Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Time I've Ever Wanted to Be a Model

Have you seen the new Vera Bradley catalog (Winter 2010)? They shot it in Montana. I have a thing for Montana. I want to be there. Love it!

The purses are nice too - I'd probably buy them if I were rich.

I do have an umbrella that I found at the thrift store for pennies before I'd ever even heard of Vera Bradley. I just liked it. Then one day I realized it was a Vera Bradley. It was my favorite umbrella either way. Who doesn't need a lime green umbrella on a gray day?

South Carolina History: Revolutionary and Civil Wars

Last week we studied the Revolutionary War, this week is the Civil War. We're cramming in South Carolina state history because Ethan is spending next week in Charleston with Brian's parents and I wanted him to be able to have knowledge and context for the historical sites he'll be visiting.

For the Revolutionary War study, we watched a lot of PBS' Liberty Kids episodes. We made it about halfway through the season, and will finish them up when we backtrack through a broader look at American history later this year. The best book was Francis Marion and the Legend of the Swamp Fox. It not only told the story of Francis Marion, but also gave a broad view of South Carolina's role in the American Revolution, particularly from 1780-1782, and the major characters involved. Highly recommended.

Our Civil War study has primarily focused on a discussion of the various classes of people in antebellum South Carolina, slavery, cotton and the state's economy, and an understanding of states' rights. If you homeschool in South Carolina, you can sign up for free access to Discovery Education and United Streamin SC's large collection of educational programming. We've enjoyed so many resources there! This week the children have enjoyed the first four parts of the six part "Detective Bonz and the SC History Mystery". They've also enjoyed the wonderful storytelling on the "African Story Journey".

We have several books to read, and I'd love to get to the American Girls' Addy series sometime, but today we read a winner: Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story . I'd never heard this man's story before, and not having preread it, I was on pins and needles right along with the children. Get it at the library or bookstore and read it to your kids, even if you're not studying the Civil War this year. :^)

Tomorrow we're going to skip the core subjects, take an autumn nature walk (hopefully), so an autumn craft, read some books about the Hunley, and backtrack a bit to watch a program about how Britain lost the War for Independence in the South

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Staycation Day 6 - Thursday

Well today was another slow morning running behind -we had to skip the donut plan and have cereal again. But when we called Mike, we were relieved to hear that the van was finished - the brakes that burned out on Sassafras Mountain were fixed and ready to go again. So we finally headed out to Pisgah late - after 11 - and Bella fell asleep in short order. But guess what I forgot in spite of thinking about it, checking, and rechecking things? Mmmhmm. My camera. Those of you that know me well, know what a tragedy this was. We were headed to the mountains and waterfalls with no camera.

So when we reached Brevard, we tried to figure out where to get a camera and what kind. Without digital capability, pictures are no longer very useful to me - I can't share them with you, for example, or use them as my facebook profile pic :^). So I decide that Kmart will probably have something.

How wrong I was. I looked, and tried to figure things out. They called a pharmacy and said that they were told that regular photos (form a disposable) could be put on digital disc. But I thought an inexpensive digital camera to the tune of $20 might be a bargain. I'd save all of those developing fees, and even if I didn't have high resolution for large images, I'd still have digital pics, and Ethan would have yet another camera to replace the ones he send through the washing machine. Win, win, right?

No, this is my life we're talking about. I had the presence of mind to ask the clerk to open the package after I'd paid for it, just to make sure it was going to work. It came with battery and internal memory. But guess what? After I open the package I read that once the battery blink that it is low, you must immediately download the image to your computer, because if the battery dies the photos will all be lost. And if you change the batteries, they'll be lost. Seriously?? Who designs this stuff? So I head straight to the return desk, and, admitting defeat, head back out to the van to request a trip to Walgreen's after all.

Only to find a smoking and whirring van and a very unhappy husband. It appears that the radiator has blown. Nice. Our mechanic assure us by phone that we should be just fine as long as we don't run the AC while going under 55mph. Okay. This is nuts, but we head to Walgreens where I buy what I should have bought to begin with. Disposable cameras, buy one get one free, that will, one day, be turned into digital pictures that I will add to this very long post.

A few minutes later, we've made it to the ranger station (and restrooms!). They have a wonderful gift shop where we allow the children to choose an animal. After much deliberation, Ethan chooses an owl, Anna a black bear, and I choose Bella a raccoon since she always had two constantly changing stuffed animals under her arms but raccoons seemed to be a recurring theme. Rosie had spent most of her time reading books, but really wanted me to get her a lip gloss necklace. I wasn't feeling that, so she was directed to a wildlife sticker book instead. Mommy got some postcards and her traditional vacation magnet - yay!

We finally made it to Looking Glass Falls, and the requested picnic there on the rocks. The children
waded, and Ethan of course fell in and was ready to go. Sadie had the good sense to stay out, Bella splashed her hands in the water, and Anna found rocks, one of her new interests.

She found beautiful rocks, but of course, it was a national forest, and she couldn't keep them. She was heartbroken, but we did get pictures. I need to find somewhere to accommodate this new hobby. She seems to find the best rocks in the forest, which is inevitably part of a state or national park.

Well the children changed and it was getting late, so we headed down the road to the wildlife center where we watched a film, saw the animals of the park, and fed the fish in the fish hatchery. They actually had an even more amazing gift shop there, but the only thing we bought were a few wildlife silly bands for Ethan.

Next we headed to Sliding Rock just to take a peak, and the children beggggeed to go down it, citing their age (7 and over) being right to do it alone, but they were turned down this time. We'll have to go back in a couple of years.

So we headed to the Moore Cove Falls trail. We definitely should have done this first as planned. The children loved it! It is a sheer falls with a deep cavern behind it with large rocks - the perfect place to play. The divided it into houses - until Rose had to pee. Of course, peeing in the forest is an awfully big adventure too...

We made it back to the van after a little bit of crankiness over children going ahead and not hearing and that kind of thing. And then the GPS... Have I ever told you how much I don't love the GPS? I've threatened to not ride in the van with it anymore. I have. I am the navigator. I print maps. I am good at my job. I know where I'm going, and if I don't I stop and ask for directions.

In GPS fiasco #1000, it took us on a seriously scenic route to Sonic. Everyone was starving. Except Bella, who'd given up and gone to sleep. Sonic, by the way, ended up being the second most expensive meal on vacation. Not exactly a bargain. But we finally finished eating and drove down the mountain back home, hoping the van would make it, which it did, so we tucked the older kids in bed after their baths, and the wide awake Bella danced to Glee.

The end. I'm tired.

Staycation Day 5 - Wednesday

Maybe it was just impossible to keep up the kind of momentum we started with, but this was more the type of staycation day I'd worried about.

It was a bad morning. The kids couldn't focus on getting done. Sadie ate Rose's prize cat toy's foot. Then Bella got tired and I really though she needed the sleep, so I admitted defeat on trying to get out the door, and put her to bed. The kids enjoyed watching a really fun Disney show combo that I'd grabbed at the library. In the meantime, just like Monday, Bella didn't fall asleep right away anyway, but I finally had a chance to contact someone to fix the broken AC, since we were in the middle of yet another heat wave, and it's not very relaxing to sit at home sweating. The repairman was going to be able to come later in the afternoon, so after the movie, we put the sleeping Bella in the car to head to the miniature golf place.

Of course now it was about noon, and no longer a cool morning. It was hot. Bella played a several holes, making the best hand-placed holes-in-one, then I took her inside. We found a great miniature carousel ride that Bella absolutely adored, and amused ourselves in the arcade while the others finished up. They were much faster than I'd expected, partially because Rose got bored with the game a few holes after Bella did. :^) But they were all still happy with the adventure.

About that time, the repairman called to move the timetable up a bit, so we skipped lunch in favor of grabbing a bean bag for Ethan's room at a nearby store, then hitting the craft store for more ceramics (after a lot of looking, an employee found a set of fairies in the back - perfect!) and wooden things to paint. We finally made a drive thru run at Micky D's at 2PM for yogurt parfaits to tide the kids over until we could get home and make them some PBJs.

As the men worked on the AC, Rosie turned her water bottle into a princess with some felt and twine. Then, the kids hit the showers, so that we could head to the first midweek service of the season at our new church - we hadn't been to a midweek service yet, since they didn't have them in the summer when we started attending.

We went early for the family meal, and had a wonderful time visiting. The only drawback was the food not working out as anticipated for Ethan, so he was a bit hungry. But Rosie headed to her new children's choir and the rest of us to classes. We all enjoyed them, except for Ethan. His group did outdoor activities this week, and that is not his thing - better luck next week. :^)

Oh, but let me tell you about this. In a part of the children's wing I hadn't seen before, this was painted on the wall, and it moved me:

O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. - Psalm 78:1-4

Love it! I want a wall big enough for this...hmmm...

Well, we stopped by McDonald's for Ethan to get a happy meal on the way home and he was thrilled to get Aquaman as his prize. The delight was short-lived, however, since Sadie somehow managed to get a hold of him in short order and mangle his foot. It was just one of those days. Mama said there'd be days like this...

But Brian and I literally ended the day on a high note with Glee again.

What will tomorrow bring? Will the van be out of the shop and ready for a real adventure?? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Bella's ball game

Staycation Day 4- Tuesday

Tuesday found us at our city's relatively new children's museum. The admission is a bit pricey, so this was our first visit. Thanks to it being too early in the school year for field trips, we practically had it to ourselves. I realized later that I only got pics of some of the activities and completely missed others. Ethan did a stop animation sequence and the girls recorded songs in the music studio. We were able to take them home on DVD. Bella made up a ball catching game that I don't think was the original intent of the wind tunnels, but she had lots of fun. We had lunch at the restaurant in the museum, which was delicious, but not extensive, and oddly enough, ended up being the most expensive meal of our entire vacation - kids did not eat free there. :^) We ended the day at the mauch- awaited kids eat free night at Golden Corral, though. And the day was awarded - best day ever, which considering that we were at the waterpark yesterday, was quite a feat.

Ethan built this structure - and after lunch, he
ended up getting doused by it - without an apron
on, of course. :^)

I think the kids could have been happy doing
water play the entire time.

These two just about had a knock down, drag out fight over
this huge light bright and the different colored pegs. Guess
I'd better fish that regular sized one out of the cupboard soon.
Maybe I should get another one first, though, ha!
Can you tell who Ethan made ?

Bella's ball catching game

The grocery store is always a big hit.

This climbing structure is what made them eager to come
here, and was the first and last activity they enjoyed.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Staycation Day 3 - Monday

We started off the day with a trip through Hardees' drive thru for the much-coveted cinnamon raisin biscuits (all the girls) and low carb breakfast bowl (Ethan). We didn't go in because on the ride there we informed the kids that as long as they didn't mind missing the parade and waffle cones (smirk) we were going to go back to the waterpark instead.

They were more than pleased.

But nothing is ever smooth here. Our van is struggling, so we've been using Brian's car. We went to the park together, and it was not the busy place we'd expected on a holiday weekend. It was very quiet. There were no lines for the slides.

But the water was COLD. The kids didn't mind. But cold water is not Bella and my cup of tea. Especially when it wasn't hot out yet. So after a little over an hour of being there, I took Bella home for a much needed nap. When Brian's parents swung by the house to take Brian's car back to the park half an hour later since they wanted to go watch the kids for a while, I had to retrieve my keys from what I thought was the sleeping baby's room. Turns out she wasn't asleep yet, and that was it.

They left with the car and my keys, she decided to get up, and for an hour I tried to get Brian or his parents to answer their cell phones, but the park is so loud, they never heard it. As we sat watching the day go by (and I knew that she would end up missing all afternoon when she finally did sleep), I finally decided to walk the mile to the park.

Oh, and it had warmed up by then.

About a third of the way there, I realized that maybe they could page Brian, so I called and had them do that, and he picked me right before I got there. What an adventure.

The walk put Bella to sleep, so I kept her at the park to nap so that she could wake up and play. Brian took the kids home for lunch, and I totally relaxed on a lounge chair. It was worth the missed calls fiasco, that quiet hour.

Bella then woke up, and Brian's parents decided to come back and stay to play. The afternoon was warm and wonderful and definitely busier, though not crowded. Ethan made a friend named Julia, they were together the rest of the day, and I don't think they ever shut up. Sisters that had been in ballet with Anna and Rose showed up, so Anna, especially, was also matched up with someone. Rose became a pro at rolling her own tube up the flight of stairs to the slide. She could do it herself and wanted no help. And Bella, well, she was Bella, she was always on the move. Brian and I finally got to ride a double tube on the tube slide. I'm pretty sure we exceeded the weight limit :^) - but it was really fast and really fun. They sold the $4 cheeseburgers for $1 the last half hour, so we ate there right before we left.

Then we came home and got waffle cones after all.

It was a great day.

Oh, and we watched three more episodes of Glee when the kids went to bed, putting us almost half way through season 1. I blame this on Dara.

Staycation Day 2

We're bonding with our new church, and so decided to go to church as usual, for all of the services, rather than skip out for another day trip. We tried out yet another Sunday school class. The verdict's still out on where that choice stands, but they did have good coffee and lemon pound cake. And they're studying the Song of Songs, which has always been a favorite of mine...

For lunch we went to Firehouse subs. Kids eat free on Sundays and Wednesdays. We're trying to hit lots of those kind of deals this week. We had a great meal there. We took Ethan's gluten free bread along, and the one sub maker volunteered to change his gloves so that he could put his sandwich together himself. The four kids each got a half sub or sandwich, chips or Oreos, and a drink. For free. And their cherry lime-aid with the lime wedges you add to maraschino cherry juice from the drink fountain was yummo.

Furthermore, Brian took care of Bella, and for the first time in weeks, I ate a meal without juggling or listening to the screaming of a baby. Heaven. And she was actually very happy and cooperative despite there not being a booster or high chair available.

Home we came, and the kids went off to play, and Brian caught a nap. Then while Bella continued her long nap, the kids and Brian painted plaster animals.

Back to church and new friends there.

Then our traditional waffles and sausage Sunday supper with Brian's parents took a requested vacation morph into waffle sundaes. This time with vanilla ice cream and apple or blueberry pie filling as topping.

Just when we though the day was over, we stepped out of the car to see an incredibly clear and star-filled sky. The children were begging to find constellations, so we put Bella to bed, printed the free September sky chart, and crossed the street to an open part of the field with our quilt. We saw the Big and Little Dipper, Vega, Polaris, Jupiter, Cygnus, Cassiopeia (which Anna found, remembering the "W" shape from last year's study, but forgetting the real name), a shooting star, Pegasus, Sagittarius, Perseus, Andromeda, Draco, and Cepheus. We talked about the Mazaroth, and Brian told the myth of Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Persues, and Pegasus. Then finally we had to call a wrap up so that we can get some sleep.

Because we have big plans tomorrow.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Staycation Day 1

We sort of started in with a bang Friday night by going to S&S Cafeteria, where two kids ate for 99cents (a meat, two veggies, jello, and a drink!) with each parents meal. We don't eat out much beyond the occasional fast food or pizza, especially with the kids, so it was a BIG DEAL. And very tasty too - who knew that fried almond crusted trout and squash casserole from a cafeteria could be that good?

We started off Saturday with individual cereal boxes - a first. Now that all the flavors of Cheerios have gone wheat free, Ethan actually could choose from six out of the eight. And Bella got frosted Cheerios instead of plain. Life doesn't get much better than that. :^)

Off on a road trip - mission: climb the tallest mountain in the state. Mission accomplished!

We picnicked on top of the mountain. A lot of trails connected the different state parks there.

Next we tried to go to a Cherokee museum, but the National Park Service had there office closed for four hours in the middle of the day - Guess when we got there?? So we headed to the next stop - Whitewater Falls. We took the trail to the top overlook, then 132 steps to the bottom overlook. And if you ever want to know for sure whether or not you're out of shape, just climb back up 132 steps. Uh-huh. I am definitely out of shape.

Heading back down the trail we had this view of the lake.

The kids just had to put their feet in. We had directions to a public access, so with Bella sleeping in the van, we headed down for a quick look...and found a beach! 15 minutes and three wet children later, our supper stop was cancelled, but our kids were begging to come back another day.

Turns out the hot dog shop was closed anyway, but the reuben dog on their menu intrigued us, so we stopped for ingredients to make our own. It was a hit with the three of us brave enough to eat it.