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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

These cool pictures that Handsome took while I was shopping in a little artsy-fartsy shop down the street.  These were taken in front of the Louisville Science Museum.  He got a good one of all four kids by themselves, and Bubba was able to take a good one of the two of us adults.  So fun – now I just have to find a cool way to display them!

I just love these pictures of this little girl!  (hat tip:  Design Mom)

This is just another reason I am glad that we are homeschooling.  I could have written this . . . except, of course, I wasn’t valedictorian.

Andrew Peterson’s new cd came in the mail!  And we listened to it over and over and over!

Our recent visit to The Creation Museum was fun and informative.  And we met friends there (who happened to be visiting at the same time); we left together and had dinner at a great pizza place.  What fun it is to meet friends on vacation twice in one summer!  (Though, to be honest, we did know that we were going to meet this group of friends; before our travels, we discovered that we had planned to be at the same place at the same time and, while keeping it a secret from our children, planned a little surprise meeting right in the middle of the museum!  It was SO fun . . . and totally worth it to see the look on Bubba’s face when she saw one of her favorite friends in such an unexpected place!)

It’s peach and blackberry season!  Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite summer foods:

Peach-Blackberry Cobbler

Peaches to cover the bottom of a 9×13 (I just peel and cut until the pan is about half full)
1 1/2ish Tablespoons sugar (just sprinkle a bit over the whole pan) (you can omit this, if the peaches are ripe and sweet!)
2-3 Tablespoons flour

Stir the peaches, sugar, and flour together.  (The flour just helps to thicken the peach juice as it cooks.)

1-2 cups blackberries, whole, washed

Sprinkle blackberries over the top of the peaches.  We just do enough that the top of the cobbler is liberally dotted with blackberries.

1 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (we use half whole wheat & half white – works fine)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup buttermilk or heavy cream  (I have also just used milk.  It’s fine – just not as rich tasting.)

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and pinch of salt in a bowl.  Cut in butter until dough is crumbly (don’t overdo it).  Mix in the 3/4 cup buttermilk or heavy cream with a fork until just combined.  Place dough on floured board*, adding  as little flour as possible to make it easier to handle.  Pat into a circle 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick.  Cut out several shapes with a cookie cutter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I don’t always pat out dough and cut out shapes; I just throw spoonfuls over the fruit and sort of flatten them out.  It’s not as pretty, but my family doesn’t really care!*

Hope you are having a great summer!  I have been enjoying my bloggy break, and I have been getting a lot done too!

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Sometimes I think this homeschooling gig is just too good to be true!  While we totally set aside the school books during the week we were in Florida (and we did make up for that book work when we got back home), we learned SO much more than could ever be learned in a classroom!

I am so very thankful that I have been learning to teach my children as we go through our everyday lives.  Our family discusses so many cool things now, and the kids have all become more curious, asking us questions about everything they see.  Homeschooling has become more of a way of life than something that we do or don’t do.

As we were finishing our long drive home, Handsome and I were talking about all of the things – some silly, some serious – that the kids have learned that week.  Here’s a partial list.

1.  Taste KFC’s reasonably priced family meals, and their grilled (or is it baked) chicken that is rather tasty.

2.  Experience the difference between high tide and low tide.  Notice the difference in the water level, the motion of the water/waves, and the look of the beach.  Discuss the moon’s influence on the tides.

3.  View pelicans and seagulls.

4.  Observe habits of coquinas.  See if it is possible to catch one.  Find coquina shells on beach and observe different colors and patterns of shells.

5.  Learn about the affects of UV rays and the difference that sunscreen makes when applied appropriately.

6.  Observe things we find on the beach, including seaweed, shells, a real (but dried up) sea horse, and trash.

7.  Observe the water that fills the sand castle moat.  Why does the moat stay full when the castle is near the water’s edge, but it stays empty (no matter how much water you pour in) if you are away from the water’s edge.

8.  Observe and experience movement of the sand under your feet.

9.  Spend some time observing birds in their natural habitat.  Observe an osprey nest with hatchlings.  Observe adult osprey with fish in his talon, sitting in tree nearby.  Learn about the habitat and habits of the Roseate Spoonbill, American White Ibis, and several other birds.

10.  Learn about, view in their natural habitat, and appreciate threatened and endangered species that live in the area, including the American Alligator, the Florida Scrub Jay, and the West Indian Manatee.

11.  View wild snake up close.

12.  Watched amazed at crabs on banks at Wildlife Refuge.

13.  Sit in helicopter.  Learn how a helicopter works.  Use pedals to move rotors.  Try on radio headset . . . but do NOT plug it in and talk to the control tower!

14.  Count boats on/near marina.

15.  Observe surfers, skim-boarders, and wind-surfers.

16.  Paddle hard when you find that you are in deeper water than you thought you were.

17.  Learn how Sea World rescues injured and ill animals; observe animals in Sea World’s “animal hospital.”

18.  Touch a penguin and learn what to do if one raises his tail in your direction.  (The answer: run!)

19.  Experience physics in action.  (ie. ride a roller coaster . . . over and over)

20.  Learn about sharks.  Touch a shark.  Touch and view a variety of shark’s teeth.

21.  Touch a ray or six.

22.  Feed dolphins.  Touch dolphins.

23.  Observe feeding time in the walrus area and play time with the polar bear.

24.  Watch beluga whales blow and then play with bubbles under water.

25.  Observe walrus reproductive habits . . . really did happen,  really wish it hadn’t!

26.  Improve IQ by playing Set, the game.

27.  Observe space shuttle on its launch pad.

27.  Observe a space shuttle launch.  Discuss plumes of smoke, the separation of rocket boosters, the trail of smoke, and so many other things!

28.  Catch and hold horseshoe crabs and gastropods.

29.  Follow progress of space shuttle mission for two weeks.  What is it that they really do up there in space?

30.  Learn geography of southeast United States.

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A few fun trip ideas:

  • Every time we go on a trip, I try to take a picture of the date in an interesting way.  The beach is always the easiest.  I’ve also drawn the date in the dessert sand and using rocks and sticks.  It’s just a fun little way to commemorate where we were when.

  • I haven’t met many kids who don’t love to be read to.  Read to your kids in the car!  It passes the time, and gives you something to talk about during the lunch stops and when waiting in line for various things.  (Seems there’s always some sort of waiting on vacation.)  It’s certainly not as easy as setting the kids in front of the DVD player for hours on end, but it sure is rewarding.  Kids need to be a little older to do this, but in the past 18 months we’ve read Dr. Dolittle, part of The Indian in the Cupboard, and the beginning of Swallows and Amazons on the road.
  • Take some glow sticks or glow bracelets (available several places for $1 for a dozen or so) for after-dark travel.  We usually use the bracelets, and the kids have a blast playing with them, sword fighting with them, and eventually just hanging them up  and watching them swing in the dark.  We also recently used them for a camping trip.  Once the kids were all tucked in, they had to hang them in the mesh pockets on the wall of the tent.  It gave the kids enough light to see (and not be freaked out in the total darkness of the tent), yet it was not bright enough to attract bugs . . . and we didn’t use any batteries.

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Sea World = our Wednesday destination.  Bubba had chosen to participate in a Behind-the-Scenes tour as her birthday treat.  We touched the rays, viewed then fed the dolphins, and had our tour – all within three hours of being in the park.  Later we discovered the wonderfulness that is homeschooling – no lines at the parks!  The boys were able to ride the big roller-coasters with very little wait!  What fun is that!  The kids were also able to ride their roller coaster until their hearts were content – at least half a dozen times – with very little waiting!  Most of the waiting was done by those who wanted to sit in the very front seat – silly kids!  We saw so many cool things, . . . and one scene that I’m afraid I’ll never be able to erase from my mind:  just as we went to the underwater viewing area where we could see the walrus swimming, the walruses got a little . . . um, . . .  frisky!  And I do mean that all of my children turned to me and asked (loudly), “Mom!  What’s THAT!”  I was very relieved as we moved on to the beluga whales and all they were doing was blowing bubbles in the water then catching them in their mouths!  Whew!

The all got to feed and pet the dolphins.  The family next to them was there with the Make-A-Wish foundation, and they got a special little show; my family had front “row” seats.  We got to see some pretty cool tricks!

I took this on our behind the scenes tour.  The dolphins were playing with and tossing these floaties.  It was fun to see how playful they were!

Here we were standing right next to the pool that they use to watch dolphins who might be pregnant or sick.
A couple of the dolphins came right up to the edge and poked their heads out of the water to check out the human visitors.

Thursday we visited Cocoa Village.  If I hadn’t had a super terrific headache, I would have enjoyed it a LOT more!  Handsome took the kids to play on a nearby playground, while sister and I enjoyed a few little shops!  There is a store that sells flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars – so many fun options!  There was a cool store that had lots of fun toys.  We bought the game Set (and have been enjoying it since).

After Cocoa village, we visited Cocoa Beach.  More people on the beach made for more action for the kids to watch – surfers, guys skim boarding, a guy on a sailboard, and all sorts of other stuff going on.

Dimples had been watching several teen guys on skim boards for a while.  Then suddenly, he ran back to our bags as fast as his little four year old legs would carry him.  He knew what he wanted, and he found it quick!  He grabbed the lid to the ice cream bucket that they kids had been using all week and used it as a skim board.  He had a grand time – just like the older guys!

The kids dug to China and nearly drown, but it all ended well.  We had to leave before anyone had the chance to get more sunburned, because we all had a dinner “date.”  The guy who served as the best man in our wedding is all grown up with kids of his own, and he lives in the area that we were visiting!  Another fun meeting!  He, his lovely wife, and sweet (and adorably cute) children spent their evening with us at a fun restaurant right on the water.  It’s always good to have the opportunity to see old friends and to see that they are doing well.

Friday morning I woke up thinking, “Don’t get your hopes up!  Don’t get your hopes up!”

We had one thing scheduled for the day:  the last launch of the space shuttle Atlantis at 2:20pm.  We had changed our plans to visit the area during that week, specifically because of the launch.  We have also been studying the American space program for the last quarter of our school year.  The kids know all about the space race and the Apollo missions.  We have learned about the solar system and gravity.  We knew this would be the perfect ending to our trip, yet we also knew that it might not happen.  One of the first days that we were in the area we drove down a road where we could see the shuttle on the launch pad.  And we could see the tip-top of it as we played on the beach.

It was just about more than I could handle – the excitement of seeing that thing that had loomed large in my childhood dreams.  I remember the first launch; my dad woke me early, and we watched it together on our television.  I was captivated and for years wanted to either be an astronaut or a pilot.  I visited the local planetarium and science center with great awe – all throughout my childhood and early teen years.  I remember standing next to the capsules used by astronauts on some of the early flights and thinking about how amazing that must have been.  So to find myself standing on a beach, anticipating the launch of a space shuttle all these years later – with my children in tow – was a wonderful experience.  I was telling the kids, “In just a few minutes you’ll start to see smoke, then you’ll see the shuttle and the big orange tank rising higher and higher into the sky.  Keep watching; if we watch closely enough, we might just see the first two rocket boosters disengage  and fall back to earth.”

“What will we see first?”  Little Man said to me.

“You’ll see two plumes of smoke right over there, over those trees?”  Said I.

And he said, “Oh, I see it!”

Imagining that his imagination was taking over and thinking it wasn’t quite time yet, still looking back at him, I said, “Oh, not yet, it just a couple of . . . “

And then I turned around to see that indeed there was smoke and a shuttle with fire blazing behind moving quickly into the clear blue sky.

Then to stand and watch breathlessly until it was way up high . . . until I had forgotten that sound would accompany the sight . . . and to be surprised at the rumble and filled with wonder and awe at the thickness of that sound that just rolled and rolled over and around us.  Deep and bellowing, until the shuttle was just a dot of light in the sky.

A few applauded.

Most just stood for the longest time, watching that tiny spot of light in the sky.

This is the point at which the two side solid rocket boosters separate from the shuttle and the one remaining main rocketWe couldn’t actually see this with our naked eyes, but our telephoto lens caught it – a great surprise, found after we arrived home!

Then it was over, and everyone got in their car.

We didn’t; we walked to the other side of the road and played on the beach.  The cool water was good for the kids, and the catching of horseshoe crabs and digging of shells was good too.

We finished the evening with homemade pizza and Chocolate Chip Cookie Stuffed Cupcakes, made by my sister as a treat for Bubba’s birthday.  Really, could a day get any better!

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I got my event all out of order and forgot to tell you about Monday night’s treat:  After cleaning up (from our day at the beach), we enjoyed a special treat:  My brother-in-law is a helicopter pilot, and he took the kids to sit in one of the helicopters that he flies!  For those of us who were old enough to understand, he explained all of the cool gadgets and handles and thingies in the cockpit!  We also got to see a number of whirlybirds in the air around the airport!  Was sooooo fun!

We started Tuesday by sleeping in way late, then heading over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Preserve.  And did we ever see wildlife!  Spoonbills, and gators, and crabs – oh, my!

Can you see the babies in the nest?

An osprey with dinner.  We wondered if this was dad, ready to bring home the bacon . . . err, fish to mama and the babies in the nest.

A roseate spoonbill.  He moves his bill from side to side, searching for food.  When he feels a snack, he scoops it up in that big spoons of his.  It’s fun to watch!

Don’t know what these are called, but aren’t they cute!

There were ga-zillions of these little guys!  They were all moving at once, coming and going from their little hole-in-the-gound homes.

We were not far from this little guy; it’s hard to tell in the picture, but he was obviously young.  Awe-inspiring, none-the-less!

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My Scotland-dwelling sister has decided to live stateside for a little while.  This is big news, and I am ashamed that is has taken me this long to get to visit her . . . but we did!  We were able to spend a week with her, and it was wonderful!

The norm for this trip was unexpected blessing.

Who would have thought that our four children, ages four through eight, would sit happily for almost 20 hours of car riding!

This is Dimples, playing Goliath, as in “David and . . . ”  I don’t think my kids had ever eaten at the fast food place with the crowns, so those crowns bought us a good 30 minutes of happy car-riding!

Just a couple hours from our destination, friends from Maryland (our last home) caught up to us on the highway, recognized us, and then proceeded to wave very sweetly while my eyeballs popped right out of my head!  A window-message and some cell phone chatter later and we were all stopped at a Florida KFC for lunch and some great conversation!  What a blessing it was to see them!  Some fun notes about our meeting:  I asked, “How many kids do you have in that big van of yours?”  He replied, “six in the back seats and one in utero,” with an audible smile! We had the opportunity to quiz them about their cool ride; they tote their offspring around, not in one of the giant white million-passenger vans that give me nightmares, but a cool blue Dodge Sprinter.  It was cool to hear of another option – just in case God should call us to adopt again or put another baby in my belly!  We were also able to chat about homeschooling and our old church and life as believers but mostly we marveled at our “chance” meeting.

I had two regrets after our lunch together:  We should have gotten to know that family better when we lived in Maryland, and  I forgot to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day!  (Duh!)

We arrived at my sister’s place, which again was such a pleasant surprise.  Handsome even told me on the way home that when we first arrived, their sweet two-bedroom apartment made him want to sell our big house and move back to the simple life.

We literally dropped our stuff all over their place, changed into our swimming suits, and headed to the beach.  Again, we were delighted to find that “their” beach was SO nice.  It was not overly commercial or busy.  We spent the afternoon digging in the sand and playing in the water.

Such is the joy of children set free on the beach after two days of mini-van travel.

We returned the next morning to low tide and a wider beach.  The kids were thrilled just to be on the beach, and I was thrilled that at one point I was able to sit in a beach chair with a magazine, so wonderful is my husband!

Children and sand and shovels and buckets – with tide coming in – a wonderous thing!

We also visited the Manitee deck, and we saw Manitees!  We sang to Barbara, for those of you who are curious!  (If you don’t get that comment, ask your kids.  Just say, “Barbara” and “manitee;” see what they come up with.)

Those splishy-splashy things in the water are West Indian manitees.  We have better pictures of them, but I also wanted you to see the cool sideways palms.

Since the theme of this trip was unexpected blessings, I supposed I’ll include Monday’s news in that category:  We found out that two of our children had strep throat.  One had been diagnosed the week before and brought his antibiotics on the trip.  The other two had (like the first) had negative rapid strep tests, but their cultures were positive.  The unexpected blessing in it all is that the only child who ever acted ill at all was the one who had a negative test both times – no strep for Dimples!  So we learned how to transfer prescriptions on our insurance, and we started handing out the pink balm.

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Since we watched the shuttle launch (posts on trip to Florida forthcoming), we have been keeping watch on the shuttle activities via this NASA site.  It has been so fun to see what is going on and what the astronauts were doing!  I would have loved this kind of play-by-play as a kid . . . I love it now, as an adult!

My favorite part:  Each day they play a song to wake up the astronauts; it is recorded on the list of activities.  For instance, a few days ago a Matt Redman song was played for mission specialist Mike Good.  (It was listed as “Lord we Have Seen the Rising Sun,” but I’m guessing it was “Shine.”  What a great song, given the circumstances!)  I know (from comments recorded there) that at least some of the songs were selected by family members – isn’t that cool!  There are also occasional messages to “earthlings!”

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Zion National Park was really a wonderful place for our family of six.  The canyon was just plain beautiful; I can’t express that enough.  The kids were even impressed and a month later they are still talking about all that we saw and did there.  Here are a few of my other thoughts about a trip to Zion.  The hiking was especially fun, given that around every bend there was something new to see and or experience.

The canyon was a delight to hike since all of the trail-heads start at the bottom of the canyon, head up-hill for the first half, then bring you back down-hill for the second half.  That is perfect for kids who usually run out of steam at the point farthest away from “home.”

Zion in spring = good.  Lots of water for waterfalls, lots of green, lots of blooms, and perhaps a few fewer other tourists.  We were able to get parking (after reading that we probably wouldn’t) and were never overwhelmed with the number of people, though there were a lot.  The weather was also very like-able!  Warm in the sunshine and cool in the shade.

Layers are good.  Most days we all wore long pants (or longish capris) and a short sleeve shirts with a thin jacket.  We all had hiking boots and good socks and were glad for them.

Zion with young children = no big hikes.  We did a lot of the easy and a few of the moderately ranked hikes, but anything like Angel’s Landing was completely out of the question.  Angel’s Landing is a longer hike that proceeds across a few fairly narrow paths with long drop-offs . . . or so we are told.  It looked (from the bus) like a hike that we – we (Handsome and me) would like to do, but it was not something anyone should attempt with young ‘uns along.  If you want to go to Zion with your young kids either get used to the idea that you won’t be able to do all the strenuous stuff or bring some grandparents on the trip to watch your kids while you hike the narrows or Angel’s Landing.

Take a wildlife book or two, if you have one . . . or visit the store at the visitor’s center.  There were so many animals out and about.  We saw chipmunks, ravons, big horned sheep, deer, fish, tadpoles, a gazillion different kids of birds, a giant (and I do mean BIG) beetle, and so much more.

Take your binoculars.

Take band-aids.  Lots of rocks = children with boo-boos.

Plan to carry a lot of water.  Even in the cooler weather it was dry, and we drank a lot.

Also plan for altitude.  The higher altitude might require a bit of adjustment.  You might need to drink more.  You might need to rest more.  You might need to snack more.  You probably will need more sunscreen; the sun is powerful up there!

Even if your lodging doesn’t require it, be sure to drive through the park on the highway.  It is a wonderful drive with an impressive tunnel that was finished just as the depression started.  There are also lots of places that you can stop and play along the road.

At the National Park Service website for Zion there is a seasonal “Map and Guide” that you can download for free.  It tells about all the upcoming events, ranger talks, and such at the park.  It also has great descriptions of the trails and other areas of the park.

Finally, just FYI: Springdale is the town just outside of the park.  We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but there was a little grocery with all the necessities (including Twizzlers), that great pizza place where I ate my weight in pizza, and a bunch of quaint little shops.

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The night before we adults had sat on the couches at our bug-infested vacation home and planned a course for the day.  We had a lot that we wanted to do, as it was our last day together at Zion and our little family’s last day of vacation.

We started the morning by killing bugs packing up all our stuff and heading out.  One of the places that I wanted to explore was a little site just off the highway that ran through the park.  It had seen many families playing as we drove past over the last couple of days, and it just looked like such a fun spot!

Indeed it was.  It was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip.  (I know, I know, I keep saying that!)  Just off the road was a huge slope of rock.  It was horizontal enough that we could run up it without feeling like it was too hard and yet vertical enough that by the time we stopped and turned around to see how far we had come we were pretty far up.  Our little guy is very unsteady on slopey surfaces, and I didn’t have enough strength to carry him up the hill; so we went to the bottom to play in the little steam.  The bigs and Daddy had a fantastic hike though.  They climbed up and up and up until they could see all the surrounding valley.  They saw beautiful things and had a blast running around on all the rocks.

Meanwhile the our little guy and our friends’ little guys happily threw rocks in the little steam and drew in the wet sand and played with sticks in the water.  What more could a young boy ask for!

I also loved this area for its textures.  God’s creation is mah-ve-lous!

Our friends picked our next adventure for the day.  They wanted to hike to an overlook area.  We were blessed to find parking spaces just where we needed them and right together.

Gus and I had a “funny” little moment before the hike.  She needed to use the potty which was a glorified outhouse.  She is never ever grossed out by these sorts of things, but she took one look down that hole, smelled the not-so-gentle breeze that was coming up from below and practically sprinted up the mountain!  She was so not interested in tinkling any more!  Poor thing!  It makes me laugh even now, thinking about the look on her face!

The hike turned out to be a great hike with lots to see and an amazing view at the top.  When I say amazing I do mean breath-taking, awe-inspiring, and down-right jaw-dropping!

It was a great photo shot too, so we got a ton of cool pictures of their family and our family – so fun!

The trip back down was fun as we saw a couple ravens and recounted what a blessed trip this had been for our family.  Back in the parking lot we saw a family of big horned sheep up on a nearby cliff – not something we get to see every day at home!  (Can you see the babies in the picture below – just below the one in back.)

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the visitors center and did a little shopping – got a cool book of constellations for our homeschool science then stopped in town for a quick shopping trip.  Then we enjoyed the trip back to Las Vegas, once again admiring God’s handiwork.

Finished the night by chowing down on very large amounts of Greek food and thanking God for our friends’ non-bug-infested home!

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I couldn’t think of the word, so I asked my husband, “What are things you pick up on a trip and bring home?”

I was looking for the word, “souvenirs.”

Here were his answers:

bed bugs

dirty laundry monsters

high cholesterol

an over-sized waistline

He thinks he’s funny.

(This time I do too!)

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