Friday, August 30, 2013

3000 Mile Field Trip

No.  You did not read that wrong. 
1500 miles one week....1500 miles home a few weeks later. 
Mama, 3 kids, 4 generations of love, and a mapped out route. 
But mostly, like last time, we will get there on
Gasoline & Prayer
Those last 2 aren't in order of importance by the way!
We've done this before and we'll be fine doing it again.  But let me tell you, it is a BRUTAL drive!  Completely worth it, but exhausting and trying all the same.  And to share the's kind of nice too.  In a liberating, I can do ALL things, something new and something free kind of way.  It is good.  It will be good again.  I will need another year to recoup after this trip too!  But all the same, it will be good.  Always worth it. 
Here's a list of my 'secrets' and a fun new DIY I'm super proud to have pulled together this year! the key!  I mean it when I say that I believe prayer carried us across country last year.  And I know that it will again.  Constant updates via social media and/or text with a location, thank you for praying, and reminder to friends and family to keep doing so.  This is crucial.  The rest are minor details in comparison...
1.  Planning.  Lots of it.  I have a folder just for my maps, instructions, hotel info, etc.  You may have a better sense of direction than I do.  But it doesn't matter if I'm a mile down a 4 wheeler trail or 1000 miles across country....chances are I will need directions EVERY time!  So yes, lots of planning.
2.  Comfort for the kids.  We roll with blankets, pillows, and designated STOPPING points on this ride.  They're courageous enough to take the ride....does that really count if they don't have a choice? LOL!  Safety first, which means seat belts the whole time.  That also means we dress and pack the car to make the best of it!  And lots of electronics....did I mention that?
3.  Comfort for Mom.  This is easy...Sunglasses, caffeine, cell phone with charger, something to chew on, and of course Audio Books!  Music relaxes me, so while I'll listen occasionally, I need TALK for 12 hour driving days! is this girls best driving friend!  Along with FocusOnTheFamily Podcasts and radio news!  I use headphones because it usually drives the kids nuts.  I'll have one ear bud in and the other out so I can stay tuned in to the little ones!
4.  STOP!  As mentioned above, we have designated stopping points, for two reasons.  The first is the obvious 'stretch your legs, get out of the car, potty break' reason.  The other is because in doing this, we stay on the road the rest of the time, making the miles  pass.  And trust me....there's WAY to many miles to be pulling over anytime it's not necessary!  So, we start early in the AM, stop a few hours in for a break at a nice truck stop, stop to eat a laid back lunch, truck stop again a few hours later, and then we call it QUITS for a late supper!  Food, hotel swimming, and a good nights rest, and then start over the next morning.... 
5.  Enjoy....the memories, the journey, and mostly in this case our destination.  Family, precious time together, and going home for a few weeks is worth the drive.  ANY DAY OF THE YEAR!!!!  We are exactly where God would have us, I love where we live...but I will always need my Mom, Grandma, sister, best friend, and the other hearts and faces that will welcome us next week.  So for us, instead of year long daily life together, we get treasured weeks.  Weeks that cost a marathon drive, but are worth every mile!
This year is different.  Our first year of homeschooling completely freed our scheduling for the trip home!  So, we go in September.  We journey out next week, and I've put together some fun for the way!  We will be taking school with us, so look forward to a post for tips and stories of how we made this work!  It should be fun!  But today, I want to share what I've put together for on the road entertainment....
Okay, get this.....
-Each kid-different colored binder & pencil 'box'
-Each binder partially full at the beginning of the trip
-Grandma wants collected items from on the road for a special scrapbook project
So, I've set them up like this.....
Each pencil box has an assortment of colored pencils (crayons melt) and dry erase crayons.  I've also included the dry erase wipe off cloth and a small pencil sharpener.  NOTE-this is the first time I've bought Dry Erase Crayons and I LOVE THEM!!!!  I will be buying more for the schoolroom when we get home!  They are completely not what I expected them to be! 
Each binder has a few page protectors toward the front.  These work perfect with the dry erase crayons (not markers, they'd stain).  Inside those I included everyone a mapped out route of our trip (not pictured for privacy reasons), a map of our country broken into states, an alphabet for the old 'find the letter' game, and a copy of road trip bingo!  (Printed from OOPSEY DAISY-awesome find!!! ).  For my older son I also included a list of pictures for each state's license plate for him to see how many he can spot!  These are in page protectors to be used over and over with the dry erase crayons!
The next section is for pages outside of the page protectors.  You see that I started with a state's outline.  This is for them to draw, write, or color on.  Facts of the state, memories of driving through, or just whatever will keep them occupied really.  What they don't know is that I have a copy of EVERY state's outline we will travel through for each of them.  So, when we cross a state line, I will hand them out.  But it will ONLY be done after our tradition of whooping and hollering "YAY ___(state name)___" when we cross a state line!  ;)
Finally, I have a Ziploc bag hole punched and included at the rear of the binders.  This is for the items they will collect along the way.  Now, we won't have time to stop and search for these collectibles because of the distance we are traveling, but will look for postcards at the truck stops, or small items of nature on the stops!  This will be fun for them and bring Grandma just what she's looking for to make their books!
And finally (yes, once again), I will add more basic activity pages to each binder before we hit the road!  I'm excited to give them these binders and let them start to work through them on the way.  
So, was this for education, entertainment, fun, or what?  All of the above really.  It's neat to me how homeschooling has already become a lifestyle of learning for us.  An unplanned, natural rhythm to our family and life.  It is joy.  It is a gift.  
Today I give thanks.  Today I am excited.  Today I thank God for his ever watchful and loving hand over my life and family.  For the gift of time together that we will unwrap and cherish in only a few days.  Here's to a safe trip....
We're Goin' to Grandma's!!!!! 

DIY Calm Down Timer

Self Control is hard, even for us grown-up people.  I've always loved watching my children as they begin to reach deep down into their hearts for the courage to follow instructions and find patience.  As my littlest one is trying so hard to be big (and doing quite well), I've came across a wonderful tool.  I'd seen pictures of the 'soothing bottles' all over Pinterest.  It makes sense!  You shake up the glitter, hand it over, and instruct them to sit and watch until the glitter all reaches the bottom! 

Perfect way to distract their attention from those high powered, little people emotions that can take over so easily!  It also gives them a visual of when the time out moment will end, and something to focus on until it does.  So, I've made us our own and will be the first to admit that so far, I've gotten more relaxation out of it than I've had to hand it out for the real deal 'calm it down' moments!  And, I changed the recipe to accommodate missing ingredients and it worked great! 

So enjoy the week in pictures, then get crafty if you please! 

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

Whose teaching who?  My gift is the top picture-it's me, a heart, my duck, and their names and ages!  Next is Daddy's picture-see how tall they made him!  And the delivery crew in action!

Art Project~Chocolate Pudding Finger Paint!  This kept her busy for the longest time, and me entertained listening to her play!

Science experiment fun!  No greater way to learn than hands on, right?  I love his different expressions here!  This week we've made it rain over the stove, poured air into underwater jars, and learned about mixtures and compound/chemical changes!

Possibly my two favorite birthday presents of all time!  The top was designed and created by Gracie girl ALL by herself, and the bottom was made especially for me by my Cass!  And my other most favorite was waking up to breakfast cooked by Daddy and served by Aiden!  Yes, it was the perfect birthday!

Not everyone gets their very own custom made Hundreds Chart!!!  Little girl needed some motivation and this was my end of the deal for such hard work from her!  I found the cutest chevron print one but was informed that although cute, it wasn't really 'her'.  And this I must say, fits her personality perfectly!  So easy to make on Word with some clip art and inserted table!

 These instructions differ from all the others that I've found on Pinterest and on other Blogs.  They all seemed to call for 'glitter glue' as an ingredient.  I didn't have this on hand, so after a failed attempt at just mixing water, food color, and glitter, I finally did some reading on instructions and came up with this easily created solution!

If you don't have the glue-the glitter will stay clumped together and float to the surface.  To thicken your 'water' and make the glitter stay suspended longer, simply use clear glue!
Sometimes we just need something to focus on to calm us down!  But wait....I made this for the kids, not Mama!  Although I admit to already planning of making my own version of this little soothing machine! 

This is SO simple....
1.  Pour hot water into your jar or other pretty container
2.  Add your clear glue
(I used a solution of 1 Cup 2 Tbs. Hot Water to 1/4 Cup Clear Glue.  It takes about 4 minutes for the glitter to settle in this jar.  You can play with this mixture to change that up!)
3.  Add a couple of drops of food coloring.  A little goes a LONG way!
4.  Dump in some glitter
5.  Seal it up (Watch for glitter on your inner seal if you're using canning jars-it will cause a leak)
6.  Shake!  Shake!  Shake!
Remember to fill as close to top as you can so that you won't get a gap.
And IT!  I did hot glue my seal and the ring onto the jar after I was done!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Seasons Changing

This week we learned that it is very possible to have school with no electricity!  We're watching and waiting for the trees to start their change.  I reminded the kids to look really close because being away for 3 weeks will bring us home to another season at play.
This week was filled with wonder, babies, puppies, and friends.  I love hearing their laughter over such simple joys.  Watching a bubble form and make it's way through the light!  Training a puppy all on their own!  The joy in tiny fingers and tiny toes!  The pride in being able to hold a new one on your own! 
My children have changed.  I have changed.  Something of a miracle has happened to our days.  They have SLOWED down.  My spirit has deflated from the busy, crazy, rush filled days that we were so use to.  Days where we got less done, spent less time together, had less to give to those around us.  Days of less peace and less joy.  Yes, the slowing has settled our souls.  From old to young, our days are full of so much more.  The SLOWING has opened the doors of our hearts to have MORE.  I guess that's something only God can do....bring more out of less.  Today, we are blessed.
Challenges still find us.  Life still carries on the way it always does.  I face valleys.  I have to remind myself that one foot goes in front of the other.  Even when my oldest best friend, a full 1/4 of my genes, faces the next step of her journey.  I remember that I take part of both roles in this scripture so true.  That one day, her role and love will live in my heart while she dances with Jesus. 
The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.  That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.  To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.  Titus 2:3-5
That's how we roll!  Littlest brother has us ready to catch the bad guys I guess! ;)  The promise of fall is sneaking into our weeks, only to be chased away.  Sent back to it's waiting with air so hot that these kids come in looking like they've ran a marathon.  Hot, still, muggy air is about to be replaced by 3 weeks of dry, crisp, and assuredly cooler desert air.
Another year celebrated with a forever cousin friend.  Happy Birthday Tucker Wade!  We love you!

Mondays will be Mondays.  Fridays will be Fridays.  I have days I don't feel like getting up on time for school, but I do.  The kids have days they want to be little grouches, and we deal with that and move on too.  Life will always move in it's God appointed way, whether we think we're ready or not.  And in the midst of seasons changing, we will give thanks! 
Today, I thank you Jesus for slowing our days to find that perfect gift of MORE that only you can give. 
I thank you for a little girl overcoming and completing her work on her very own, so very well.
I thank you for opening my eyes anew to what perfect gifts you surround us with.
I thank you for 4 generations.
I thank you that you are preparing such a beautiful, perfect place for each of us.
I thank you that there....we will have no more tears.
I thank you that we are exactly where we are supposed to be and that no matter what life brings our way, I find such joy and peace in knowing that You will be there to hold my hand through it all.
And I thank you for an awesome first full week of Homeschool in our house!

 And on another hilarious, typical day in our household note......
Gracie said, "It's an emergency, call the emergency room!!!"

Aiden asked, "Mom, why do you do stuff like that?"
And I say that next time, I'll wait until I go to the store to get another box of detergent, instead of trying to throw together a concoction of my own!!!!  Or, I'll just follow the homemade recipe and not throw a bunch of liquid Dawn in!  Lesson learned!  Y'all enjoy your weekend!
And at least it was our day to mop the kitchen anyway! :)


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Faith & Friends

Now Faith....

Is the substance of things hoped for

The evidence of things we cannot see

Is how we understand creation from only His word


By Faith...

We are changed, we are made new, and we are set free


Through Faith....

I cling to the promise of a perfect place

No tears, no loss, no death


It is Faith....

That has brought me to this appointed time, season, and place


With Faith....

I give Him praise

I offer thanks for simple joy









A daughter's gift

Perfect simplicity

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back To School

We planned on starting our Homeschool year this coming Monday.  I knew Aiden would be healed well enough by then and it would be a good day to start a full week of work.  And then... life happened, and plans changed!  In a nutshell, my post-surgery son is RUNNING through the house (PRAISE GOD!!!) and hard to slow down!  Daddy left for work Tuesday, leaving us with a too-empty schedule, and we've been SOOO prepared and ready to start school for quite some time now!  So in perfect homeschool, do it our way style, we changed the date and began school on Wednesday!
Tommy and I decided to start with a 'half day' of work.  Things have gone so great, that we've done a complete day's worth of work each of these last 3 days and fallen into our new routine like we've always been in it.  I don't want to mislead you....we've had our 'hiccups' along the way and I'll get to those here in a minute.  But by the grace of God, each challenge has had an answer, and the kids have responded well to the way it's been handled!
So, I'm sharing our first days of Homeschool with you!  For family and friends alike to feel included, for back to school memories of our own, for anyone who wants homeschool ideas, and for those who want to know what a real day in our school looks like!  Enjoy :)

First morning was really surprising!  I expected kids who wouldn't want to get out of bed and get going for the day!  Instead, Aiden got dressed and ready before being asked.  Gracie woke up on her own, her first words being, "It's the first day of school!"
I start my day before theirs, giving me quiet time of MY OWN!  I wake them at 6:45 with a hot breakfast (they beat me to it one morning) at which time we do a family devotion.  Right now we're doing one part of our Homeschool Resolution each morning.  I find myself, and the kids, going back to these things throughout the day!  Breakfast, beds made, dressed for the day, NO TV or electronics in the morning, breakfast, teeth brushed, and then meet in the schoolroom....they've already done great with this!

And our school day begins!  I find Gracie in here playing often when it's not school time!  If that wears off with the newness of this journey, we'll get creative!  Or perhaps, it's fun because we already are creative?

Working away!  I've found that Phonics with Gracie first thing, while Aiden does independent Spelling and/or Handwriting works great!  After her Phonics lesson is complete and she's working on the worksheet, I switch to Aiden's English lesson.  Then the same for Math.  I've found if one finishes before time, they often come and listen to or take part in the other's lesson.  Especially with Bible!  During this time, Cass hangs out and does his own thing, as he always has in the morning time and sometimes comes in to join us!  After their recess break, we move onto History, Science, Bible, etc.  Starting next week we'll begin our own modified version of 'circle time' for Gracie and Cass later in the mornings.  This will include calendar time, fun songs, play time, and basic PreSchool learning time for Cass!  He's ready for that and Gracie will really enjoy it also!

The end of their first day!  I was amazed at how little time we spent with school compared to a traditional classroom.  I've always heard this from other homeschool Mom's so I wasn't alarmed.  I taught thoroughly and they did as much work as they would have in a classroom.  We do 10 minute 'recess' breaks in the morning after Phonics and Math.  We ALL enjoy that!  I also call them in individually after school is complete for the day.  With each one, I go over their work and review any concepts that need extra work.  This is done after I've finished grading and such.  Best of all, I know EXACTLY what they're learning and find it fun to teach through life experience throughout the rest of our day!  They've also enjoyed going beyond their lessons in searching online images for things they've learned about.  It's really neat for me too.
Starting next week will be our 'circle time' as mentioned above with the little kids.  We will also start what you could call a 'freestyle' PE time.  I believe in keeping them active and this just means that I will work out the 'how' and 'where' of this instead of following a curriculum.  Another perk of our new journey :).  In addition to staying active, it will include the fundamentals for the little kids (mostly Cass), such as skipping, etc.

I've had a lot of fun with their lessons.  They really like using manipulatives for math.  We just grab what's close and the hands on experience really helps with the learning process and keeping them interested!  Gracie girl's pictured here with her new fashion design book she bought with her own money! :)  Knowing she would get to play with it after lessons helped keep her motivated! 

 For Aiden, it's LEGO's.  These are a great teaching tool for math, even though so far it's been review for my oldest little man!  These are also SO handy to have at his desk for those moments when his work is complete and he has to sit quietly until I'm done working with Gracie.
And we love our 'visits' from little brother!  If he wakes up later than us, the privilege of not being officially 'in school' yet is that he can run around awhile still in his jammies!  He wanted to do the same worksheet as his sissy!  It's fun when he wants to join in!  And can you say PHOTO BOMB!!!!!  Funny kids!

Have to have a picture of my oldest four legged baby!  Took Midnight to have stitches removed the other morning, AFTER school, but BEFORE town was busy!  Loving this perk already! 

I'm very impressed!  The teaching instructions are right on and the lessons are engaging for the kids!  We made a great choice!  We are using CLASS.


Complaining or not wanting to work-I tell them if they don't stop they're getting more work.  Only once have I had to send a child to their room before they came back with a better attitude.  Next thing I know, they were back and the work was done with no complaints.  Pretty great for the first week if you ask me!

Hurrying through work-Simple.  They hurry, they go back and re-do it!  Same thing for not following complete instructions. 

Loud and chaotic moments-This happens more outside of the school environment for us.  One of our 'Homeschoool Resolution' Devotions talked about chaos and peace.  I shut them down, ask them if their behavior is chaos or peace, then redirect them.  THEY LISTEN!  If not, to time out they go!         

Getting 'baby boy' to cooperate with our routine-This might sound crazy but we've found the magic key with him.  NO NAPS!!!!  We keep him awake all day and he crashes about 7:30 for a good, full night of sleep.  This makes him so much happier and better behaved during the day too!  Of course, he's THREE, and he acts 3, but this has been a TOTAL game changer in our home!!!


I'm home with my kids.  My day is spent being INTENTIONAL in parenting, teaching, and loving them!

The new rhythm of our home!  We have a 'chore' schedule and routine.  We can even pass over a thing or two most of the time because everything's been staying so caught up.  This keeps them, and me, encouraged about doing our daily work.

That I learn beside them.  I find that my responsibility of teaching them often doubles as a devotion for myself.  Every one of their subjects is founded in Christian teachings, so I get doses of Bible time every time I teach them!

That our daily routine is focused around our family. 

I am excited.  I am encouraged.  I am so very thankful to the awesome God that orders our steps!  I am prepared to face challenges under his wings.  And again....I give thanks for the happiness and completeness in our home!  It's been a wonderful beginning of our school year!  And the kids don't know it yet, but as they're finishing up their chores for the day, I'm waiting to go pick up their two best friends for a 'Back To School Sleepover'!  They're going to have a blast!  And after working so hard these first few days, the definatly deserve it! 
Here's to a great school year for all of us!  I've been praying for all of you my friends, and our amazing kids!  Whether they are learning at home or at a school this year, I'm praying for them to have a great school year filled with God's touch, blessings, and guidance!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Our Aiden

In 5 days we'll be patiently waiting for some amazing Dr.'s hands to complete the work God will be guiding on Aiden's foot.  God is already moving in answered prayers!  My brave little boy's nervousness has turned into, 'being ready to get it over with' and focus on the fun we will have before and making some new friends at Shriners!  So proud of our oldest boy! 

I would love to share our story thus far with you as this week approaches! 

Just CLICK HERE to read the story of our son's journey with his foot since birth.  This is so special and so dear to our hearts.  I pray that it will bless you today as it has me for so many years!  And it will help you understand just what it is we're praying for!

Thank you all for your prayers!!!!
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3