Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family Field Trip---Our Nation's Capital at Night

One of the quirks of being a homeschooler is that you never simply take a family vacation. I mean, why waste the opportunity of traveling to a new and unusual venue merely to rest and do nothing? Do people really do that? Well, we don't, anyway. Whenever we travel, we wind up calling it a "field trip," even if the majority of our adventures are fun, we can still find a thing or two along the way to learn about. After all...isn't that our goal? Learn something new every day?

On our way...Tex, Mjolnir the fox Squishable, Ladybug, Boo, 
Cowboy, and Firefly.

It's been over a year since our last outing, and we decided it was time to take at least a short family vacation. As much as we LOVE our little foster kiddos, a few days to reconnect and rediscover each other (without the constant trouble-shooting of issues due to foster care) really started sounding like a good idea. We weren't up for anything huge, but lately we've been reading about nearby historical attractions (we are in the Historic Triangle area, after all), and we all agreed that Washington D.C. sounded like a good place to start. 

To prepare for the trip, I went online and used my very useful Amazon Prime membership (I am not getting any kickbacks telling you it has been worth every penny I spent before Christmas) to order a few 'visiting D.C. with kids' books. I hoped that reading the books in the weeks before the trip would familiarize them with the places we'd see and help get them excited about the adventure.

We also started reading the books from the Capital Mysteries series by Ron Roy. I have some of his A to Z Mysteries in our library and figured these would be about the right age to engage the young kids, and I was right. They are simple, but they bring up many of the popularly visited places and make them real to the kids.

Cowboy was super excited by the books. He LOVES maps and was ready to be our tour guide at the Smithsonian by the second day after we opened up the box. His favorite was "Awesome Adventures at the Smithsonian" had the most kid-friendly information, complete with pictures, fun facts, and maps.

Because of dropping off the foster children and setting things up with our "farm sitter," we didn't get an early start, but we didn't hit heavy traffic, either, and so we had time for a leisurely dinner/breakfast at Denny's before we reached the city. It was a big hit because the kids ate free. Hot diggity!

After a hearty meal, we still arrived in time to drive past the main buildings at night, which whetted the children's appetite for history and tourism immensely. If they were older, or we were more familiar with the area, we might have found somewhere to park and walk around a bit where we saw other families walking, but we still had to find our hotel, which was a good fifteen minutes away. It certainly was a beautiful night, though. The weather was perfect and the mood was positively electric in the van.

A quick drive-by the Washington Monument a few times
led us to the discovery that poor Boo was a bit creeped
out by the red lights at the top. He thought they looked 
like serpent's eyes. By the end of our visit, however, he was
used to them and liked the monument no matter the time of day.

The Capitol Building at night all lit up...

The Lincoln and the Jefferson...

The kids hope to visit the Treasury Building "next time."

This is my favorite statue in town...Einstein. Isn't he adorable??

The short drive to our lodgings seemed to tone things down a bit mood-wise (we were listening to Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke on my Kindle, read by Brendan Fraser...LOVE IT!), and by the time we checked in to our somewhat cushy, but reasonably priced suite hotel (complete with kitchen, separate sitting area with pull-out couch, and FREE breakfast), the kids were yawning, and so was I. We managed to get everyone's PJs on and read a chapter in our book before the kiddos dropped off to content slumber, dreaming of tomorrow's adventures. 

Hubby and I unwound with an hour of cable (a rare treat for us), while Tex chatted with friends using the free wifi in the room before we turned out the lights so we could all rest up and get an early start in the morning. The prospect of facing the Metro with four kids ages four to ten is a bit unnerving, but I am sure we can manage it...right??



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hunting for Spring...and Eggs...and Easter Blessings

Well, spring has sprung and so it has Easter time. Normally, egg hunting would not be a large part of our festivities, but since Princess P. and J.J., our foster kiddos, seem to not have much experience with celebrations of that sort, we decided to embrace the fun whole-heartedly.

The kiddos staged their own hunt of sorts on one of the first really pretty spring days. Our weather has been fairly bi-polar here, ranging from the mid-thirties at night to a whopping eighty-something the next day, then down again to the fifties with thunderstorms for a few days, topping it all off with snow flurries and some hail. Seriously, I've never seen a more bizarre set of weather patterns.

This has not deterred the children from wanting to be outdoors, nor the flowers from blooming around Blessing Farm, as you can see in the photos below. During the first planned "hunt," the "explorers" went out equipped with jars, nets, bags, and curiosity. They brought home flowers to identify, a bee to watch, and pictures of a toad they observed. Princess P. and J.J. thought that was all quite dandy, but preferred time on the swing set to looking for nature's treasures. We will convert them yet...

A few days later, our AWANA group (Christian Bible club) sponsored a wonderful night for all the children where they had them wear their PJs to club, listen to a "bedtime" story called "The Sparkle Egg" (about how Jesus died to redeem us from our sins and cleanses us when we ask His forgiveness), color some real eggs (which mommy was not brave enough to do at home), and let them hunt for candy-filled eggs outside on the playground.

The Sparkle Egg by Jill Hardie

Poor Princess P. seemed as if she'd never done any of this before in her life. I can't say for sure, but she was positively fascinated with her first simple plastic egg and would have been content to ignore the other four sitting right in front of happy was she with the one piece of candy she got out of that egg. We did gather a few more, and she loved the treats. The other kids had a grand old time, too, and they all took their "Sparkle Eggs" home with them (they wrote down something they needed to work on and be forgiven for inside and it would "disappear" on Easter morning).


The next Saturday, Tex had a friend over who was helping put up my split rail fencing, but they had to take a break to go set up the church yard for a neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt outreach. I figured if I was going to lose my workers anyway, they might as well take the kiddos, so Hubby packed them up in the van and they went over for more egg finding fun and hot dogs/chips for lunch. They had to move inside since it started to rain, but that didn't dampen their fun one bit. I heard that Princess P. was finally getting into the groove and they all came home with waaaaay too much candy (which I promptly confiscated, to be handed out or shared later...mean mommy).

Welcome to Nanny and Poppy's house on Easter day after church.

The family got together for an egg hunt (for the younger cousins) and a delicious dinner.
 Of course, first we had to take an opportunity for family photos, then we let them change into their play clothes.

It was a beautiful day and all the children had a lovely time playing with each other and with the adults.

The older kiddos enjoyed helping their Nanny prepare the eggs and Tex hid them, with green ones in easy places for the wee ones, and other colors for the older ones.

Everyone found just the right amount and we all appreciated our lovely surroundings and loving company on such a blessed day. We pray you had such a bountiful and glorious Easter season, too.

Don't forget to plant those smiles, grow those giggles, and harvest that love this spring. The dividends will astound you with their abundance.

God bless you with blessings beyond your greatest imaginings,

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