Since then I've been talking to my local area leaders as well as members of the international board and like-minded leaders and have come to the conclusion that the organization I have loved is no longer working towards promoting the same philosophy I have and I can no longer support it. I haven't talked about it publicly until now because I was still a leader and wanted to work it out within the organization. I had thought I would want to say more here because this is my normal brain dump space but right now, I'm drained. I'm tired of trying to have reasonable conversations over ridiculous questions. Common sense in these cases just fly out the window in favor of not offending anyone or making an judgements and in the end, its children that suffer. It hurts to watch but right now, I've got nothing left for this conversation and yet sadly, I fear it is just beginning in this country. But the end result is that I've resigned, along with others.

Friday was my last meeting with the wonderful local ladies with whom I've worked. Leaving that meeting, I was walking away from a community I had been a part of since before Lucy was born. It was very hard but also in a way, very good. I had done what I felt like God was asking me to do and I've found in these last few months of doing hard things that God gives you peace when you commit to following him.

That's probably the biggest lesson God has been teaching me. As I said above, leaving LLL was probably the biggest change but it wasn't the only one. For one reason or another, recently I've had to leave several communities or change my role within them which meant that my plans and expectations for the future have also changed. Yet, each time I take the hard steps that I feel God is calling me to, I am left with a peace that passes all understanding.


At North Dakota

We flew up to Craig's parents yesterday for a week at the farm. Getting up at 4:30am, making our way through the airport and sitting still for two different flights left both kids exhausted. Sitting still and waiting and probably the most exhausting activities a child under 5 can partake in. They aren't so easy on the parents either. And dealing with less than stellar check-in workers, running to make our connection while wearing a toddler and pushing a preschooler in a stroller and then finding out our luggage and car seats had me wishing I drank coffee. But we made it. We were finally "at North Dakota" as Lucy says. We just had to make it through the rest of the day.

When Lucy gets tired she gets wired and energetic and silly, Jonah just crashes. He fell asleep in my arms while we were trying to have brunch. He rarely falls asleep like that anymore, normally I have to wrestle him down for a nap. Wrestle being a literal term in this case. I appreciated the change and the chance to snuggle my not-so-little bug. His sleeping face is still that of a babies, chubby and peaceful, like a little angel. His legs however, are not. While he hasn't been chubby for a while now, they are now lanky and long, sticking out past my lap and dropping down almost to the floor. They are most definitely kid legs now. Kid legs wearing their little real kid shoes. Ack where does the time go. In another couple years they will probably flying up here themselves.

Okay, sentimental mommy moment ended, moving on. The afternoon was spent soaking up all the attention from grandparents and uncles and great-grandmothers and great aunts. And eating ice cream and lollipops and more ice cream and lots of spoiling. The basics grandparents stuff. Plus baby cows which is another grandparent standard up here. It's shaping up to be a pretty fun week.


Waiting on daddy

Dear Daddy,

You've been gone all week and the three of us have missed you but we've tried to keep busy. We...

Made cookies

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Played at in the creek

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Went with Neighbor J to meet Laura from HeavenlyHomemakers.com

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Had dinner with friends.

Went swimming.


Had a picnic

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Played at the playground
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Took naps :-)

Skipped naps :-(

Made Dinosaur Fossils

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Had a playdate with friends

Decorated for you (and apparently ate some crayons)

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Now we just need you! 2hrs to go!


Chasing away the cabbages

I've mentioned my health issues before but the recent uptick in symptoms, which honestly may or may not actually be related to the hashimotos' diagnosis, have lead to a my taking the whole thing more seriously. If that sounds confusing to you, you probably have it about right :-)

But I've given up gluten and a host of other fruits, veggies and beans that tests have revealed I am reacting to in addition to starting a gut healing protocol. Luckily dairy and eggs were not an issue which makes my life a whole lot easier but overall the whole thing has been much simpler than I was expecting. I dragged my feet on taking out the gluten for a while for two reasons 1) it seems trendy which kinda put me off the idea because I'm not doing this to lose weight or to look cool to my cross fit friends* and 2) I like bread.

But having committed, I don't actually miss it. I do feel like God has laid the plans for this change with other changes in the past few years. I spent all last year (yes, the whole year!) making a month's worth of seasonal menu plans. Two 2 week dinner plans for spring, summer, fall and winter that used leftovers and double batch cooking in an optimal way. All I could think of was how that was all worthless now but looking at them, only I have to change a few meals or make simple substitutes (lettuce for me instead of tortillas when we have tacos for example) and seeing those menus in black and white was quite relieving. The other changes have been pretty easy as well. I miss bananas because they are such an easy on-the-go snack as well as a wonderful gluten free replacement for a peanut butter vehicle but I've survived. But you know what has been surprisingly hard - cabbage!

I didn't even think I particularly liked cabbage nor would I have said that I ate a lot. But the cabbage in my life is all hidden so I don't even think of it as cabbage - coleslaw, kimchi and last week, sauerkraut! I keep accidentally eating it only to realize with one bit to go that it was cabbage. It is very frustrating.

It reminds me a lot of sin actually. I don't normally struggle with what one might consider "big sins." Those are gluten. They are bad but they are also obvious and I'm on the lookout for them. But those little cabbages of frustration and impatience, of vanity and pride, of selfishness. Those sneak in when I'm not looking. So there I am, living my life, not even thinking about those sins in my life that are currently eating away at me (as in the case of cabbage and my body, it literally is!). I won't try and stretch the metaphor too much, it was just one of those little thoughts that popped into my mind while I was catching myself accidentally eating a forbidden food - again. But now I think I really have all the cabbage in my diet weeding out.

*I don't have cross fit friends. Not because I'm a loner but because I don't do cross fit. But if people find paleo/cross fit/gf to be something that makes a positive change in their life, more power to them. I just don't want to be perceived as being a hipster - that's not cool. Hmm, maybe that means I really am a hipster though. If a hipster eats gluten in a forest ...


K- Drama for Beginners

If you talk enough about something, the people you know are bound to either 1) get curious enough to want to try or 2) think you are crazy and never want to become like you. If #1 is how you are feeling about k-dramas, I'm here to help. First up -

Where to watch?

Netflix and Hulu have some and that's a pretty easy way to watch when you are first starting out because chances are you're familiar with those sites. The selection is limited so eventually you will want to branch out. I watch mostly at Viki.com and Dramafever.com. Both are legitimate sites. I'm not a premier member at either so I do watch commercials but they are easy to navigate and I don't have to worry about getting a virus or violating my conscious. Viki is normally faster with getting new episodes subbed and up; I can often watch a Thursday evening show by Thursday evening US time so they are my prefered site for shows I'm watching "live" but for older shows that I am marathoning, either works and sometimes a show is only on one so check them both out.


I like to watch then read a recap. Dramabeans is my favorite recap site, they have a fairly large set of recaps so most of the shows I will link to have recaps available, we have fairly similar tastes when it comes to shows and they do a wonderful job at explaining some of the cultural things and meta jokes I might otherwise miss. K-dramas typically have 16 one hour-ish episodes. I'd suggest starting with an already completed show but if you are anything like me, it won't be long before your watching them streaming. There is a great k-drama fandom and its fun to tag along with that as you all wait for -the next episode.


Here are some dramas that I think would be good starters. They aren't necessarily my absolute favorites but ones that I think capture the essence or really good parts of why I love k-dramas (heartwarming family relationships, cute romances, clean humor, etc) while skipping much of the bad (mega-angst, poor endings, live shooting issues)

Anything Else I Need to Know?

Humor is a bit different so even in a squeaky clean romantic comedy, you might find some bathroom humor. Not crude humor, just stuff that you would only expect a 12 year old boy to laugh at. You'll get used to it.

The first episodes can be boring. K-dramas are typically played two episodes a week on back to back days so the first episode tends to be all about the set-up. Sometimes you can get away with just reading a recap and skipping the first episode completely but if you don't, really try to stick with a show through the first two episodes before you decide its not your thing. I've almost missed my favorite shows because I didn't keep going after the first but by the end of the second, I was totally obsessed.

And speaking of obsessions, don't say I didn't warn you.

You're Beautiful and Best Love

The Hong Sisters are still one of my favorite writing teams so almost anything of theirs would be good (key is ALMOST - please don't watch BIG) but You're Beautiful and Greatest Love are my two favorites.

You're Beautiful is about a young almost-nun who is suddenly left to impersonate her twin brother in a boy band. It sounds bizarre and you might have to put aside your common sense for a while but is so funny and sweet. And "I will promise you" that you'll be singing along with a couple songs by the end. But YB is probably one of the slowest first episodes so promise me you'll stick with it to the second episode or just read the recap of the first episode.

You're Beautiful is available on Netflix, Hulu, Viki and Dramafever

 Greatest Love/Best Love is similar in style but with a slightly more grown-up story line and focuses on a has-been of the k-pop world and a current action star. There is a lot of "one has got all the goodness, the other the appearance of it" aspects which make it a tad deeper than YB but just as funny. It also has a heart stopping song. Darn it - now I want to go watch these two again!

Notes: Both of these have lots of meta! The recaps help make sense of it but even if you don't get half the jokes, I think you'll still find them quite amusing.

Greatest Love is available on Hulu, Viki and Dramafever

City Hunter

I hesitated to put this one the list because it isn't my normal type of K-drama and I'm not sure I would say it is typical of k-dramas - but its one of my all time favorites and is a great one to start with especially if you are having to convince a boyfriend/husband to watch with you but he is reluctant. Based on a manga, it has a batman/alias type feel. Our young hero (played by Lee Min-ho who I just adore) has been raised to revenge the death of his father and we follow his journey as he faces question of right and wrong and discovers that everything he knows might be a lie. And he meets a girl. And fights people with spoons. It's awesome. I really like this type of action but in the US, these types of movies are normally R rated for s*x and language so this was a perfect way for me to fill my action quote without those things. That said, the first episode is much darker in tone than the rest of the show tends to be. Unlike other dramas, it is really important to understand the backstory so I wouldn't suggest skipping it, but realize it won't all be that dark and depressing. There is cuteness coming, I promise!

City Hunter is available on Netflix, HuluViki and Dramafever

Full House

This might be considered a surprising pick since I didn't rate it very high but it was my first and I loved it at the time. I also know more than one other person who first got hooked on k-dramas because they watched it. It's slightly older so the clothes are a bit dated and the story line is a bit ridiculous - how on earth do your friends sell your house and why aren't you suing them? Because that is what happens. A girl loses her home then she and the new owner manage to strike a deal to co-habitat. Of course, they despise each other at the beginning. And of course, they don't by the end :-) You know what's going to happen and gets a bit repetitive in the end. Okay, I realize I'm not really selling this one very well but its a lot better NOT on paper. It's just so sweet and fun.

Full House is available on Hulu and Dramafever

If you try one out, let me know what you think? And for you seasoned k-drama watchers, how did I do with my recommendations? What would you suggests as a first drama?


Philadelphia Chicken Family

One of the cds I picked up for our big road trip was Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton which I highly recommend for road trips. Sandra Boynton is just so good. Almost all of her books and songs have become some sort of inside joke in our family. Last Christmas by dad was about to hand out our Christmas Eve pajamas and, very logically, called out "Pajama Time" at which point Craig, Lucy and I all started singing "some are red and some are blue..." while everyone else started at us. But we couldn't help it!

Anyway, on this trip I realized that each of the four of us had a song that really fit us. I found this hilarious at the time. It probably had something to do with the fact that it was 4am and I hadn't slept in almost 24hrs at that point but even now it makes me laugh.

Jonah - Snoozers.

We like to snooze in the morning. We like to snooze all day. 
We like to snooze whenever we choose - snoozing our cares away..
But when the world goes quiet and the evening moon is bright,
 we put on pajamas and hug all our mommas and never fall asleep all night, all night. 
We never fall asleep all night.

 He's been a pretty good sleeper in his toddler months overall but this past month has decided that bedtimes are for losers. You know, losers like mom and dad, certainly not him. So of course, he needs really long naps in the afternoon and there is no waking him up early in hopes of a earlier bedtime the next night. I've tried. So 10pm bedtime for everyone seems to be the new normal - at least for now.

Lucy - I Like to Fuss.

Mostly I am pleasant. Mostly I am good. 
I answer you politely, just as you say I should.
Yes, mostly I am perfect. You don't hear me complain.
 But after so much sunshine, you need a little rain:
 I like to fuss. I like to moan. I like to stand on my chair and say "Leave me alone!"

It's true. Most of the time she's adorable and loving and smart. But those moments. Oh those moments when she chooses not to be, they are rough. I think I'll leave it at that.

MacKenzie - Faraway Cookies

On, chocolate chip cookies so high on the shelf, 
hiding inside of the jar
I'm not tall enough, to reach you myself
so near, and yet - so very far!

I'm currently gluten free. Trying to be refined sugar free, too. Also no bananas, pineapple, cabbage, green beans, kidney beans. navy beans, or asparagus in my diet. Not that you find much asparagus in chocolate chip cookies but it does tend to have a good dose of gluten. Oh well. Someday!

Craig - Busy Busy Busy

and we have to send out messages by email, phone and fax
and we're talking every minute and we really can't relax
and we think there is a reason to be running neck and neck
and it must be quite important but we don't have time to check

This one is the biggest stretch. It's not that Craig isn't busy - oh no, he is super busy. Work, house projects, yard projects, civic involvement and volunteering. But he always manages to find time for the kids and I. Like taking us on vacations to the beach even if it means driving overnight just because his daughter wants to see the ocean (just not touch it) and his wife thinks relaxing on the beach sounds nice. He's a good man, even if he is a busy one.

Are you cool enough to fit a Sandra Boynton song? Which one?


WOL - May

May was a super busy month for us so we didn't get everything done and I knew that would happen but we still managed to squeeze in quite a bit of preschool fun. I just couldn't help it, these are some of my favorite books of the whole semester. I did not however, do an excellent job of taking pictures of the fun.

I stared with Ferdinand because that was my favorite childhood book and I was worried we wouldn't get to it. Lucy loved this book too which just made me so happy. I know people in these days of gender issues read lots of things into it but I think it is just a simple story of how you don't have to fit in. And when I was reading it to Lucy and we got to the part where Ferdinand doesn't want to play with the rough bulls, Lucy looked at me with eyes wide open. She was so excited she couldn't even talk so I said "Hmm, who do we know that doesn't always want to play with other kids, especially if they are being loud or crazy?" and she could barely contain herself before shouting "Me! He's like me!" It was a great chance for us to talk about personalities and differences between people and how God made everyone different.

I was also waiting on The Gardener so I lumped all the flower activities together until it arrived. We took a morning to go out and look for flowers in our yard. I had challenged Lucy to find 3 kinds and we found 4! We drew picture of each. Lucy's favorite was a little purple one that she called a bunny flower because its petals were funny shaped and it really did look like a bunny. I need to find out its real name though (Update: I'm pretty sure its a dead nettle. See how those little things on the bottom could be ears?).

We also collected dandelions another morning and made pancakes. The kids though it was fun and they didn't taste bad - but they didn't taste great either :-) We ate them all though, apparently before I even got pictures, so nobody starved. Maybe we'll try dandelion lemonade next time.

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We planted Sunflowers but unfortunately, only one came up and the next day we had a big storm and it got smooshed. Lucy didn't seem to mind because we had lots of dandelions and mushrooms to explore but I really want sunflowers in our yard so next year I'll be putting Craig in charge, my thumbs are too green to be trusted, even with such a great helper.

Our chalk flowers turned out better! This is the kind of plant projects I'm good at.

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I completely skipped Babuska's doll because I knew we would't get to everything and it isn't tied to a season like the others. I think its a fun story so I'll just save those activities for a rainy day.

Peter and the Wolf was on the schedule but remember, I did the a little switcheroo earlier this year so we got Carnival of Animals and read the poems and listened to it quite a bit. We have two versions. The Bernstein version that we own tells a bit more about the music, how the tortoise section is really just a slowed down version of "the can-can" and other fun tidbits like that. I enjoyed that one but the kids liked the poems from the book version. We didn't get to either of the activities but we did get out our set of musical instruments and play them together. Even without the activities, this book ended up being a huge hit with Jonah. I think its the first longer picture book that he has really taken to and I'm very excited to finally be moving away from The Very Hungry Caterpillar (not that it isn't a good book but there is only so much a mama can take!)

And that's it for May. June is pretty busy as well but we'll see what we can fit in.


Another trip!

Oh my goodness, the fun just keeps coming - and mom is getting worn out. But two of our big trips of the summer are completed. Just one more to go! You know you're a mom when you are counting down until the fun is over :-)

Not that we haven't had fun. We have. It's just that all this fun and people mingling, mixed with lack of good naps and sleep, bad eating habits (I've stuck with my recent dietary changes even though its been hard but that has at times meant I'm pretty much living off of apples and lara bars) and general schedule upheaval has us all feeling a bit cranky today. But we have a little bit of time to recuperate.

But enough about the downside of traveling, on the fun part. Pictures! We started with a trip to our local art museum. This may seem like an odd way to start a trip but Craig and I both wanted to see the special exhibit, French Impressionists, and this was the only free friday we could make it. On our way out we found our first cake!

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It worked well because by the time we were done, both kids were ready for lunch in the car and then Jonah napped almost all the way there. We didn't have to stop once on the 4 hour trip!

My dad and Cindy got married New Years Eve so this was just the reception. I'd share pictures but I was too busy catching up with family while cleaning up the biggest cupcake mess you have ever seen courtesy of Jonah and helping Lucy keep track of her new butterfly cracker friends, Sally and Windsor. Aunt Windsor (no relation to the butterfly) and I got to spend the evening hearing about Sally and Windsors adventures and we were both pretty sure the crackers were going to meet an unfortunately end and cause a meltdown but I am relieved to say that they made it out of the party, all through the weekend and the drive home intact. They are sitting on my kitchen counter until she forgets about them and I can finally throw them away :-) But the party was obviously a success when I was dressed and ready to go but Jonah still looked like this

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The craziest part of the trip was probably our big trip to the aquarium. It was the one place the whole weekend were the kids could actually run around. Normally a dark crowded aquarium is not the best place to let them loose but since it was me and 17 of my relatives in there, there were enough eyes and hands that I knew someone had them at all times.

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Craig and I snuck away with the kids (while all the less fortunate family members were able to take a nap :-) and visited Truman's home. Lucy said she liked it better than Carl Sandburg's but I'm pretty sure that is because the tour was shorter.

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And those are the highlights. Well, that and the fact that the backstreet boys were staying in our hotel. That started as a highlight but ended as an annoyance because their tour bus hogged the valet lane and made our departure a little less smooth than I would have liked. It seemed a little rude of them but I guess they just think they are Larger Than Life or something.


Nerd Alert - Or Summer Vacation Nature Fun

I promise I'm almost done talking about vacation. Almost, but not quite. Just bear with me please :-)

So this past year I really wanted to focus on getting closer to the Charlotte Mason's idea of 4 or more hours outside. At the time that seemed impossible to do, I just didn't think we could fill that much time. And I was right, we couldn't back then. One day I forced Lucy to play by herself outside (I was outside with her but wasn't willing to tell her what to do or read to her) without whining for 20 minutes and it took her over 2 hours to do so. That was our low point but we got better!

Slowly but surely we started to enjoy it. Then I started adding in nature journaling for myself and giving Lucy the option of joining in when she felt like it. In terms of "Nature Study" I still felt like I was just making it up as I went along. I didn't know the names of almost anything she would ask me about unless it was a roly poly or a dandelion. I know my area was biology but in school it was all micro level or anatomy, we just didn't learn about this stuff.

I got some resources from our state conservation department and started learning things. I remember being so excited when I figured out what a shag bark hickory nut was! A few months later I got an actual nature journal for myself so I wouldn't just be working on loose sheets and while I haven't made a ton of entries, I have really enjoyed the ones I've done so far. They have covered a wide span of topics from astronomy to plants and even baby chicks and I've learned so much.

Fast forward to last week and our vacation and wow, what a difference. I think we did some sort of nature study or exploration every single day. Not because I felt like we should or even because I thought about it, just because its such a natural part of our life now. Jeanne over at A Peaceful Day used the phrase "tainted by Charlotte Mason" in describing an upcoming trip and when I read that phrase it just jumped right out at me. It fits what I was thinking about nature study perfectly. I have been tainted by CM (and I mean that in the best way possible) and now I'm tainting my kids. Nature - it's addictive. So much so we can't even take a vacation from nature study on our vacation. So what did we do on this trip?

We took a carnivorous plant hike and with the help of a park ranger saw four different types of bug eating plants including these Venus Fly traps. Did you know that they are only found in nature in a small area of North Carolina? Or that a trap will only close 3-5 times before that part dies? Well, you do now!

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On our stop at the Smoky mountains we did some tree hugging

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and bug watching. Jonah spotted this really cool millepede. I thought it was a caterpillar at first because of its coloring  We all watched it for a while but he wasn't ready to keep walking until it had walked off the path and into the leaves to hide itself. 

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Jonah's our bug boy so he also spotted some ants. Nature study with little ones is fun because I've seen ants enough that I know I wouldn't have cared about them but he insisted. And yet, we watched them for a few minutes, carrying their food into the trunk and it was pretty cool. 

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And you always have to take time to stop and smell the roses, literally!

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But the best place to have nature study time when you take a beach vacation is - the beach, of course! I hadn't planned on the kids journaling but Lucy saw me get out mine and insisted on joining me so I grabbed a clipboard for her and she spent probably 30 minutes drawing. My favorite picture of that time was a floating Craig head. But she did dark blue behind him and light blue in front of him and we talked about how the water got deeper. Other conversations that week involved horizons and the earth being round and the moon and tides. Lucy was quite interested in high tides, mostly because she wanted to make sure the water didn't come up and get our stuff (or her!) wet. 

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And we did lots of shelling. The kids insisted that each find was a treasure but I did some secretive pruning while we cleaned them up. Then at home we washed and did a general sort. It wasn't until then that I really started to pay attention to the shells but once I did, I realized they were fascinating.

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So after the kids went to bed one night, the real fun began. I found this neat site and was able to identify several types of shells, what type of shark our shark tooth came from (tiger shark) and a couple of our other neat finds.

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Forgive the bad lighting. I'm working at night after the kids are asleep, remember? I've got most of the shells identified but I want to go back and learn more about the animals that lived in them and add those notes to my drawings. This is really the first time I've ever thought about them. I mean, I knew animals lived in shells but I never really thought about what they were like, what they ate, etc.

I was really excited about finding this page that describes some of the holes and markings and what could cause them. I had thought most of those random lines were just from water etchings or something but no!  Craig keeps walking by my looking at youtube videos of bristle worms and boring sponges and I think its creeping him out a big. I will refrain myself from going on and on about it but its pretty cool.

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Here is a worm rock Craig found. I'm still looking for more information about how it came to be but at least we have a name now because as this picture shows, when Craig found it, he didn't have a clue. 

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I've still got lots more I want to research. I've put in an ILL request for The Burgess Seashore Book for Children (for the kids! No really. Okay and me too!) because it isn't available as a free e-book like some of his others and I'm finding more stuff on the internet whenever I have a chance to look. I really wish I had learned a bit more before we went on our trip but better late than never. I guess we'll just have to go back again someday!