Saturday, July 31, 2010

Meet Milo the Mouse

Meet Milo the Mouse.

He is our official "backpack rat."

He's getting packed to go on a trip to the Midwest for a family reunion.

Each day of our trip, one of the kids will get to carry him in their backpack.

On that day, whenever we stop at a notable location, we will take
a picture featuring Milo and his traveling companion.

Points of interest we hope to visit during our travels include:
Pomme de Terre Dam, lake, and beach, MO
Lake of the Ozarks, MO and Pirate's Cove Putt-Putt Golf
Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE
Living History Farm Museum, near Des Moines, IA
Tea Room at the Shoppes on Grande in Ames, IA
Story City Carousel, Story City, IA
and best of all...
The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY...Yay!!!

Stay tuned!!

Thanks go to Kathy M. and Tex for suggesting this fun idea.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What a Watermelon!

Hello friends and family!

Here are some pix of the kids enjoying their first watermelon of the season. Do you remember having watermelon seed spitting contests as a child? I do. I don't think I was very good at it, but my brother was. Well, we didn't have one of those, since the little ones insisted on picking all the "yucky" black seeds out before they chowed down, but the juicy, drippy goodness of a piece of cold watermelon (it had been cooling in the fridge all day) was just the same as I recalled.

I hope you are enjoying the fruits of the summer months, just as we are.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thankful Thursday---Counting My Blessings

Here are some of our annual pictures of the kids by the cornfield.
Notice how tall the corn is already!
It seems like just yesterday that they were planting this field.
It seems like just yesterday that the kids were smaller.
They are growing so fast...

One sweet little princess...

Two smiley boys...

The Three Amigos...

Four happy pictures of Boo...

Five kids growing up way too fast...

I am thankful today for all of the special AND ordinary moments
I get to share with my children
each and every day
because they are home with me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ahoy, Matey!

I had lunch with my TOS Homeschool Crew First Mate today. She is the one who presides over the mini-crew I am in. It is called The Good Stewardship. (You can click on the button in the sidebar to see the blogs of the other members.) She came into our area with her family (hubby and two kids) as well as two visiting Korean students to do the touristy thing for a few days.

It was fun to greet them in our hometown and to put a face with a person I have previously only had e-mail contact with.

We lunched at a favorite local sandwich shoppe, then they went onto their next activity, while I took my kids to the candy shoppe next door and bought The Three Amigos giant smiley-faced lollipops as a treat.

Poor Boo obviously felt left out, as he put up a fuss when he saw the others with their candy. He never fusses. I guess he was just communicating his confusion as to why such a big boy as he is did NOT get a lollipop, too. Well, being the nice mommy I am, I sent Tex back in to get him one of his own, and he REALLY enjoyed his first-ever lollipop. Awesome!

I then sent Tex in with a few dollars to pick out something of his own and he came out with a bar of gourmet Lindt dark chocolate. He was so excited, he could barely wait until we got everyone securely into the car so he could try it.

Imagine his astonishment when he bit into his first piece (and I into mine, since he generously shared his treat) and instead of a deligtful medley of flavors, we tasted...bark. Blah! Yuck! It was like eating, well, solid baking cocoa. Sort of a dirt flavor with the essence of something that might someday be mistaken as chocolate. Definitely not the Americanized dark chocolate we are used to.

I asked him to show me the label and discovered he had bought 99 percent pure dark chocolate. Oooops. That means less than one percent sugar. Oh my. What a let down...poor boy.

Ah, well. That was a lesson learned.

Now, what to do with the gourmet chocolate since it is so obviously no good for us to eat?

The solution he arrived at: Give it to dad. Hee hee.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blog Walking---Week Seven

Here are this week's blogs to visit. These are the blogs of some of the Homeschool Crew's First Mates.
I am looking forward to seeing the more seasoned sailors' blogs.

1. Closing Time

2. One Blessed Mamma

3. El Cloud Homeschool: Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet

4. Alive in Spirit

5. Ozark Ramblings

6. Army of 5

7. Fenced In Family

8. Debbie's Digest

9. Footprints in the Butter

10. Got Chai?

Nature Study Tuesday---How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thankfully, the weather dropped a good fifteen degrees yesterday, and is holding out in the eighties today instead of the over a hundred degree temperatures we were getting last week. The kids were going stir crazy inside (in a nice way) so they absolutely loved being outside most of the day. They rode the horses, played with the dogs, and jumped on the trampoline for hours. They even raked plastic pool loads of dried lawn clippings for the horses, which was greatly appreciated, I am sure.

We tidied up our raised bed gardens as well as we could, and are hoping Bubba will continue to enjoy the harvest during our absence. I am frantically trying to get the last of the blackberries done, and I still have a few zucchini I need to make into bread and freeze or give away. Since everybody seems to be posting great pictures of their gardens and the bounty they have harvested, I think I will go ahead and post my garden pix for Nature Study Tuesday.

If studying nature is good, getting to eat it is even better. After all, you can't get much closer to nature than when you are eating it. ;-)

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good..." Psalm 34:8a

                                                        Our first squash.                                     Our first tomatoes.

Our watermelons, cantelopes, and pumpkins before they took off and our first Zukes.

Pumpkins, watermelons, and cantelopes later.  The kids have high hopes for the watermelons.

Jalepeno peppers for pico de gallo...                                                    The kids eat cherry tomatoes like candy...

Ladybug loves yummy green beans.

  Cowboy squishing the squash.

It has been a pretty good year for our first "real" attempt at gardening. Last year was somewhat half-hearted. We started late and then what we planted did not do that well. The tomatoes were stringy...not enough light, I guess, and what actually made it got pecked by the then free-ranging chickens.

So this year, we moved the beds up front (for all the neighbors to see!) and have mostly kept the chickens inside their pen. We fertilized with old horse manure, though I think it might not have been quite old enough, as some of our Roma tomatoes have been very oddly shaped. The rest of the veggies seem to like the mix, though.

Ugly critter....scary! Solution: sqish! (because even the chickens didn't want 'em)

The only pest we've really dealt with are tobacco worms (above) and squash bugs, which I'd never seen before. Apparently, they are just a "thing" in this area this year, and somewhat unavoidable. We did spray with a soap-based spray after we figured out what was eating the zukes and yellow squash (squash bugs) and the tomatoes (tobacco worms), and once we did that, we were able to salvage the remaining plants.

We also have some old pear and apple trees to harvest in a bit. Thankfully, they are not quite ready, but they are close. I am hoping they will be ready about when we get back, so I can make some yummy apple and pear sauce when I get back. I feel bad because we managed to miss most of our cherries due to illness and busy-ness, but Ladybug did enjoy quite a few of them. Our walnut trees are not doing much this year. I think the Nor'easters the last few years have messed them up. The year we bought the house, they were great.

I hope your gardens are prospering as well, and keeping you pleasantly busy and well fed.

Drop me a line and a link to your blog to let me know about your garden experiences this year.
I have a lot to learn and I welcome good advice!

Our Crepe Myrtle tree in bloom with my herb pots alongside.



PS. Thanks to Tex for taking some of these pictures for me...he did the beautiful ones of the fruit trees, among others. Love you! Mom

Thai Peppers for Hubby. Nobody else will touch them. HOT!!

Lovely Little Miss Sunshine

I would like to thank Denise, at Light, Liberty, and Learning for awarding me my first two blog awards. You all may think it is silly, but I was sooooo excited when she told me to check out her blog and see what she had for me, and I discovered these two awards. I am new to this and I really appreciate all of the encouragement I have recieved from many individuals. Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Denise!

Here are the rules for the awards presentation:
1. Thank the one who gave it to you and link to their blog.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Choose seven others to bless with the award and let them know they've won an award.

 Here are seven blogs I enjoy that I feel reflect the
award titles of "One Lovely Blog" and "Sunshine Award."
Please visit them and offer them encouragement this week.
I am sure it will really make their day!

Lastly, here are the seven things about myself. Maybe you will find them interesting. Maybe you won't. That's okay. I know my mother reads my blog and at least she will enjoy them!!

1. Speaking of my mother, I have the coolest, most wonderful parents in the world. Did you know that they came over yesterday on a 100 degree plus day and my dad helped Hubby mow our lawn (ahem, maybe lawn is not the right word since the mowable areas are over five acres worth). Mom helped me make my blueberry jam, helped keep the kids occupied on a day when it was too hot to go outside, AND made dinner and pie for dessert. They are truly awesome folks. Thank you both. I love you guys!

2. I LOVE to read. I collect books. I have LOTS of books, and many overflowing bookshelves (but not enough...shelves that is.) I probably have enough books for two libraries, but that won't stop me from finding more books I want at the next library sale! Seriously, before we moved from Florida I donated over one thousand books to the library (really, I am NOT exaggerating) and did not even make a dent in them. It is an addiction, I think. Help?

3. Random thought: my favorite movie is Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original version with Gene Wilder). Strange, but true. It's one of the only movies I will actually watch more than once. The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof are two more.

4. I am the designated photo archivist for my family. That means that for every 100 pictures of my kids, there is one of me. That's okay, I like the pictures of them better than the ones of me anyway.

5. By the time I was sixteen, I saved up enough money to buy my first horse. Actually, the deal with my parents was 50/50, so they paid half, but they also contributed to the tack 50/50, and a few other things, so if you consider the total amount, I can tell myself I bought the horse and they paid for the stuff. He was a full-blooded Arabian gelding, a Bask grandson, a beautiful blood bay, smart as a whip, and he loved to jump. So did I. I still miss him. We could complete an entire course of 3-4 foot jumps with no tack (bareback and bridleless) cantering like the wind and carefree as summertime. These days when I ride I rarely go above a trot. When did I become such an old fogie?

6. I am seriously a Pepper. No Coke or Pepsi for me, though occassionally I do the Dew. One of these days I will go green and only drink water, but I am not looking forward to that day at all.

7. I am blessed to be the mom to six of the coolest kids on the planet. They are so sweet and bring me such joy every single day in so many ways. I can't say enough about how thankful I am to have such wonderful and amazing children. I am so glad we homeschool so we can spend most of every day together. Thank you, Hubby for working so hard to make that possible. I would hate to miss all the incredible moments of their lives that I am blessed to experience by being at home with them. Thank you, Jesus, for blessing us all so very much!

This was fun. I hope you had fun, too. Now go and be a blessing to someone today the way these awards were a blessing to me (I am still smiling...thanks, Denise).

Blessings to you,


Monday, July 26, 2010

Menu Plan Monday---July 26th-July 30th

We are preparing this week for a two-week long trip through the Mid-west to visit my family as a complete family group (that means Daddy is actually going this time, and not out to sea) for the first time in twelve years.

Oh no, I just realized, I guess we won't be complete, because Bubba (age 19) is too busy this time of year to leave his clients (he's a farrier) and plans to fly by himself sometime this winter instead. That way, he can stay with his uncle and "play" blacksmith without interruptions from the peanut gallery (his uncle is a re-enactor at a local fort as a blacksmith).

If I didn't know he'll probably have more fun that way, I'd feel bad he's not going along. I have to admit that I am relieved that he will be here to tend to the farm and animals while we are away. Otherwise, all that hard work that went into the fruit and gardens would go to waste. I may not be here for the big boom of tomatoes I am expecting next week, but Bubba has tomatoes running through his blood and will take care of putting them to good use. If I knew a recipe for ketsup, he might even try making some with nothing better to do while he is here (we do not have cable), except that he is partial to Heinz and kind of picky about it.

In any case, in light of my busy schedule, I am skipping any mention of breakfasts, other than to say every breakfast will be served with...blueberries. We have LOTS, thanks to my friend, and I do not have time to make them ALL into jam. I did quite a bit last night, and froze most of the rest of the berries, but there are still enough that the kids will be eating cereal with blueberries and blueberry parfaits all week. I am hoping to make blueberry muffins at least once before we go, and to take my generous friend some.

Lunches will likely be PBJs most of the week. They are easy and the kids are loving the homemade strawberry and blueberry jam. I will use up as many fresh veggies as I can, so they won't go bad during our absence (celery, carrots, tomatoes). Bubba eats out a lot. The pay for farriers is pretty good these days. They deserve it, especially in this 100 degrees plus heat wave of ours.

Now down to dinners: I need to use up some hamburger meat, so we'll be a bit heavy on that.

Monday: Nachos. Easy peasy and made with...meat. Poppy brought over some tortilla chips the other day and left the whole bag, so they gotta get used up, too. I also made a blueberry-peach cobbler for dessert.
Tuesday: Spaghetti for Ladybug, who has had a long-time tummy ache and says spaghetti will make it better. Also uses up some of that hamburger meat. Salad with excess veggies and ranch.
Wednesday: I never did make that hamburger soup last week. It is looking good for this week as it's main ingredient got it...hamburger meat. Served with crockpot whole wheat bread. Yes, I did say bread made in the crockpot. It is actually good and you wouldn't believe how easy it is. It's a good thing I have more than one crockpot. I love crockpots.
Thursday: Time for a break from hamburger, as I am hoping it will be used up by then. I am thinking one last batch of BLT wrap ups for the road to use up my last pack of bacon and the rest of the lettuce. I will miss BLT wrap ups with fresh, garden-grown tomatoes while we are gone. If you haven't tried them yet, DO. Yum. Served with pasta salad and applesauce for the kids.
Friday: Our last movie night for a few weeks. Tex checked out Facing the Giants from church. We will have our usual pizza, though since we may leave the next morning, I think we will treat ourselves to an order-in experience. I will have to find a coupon to use.

I will not be posting MPM for a few weeks. It would read something like "Chick-fil-a, Wendy's dollar menu, Subway five dollar footlongs...and that is simply not worth sharing.

Actually, my Grandma Pooh does plan a great menu when we visit her. She cooks the same sorts of things every week and has for years. She has roast night, fish night, chicken night, etc. and then they always eat at Dairy Queen on "Two-for-one hamburger night" and have breakfast at Panera every Sunday after church. I look forward to sharing the days with her, and to her usual over-the-fire hot dog and s'mores cookout night.

Oh, and there is a place in Omaha that was on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives that Hubby wants to check out. And there is this awesome hamburger stand in Missouri where my Aunt and other grandma live that we will definitely make a trip to once. It will be a fun trip for us...I just hope we don't all gain ten pounds!

I hope you have a fun beginning of August, too.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sermon Sunday---The Household Through God's Eyes

I have had a BUSY weekend. A friend and I were blessed with complimentary tickets to a local Christian Ladies' Conference for this Friday and Saturday, so I lined up babysitting and planned to attend and be refreshed. It was a wonderful time of worship and learning. Aside from the amazing worship and the thought-provoking teaching, the lunch on Saturday was catered by can't beat that! One of the worship lead singers was at least seven months pregnant and she jumped around on that stage under those hot lights for at least an hour the first night. I don't think I was ever that energetic when pregnant, though I did work at a library and attended classes to finish my teaching degree up until two days before labor with my first child. But jumping energetically AND singing at the same time? Wow. I don't think I could manage that today, and I am not pregnant.

In any case, I had a bit of catching up to do after that weekend of refreshing, so I am a bit delayed getting up this Sermon Sunday post. One of the songs from the conference has been stuck in my head all day, so I am going to start with a link to a you tube version, complete with lyrics, to get us all going. It is called "Revelation Song" by Phillips, Craig, and Dean. It is very powerful and worshipful. I really like it.

You know, if you have never "surfed" you tube for hymns and worship songs, you are missing out. It is a great source of many kinds of music (including classical music, kid's songs, and songs with sign language accompaniment) just have to be discriminating. I don't allow my kids to surf you tube alone, but I find out what they would like to see and make play lists for them under my account. Sometimes we start our homeschool day sitting in front of the computer, singing (and occassionally signing, too) for up to an hour. It's great.

Anyway, the tickets we received were courtesy of a family-integrated church we attend once in a while because we love the idea of the Family-Integrated concept (this does not mean family CENTERED, which can have a negative connotation, but rather God-centered and family-integrated). Because we have moved around so much (due to my hubby being in the military), we have had the opportunity to experience many churches, and to experience God in churches of many different denominations. In spite of liking this concept A LOT, we only attend this church at best once a month. In truth, more like four or five times a year, but that is because it is in a city about an hour an fifteen minutes from our home, and sometimes the bridge between our house and the church location is closed during church hours. I'd love to attend more often since I miss the wonderful sense of connectedness these people have with each other, their families, and God.

One of my favorite things about the church is that since it is family-integrated, the kids are IN the service with you, instead of in Sunday School or Children's Church classes being discipled by someone else. We have been in so many churches where having our kids with us has been seen as unusual, or even inconsiderate to others, even though they are well-behaved. The church also puts a high responsibility on the fathers as heads of their households, and the fathers serve communion and pray blessings over their family groups. The families go up together to present their tithes (at the altar), and the pastor explains difficult terms to younger members of the households during his sermon, yet preaches informative sermons which are not dumbed down. They also provide a "further discussion" sheet as part of their bulletin, so families can discuss the application of the sermon at home later in the week. I like that. All of it.

We usually attend on the first Sunday of the month as that is the week when they have a pot luck gathering following services. That is when we get to visit with our like-minded friends and really feel like we are part of this church family. The one thing that keeps us from just dealing with the extra long drive and the probable lack of community feeling we would have (since NOBODY from the church lives anywhere near us) is the fact that they are part of an Assembly church. In terms of doctrine within a sermon, I have never heard an incorrect word spoken. As for the other Assembly sort of things (ah, let's face it, you know I mean the whole "Gifts" thing...tongues and all that), I have never seen it within the Household Service. I just like attending those services so much. The whole atmosphere of the church is family-friendly, father headship, mission outreach, constant personal growth, LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS based. That can't be wrong. So I am okay with going there from time to time and hoping and praying that someday we will find a church near to us that thinks along the same lines (that's maybe not an Assembly church or a Reformed one, since I don't agree with Calvinist thought, either, though they tend to be the other denomination that considers families to be a cohesive unit rather than a segmented one).

I don't know what God has in mind, to show us this thing we long for but can't have right now, but He does, right? So for now I will have to be content with what we are doing. In the meantime, I can enjoy our occassional visits and listening to a few of Pastor Shedd's sermons online from time to time. Here is one called "The Household Through God's Eyes" from 2008. When you click on the link, the sermon you want is the first one on the list. They leave this one up on their site because it lays out their Household Service's philosphy and its Biblical basis so well. I learned a lot (you receive a cd copy in your welcome packet the first time you attend the Household Service) from listening to it. I hope you do, too.

If you like to follow along with printed notes as you listen, here are the sermon notes: The Household Through God's Eyes

If you'd like to learn more about how important it is for Christians to have strong families (households), you can download some of their excellent handouts below.

Changing One Word by Eric Wallace
Four Core Practices That Will Eternally Transform Your Household by Pastor Brad Shedd
The Greatest Untapped Evangelistic Opportunity by Scott Brown
Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna
Seven Steps and Seven Blessings of Household Worship
Milestones of Blessing

And by the way, congratulations to Pastor Shedd and his family, who welcomed their eighth child, a son, into the world earlier this month. What a lucky blessed boy!

Hope you had a blessed Sunday.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thankful Thursday---Treasure Hunting

Is this awesome, or what? It is a beautiful needlepoint picture I bought just this afternoon. I love what it says.

I was blessed to be able to go to the local antique mall/tea room today with my mother and sister-in-law, who is about a week away from delivering her second child, a son. We had a deeeeeelicious meal as always at La Petite Tearoom. I had an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich with pineapple chutney,  a pot of Earl Grey tea (yes, I drank a whole pot by myself), and a scrumptious piece of chocolate ganache cake.

Then we walked around the antique mall for several hours, looking for bargains and treasures. I found some of each. My bargains were a sturdy yellow-painted cast iron watering pot key holder for the reasonable price of $6 and two lamp shades for $1 each.

My treasure is the picture you see above. My mom says she can tell it was meant for me. I know it, too. I have one wall, the one above our piano, that is covered with pretty cross stitch and needlepoint pictures (none of which I talent lies in finding them at bargain prices). This picture was absolutely MADE for that wall. The price tag on this one was $40. It is a bit more than I normally spend on something like this, but since it was so obviously meant for me, I could not resist. ;-)

I absolutely LOVE it.

So today, I am thankful for my incredible treasure find. I am also thankful for my mom and my sister-in-law and their fun company at lunch. And lastly, I am thankful for my hubby and (mostly) Tex, who watched the kids while I went out and had a good time with the ladies. Thank you everyone.

And thank you, God, for saving this picture for me. I promise to give it a good home.

May it serve as an everyday reminder for what some of the most important things in life are...our kids and the time we are blessed to spend with them.

Curriculum Review---Travel Kits---A Simple Way to Bless Others

We are getting ready to head off to Iowa in a few weeks. It is a twenty three hour trip. That's a long time for a family with six kids, four under the age of seven, to be confined to an automobile...even if it is a comfortable Suburban complete with dvd, cd, and cassette players, and an outlet for computers to plug in to. Since we lived in Florida for four years and traveled sixteen hours to see my family in Virginia several times a year, the children are used to automobile travel, but the last time we did it, Firefly had not been born yet (she was born the day after we arrived...that's another story!) and Boo wasn't even a thought in our minds (though God knew him already!)

I have to admit that I am a little nervous about this trip. I love to drive...I see it as an opportunity to stop running around and REST, and to sit still and listen to sermon or seminar tapes, and to talk with my husband without feeling like there is something else I should be doing. I am, however, conerned about the dynamics of a long ride with all these little ones. Videos will only last so long, and I really don't want the kids to glut on them. Bubba and Tex will not be a problem. They have their iPods and can read most of the way, but the others are too small to read well on their own, and if I know my kids, they will sleep some, but not a lot.

Luckily for me, I was asked by TOS Magazine to review the e-book Travel Kits to review for the Homeschool Crew in the month of July. What a timely gift that was! It is a 91 page book packed with ideas on how to bless your children by preparing well for a long car (plane, train, bus) ride ahead of time.

You might wonder, "What exactly is a Travel Kit?" Here is how the author, Donna Rees, defines one:

 A Travel Kit is a collection of items that will entertain and/or delight the passengers (especially the younger passengers), thus making the trip more pleasant for everyone. The items should be chosen, purchased (or baked, rented, checked out of the library, or crafted), and then wrapped individially, The components of your travel kit should be assembled in an appealing, creative, hardy "container" that will easily fit in your vehicle, within easy reach of the passengers (or Mom's reach, if you have very young children.)

At first glance, when I read the very detailed parts about wrapping, labeling, and packaging items in elaborate ways, I have to admit, I wasn't too keen on the idea. I am barely going to have time to get packed, what with all the preparations I have to do to be gone for two weeks, let alone wrap items for the car ride in a fancy way. I have to find someone to watch the animals, make sure they have adequate provisions, clean the house in case one of our church's young men agrees to stay here and house sit, do all the laundry and FOLD it (ugh) and put it away, choose and pack clothes and toiletries for seven people (Bubba can do his own, Tex and Hubby can help, but are busy, too), and continue to do day to day chores. All that doesn't even include the jams I need to make before we go, the zucchinis still waiting to be made into bread, or the work needed to maintain my website and this blog. I am exhausted just thinking about it...I am thinking, maybe I will just stay home.

But then as I read through the rest of the book, I was reminded of so many things I used to do when we had only Bubba, and maybe Tex, because we traveled more back then. We actually used to pack what this author calls "travel kits" (minus the gift wrapping) and we always had a lot of fun on car trips.

I will never forget when we lived in Florida and had to evacuate because of Hurricane Ivan. My husband was in charge of Emergency Services for the Navy base he was at, so he had to stay behind and that left me driving Bubba, Tex, and a bitty Ladybug to Missouri where I had relatives with a kind neighbor who was not at home and said we could live in her house for a week or two. We had so much fun listening to the book on tape set I had bought a few months before (it was Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine, the author of Ella Enchanted) that the boys didn't even want to stop for the night. They wanted me to keep on driving so they could keep listening! That one set got us almost all the way to Missouri, and a book called Dragonrider, by Cornelia Funke (the author of the Inkheart series), got us all the way back.

They didn't just have the tape to listen to. They also had lap desks, drawing materials, their own small boxes with Legos, simple games, and snacks. We had some baby toys for Ladybug and had bought a Podee (a nifty bottle with the nipple on the end of a long tube so it can be drunk while sitting upright in a baby seat), and the boys took turns taking care of her. We played games like "I Spy" and "I am Going on a Trip and I am Going to Take a...". And we laughed and laughed and laughed at the silly stories on the tape set until our sides hurt. I think my memories of the trip are almost better than those of the stay, though the stay was absolutely awesome, too.

Being reminded of this by reading theTravel Kits book has now put me into a more excited, anticipatory mood about the drive, instead of one of dread. The book was a good refresher to me for what I need to do ahead of time to prepare for the trip to make it a good one. It was a reminder to not rely on using the dvd player for entertainment, but that the trip itself is part of the memories and that we want them to all be good ones.

So tomorrow I am going to Wally World and I am going to buy some new for each child, and a few lap desks. I am going to search the house for items to fit in each child's box, special for him or her, rather than buying everything (we are on a tight budget). Then, I plan to go to the Dollar Tree and buy a few surprises to add to the boxes just for fun (though I do not plan to wrap them), plus I will pay a visit to the library to find a GREAT set of cds to listen to on the way there. Our church has the complete Story Keepers dvd set and I will probably borrow it next week, for the littler ones to watch when everything else has been exhausted.

I am definitely going to consult the Travel Kits book for a few more ideas on games to play while driving. There was a lengthy list of fun things to do to keep little ones occupied...some I knew (because we have traveled a lot over the years) and some were new to me, or at least new takes on old ideas. There were also many good ideas in there of things to pack for the trip as diversions, such as different arts and craft items, puzzles, and games. Wrapping up the book are a few snack recipes, such as one for granola, a listing of tourism websites for each state, travel tips from other families, and an extensive list of suggested books for taking along to read on your trip.

With the idea of packing travel kits for each child in mind, I decided to do a trial run last week. I took the kids' usual school supplies boxes (they are the size of extra large shoeboxes, but clear plastic) and told each of the younger children to go around their room and choose some toys that they would like to play with for the day. I explained that this would be the ONLY stuff they could use all day...that everything else would be put away. I figured this would be good practice for when we are on the trip and resources are limited. With some help, each child fixed up a box with an assortment of things...a dolly and clothes, Duplos, cars, coloring books and crayons, a favorite story book, plastic bugs and a bug jar, some dress up items and play food. Let me tell you, the kids had a blast playing with just those toys for several days! The house certainly stayed tidier, giving me a chance to do some deeper cleaning, and I enjoyed watching their creativity grow. At the end of the experiment, I thought, "This is really going to work!"

Based on this experience, and my own memories from traveling with my kids in the past, I think that if you plan to travel with your kids this year, at $12.45 from The Old Schoolhouse Store, this instantly downloadable book would be a worthwhile investment to make, if you have not done much traveling or have had difficulty dealing with antsy children on previous trips .

There are also ideas in the e-book for seasoned travelers, like me...sort of a refresher course and a good reminder that all memories are not made in the big moments. Some memories are more subtle, like those made when you all burst out laughing at a funny joke, or when the youngest member of the family trounces the rest at a memory game...or like the one when everybody in the car puts on Groucho Marx glasses and waves at passing cars while holding up a sign that says, "Have a happy day!!" Or when mom and dad start reminiscing and telling the kids stories of when they first met, or of when the kids were little...or when everybody takes turns telling a small part of a silly story that turns ridiculous...or when a big brother and a little brother work together to figure out how to tie new knots...or when two daughters work together to make friendship bracelets for their cousins...or when one is reading a new book, another is drawing a masterpiece, a third is working a sudoku puzzle, the smallest ones are happily snoozing, and mom and dad finally get time to talk.

Kids really do appreciate small things. You will appreciate the satisfaction that comes from making the children happy...AND the quiet and harmony that comes from a bit of advanced planning. So give the Travel Kits e-book a try and look forward to your next road trip with eagerness. 

I especially think that this would also make nice gift for a grandma or friend to buy, for the purpose of putting together travel kits to pass on to the kids in their lives who will be traveling, to save mom the trouble during an already busy time of preparation. I am certain this would bless any travel-harried mom and dad greatly...hint, hint, Mom...just please remember to leave out the noismakers! ;-)

Happy Trails to YOU!!

I received the e-book, Travel Kits--A Simple Way to Bless Others, for free in exchange for my honest review. The review you see here reflects how I used this product, how it benefited my family, and how I feel it might benefit others.

To see what others think about the e-book Travel Kits, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Berry Delicious

I was blessed to get back in touch with an old high school friend through Facebook the other day, and she promptly invited the kids and I over to pick blueberries. She has seven or eight  HUGE bushes that were taken from her great grandmother's farm about ten years ago. When she planted them, they were just twigs, and now they are ENORMOUS (maybe eight feet tall) and heavily laden with delicious berries, just waiting for someone (or something) to come and pick them, and use them for pies, cobbler, jam, muffins, pancakes, and oh so much more. 

Today I am thinking about our children, and how like those blueberry twigs they are. They begin with a whole lot of potential, but not a lot of present usefulness (other than cuteness!). My friend said it took years for the bushes to finally bear enough fruit to make a decent cobbler or batch of muffins.

But with tender care, pruning, weeding, and the love, teaching, protecting, and discipline we give our kids...they will grow and be abundantly fruitful. But if we neglect them, or don't prune them properly, or fail to water them during a dry season, they will not flourish. They might still produce (assuming they survive) but not so well as they might have, given better care.

I know that I want to make sure during these important years that I am diligently tending my precious "bushes" so they will go on to produce the fruit God has planned for them. I want them to be as abundantly fruitful as these beautiful bushes and to bless others the way these blueberry bushes continue to bless my friend and her family and friends.

In any case, the kids all had a lot of fun, though I think they ate about as many as they picked. That's okay, because my mom, my friend, Tex, and I together picked four bulgingly full gallon-sized ziplock bags of berries with very little effort. Really, the blueberries were hanging like clumps of grapes off of the branches...and truth be told, we barely made a dent in what is there. There were plenty more for the birds to enjoy, and for her other friends and family.

We are like that, too. Even after we have given and given, God, our Master Gardener, makes it possible for us to give even more by properly caring for and pruning us. We all have the potential to bless many people in our lifetime. Even when one season is over, the next season will come and there will be more, and more, and more to give, if we continue to grow.

I would like to thank my friend for being so sweet and generous with what she has. She blessed our family greatly, and I hope that our visit blessed her in return. We are looking forward to making blueberry jam for the first time today or tomorrow, and plan to take her a jar or two when we are finished. I also discovered that out she likes to read some of the same authors I do, so we will hopefully go back soon to share books with her, and jam, the way she shared with us.

Until then, I will have to try to keep Ladybug from eating all the berries. Every fifteen minutes or so she is back at the fridge asking to have more berries. Even after berries yesterday, berries on cereal for breakfast, and berries in yogurt parfaits for lunch, she still has room for more. Amazing.
If we're not careful, she's going to turn into a giant blueberry, just like that girl on Willy Wonka.

She tells me she thinks these blueberries are " so sweet and berry delicious" and she just can't resist them.

But I know the truth...she's the one who is so sweet. I am truly blessed.

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