Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick Freebie Alert!

I do have other things to post, but pictures aren't uploaded and may not be until late tonight.

I just found out about a fabulous freebie and want to share. If you are a Facebook user, you can get a free art kit from Creativity For Kids, some of the products retail at close to $30.

1. Go to Facebook and find Creativity For Kids and click "become a fan"
2. Look through the products offered at www.creativityforkids.com
3. Email webmaster@fabercastell.com and tell them you are a Facebook fan. Let them know what product you'd like and send your mailing information.

It is THAT easy. Note to any friends or family without kids, you can sign up for this and I have a wishlist of many products I know our girls would love. Already have the Deluxe Tea Set and Travel Easel on the way, but there are at least 100 products up for grabs! Act now, this deal may be pulled soon, it is getting so much press!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Taking some time to day to count my blessings….

  • I am thankful for a loving family who is willing to help in times of need.
  • I am thankful for all of the work that Jay has at the moment. The life of the family of a self-employed carpenter can be “feast or famine” as they say, but we have all of our true needs met and that is a blessing. I do miss him a lot lately, seeing as he has had little free time with us. But, I realize that while we see little of him now, we will have time to reconnect down the line.
  • I am thankful that our neighbors made a situation right even though I had doubts that they’d follow through. Three weeks ago, Luna left her Our Generation doll outside overnight and the neighbors dogs tore it to pieces the next morning. She was heartbroken. After a bit of prodding, they brought Luna a replacement doll last night and her joy was overwhelming. In 20 minutes, she must have told me, “I am sooooo happy, Mama! I love her, Mama!” 20 times.

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  • I am thankful for the extra time we had with Nico last week. She was with us for 10 days while her Mom was busy with work. Given the past situations, this is a miracle.
  • I am thankful for the many friends we’ve gained in this last year. My girls were sad to see their old friends slip away one by one when we became Christian. To see new friendships blossom lately has been amazing and wonderful.
  • I am thankful for our public library, a fantastic free resource that I go to weekly. I will forever sing the praises of our free inter-library loan, where I can order just about and book or movie and have it delivered to the library within days. Also so thankful for the woman who heads up the children’s programming. We get so much out of her efforts and activities.

I’d like to take a minute to mention a great organization called Compassion. Compassion Once our property sale goes through, we plan to sponsor a little girl from Ghana who lives with her grandmother. This is one of the best organizations of it’s kind out there, over 83% of the sponsorship goes right to the aid of the child. You can also send monetary gifts right to the child or their family and Compassion workers assess true needs and help the family use 100% of those funds. Sponsoring one child costs $38 per month and while we are by no means rich and often linger just above “just getting by”, I realize that compared to many in this world, we are so privileged. When we make this commitment, I know we can do whatever it takes to stick with it. The average family income in Ghana is just $10 in USD. Per family. Think about that for a second.

I know that there are SO many out there who are just like us and are “just getting by”, but I urge you to think for a minute of all that you could do for a child, a family, by joining with Compassion and sponsoring a child.

If you can’t commit to that, think about donating just $10 to Nothing But Nets where your donation will buy one bed net that could save a life by preventing the spread of malaria.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Farewell, Property...

After much deliberation, Jay and I finally sold the little 2.5 acre piece of property we bought shortly after we got together. It was one of the first real assets we bought together, something we actually *owned* that was of tangible value.

In 2005, we had an issue with a landlord that ended up with us evicted from our rental. Instead of taking just any old rental, we decided to bide our time and camp out while we found a place that would be a good environment for our girls. We ended up camping for most of two months, from mid-July to the end of September and it was such a wonderful time! Many thought we were nuts for taking our two girls and our pets and living in tents up in the woods. However, if you ask Nico and Kaya about our time, they will tell you all of the things they loved and remember about it. We had everything we could have needed... A big three room tent for sleeping in, another two room tent for a bathroom (yes, with a camp toilet) and a playroom with books and toys, even a lean-to kitchen. For the first week, I cooked and heated water over a campfire. I didn't mind except for the foraging for sticks first thing in the morning to get water heated for coffee. Then, Jay found a propane stove and brought it up and connected it to a grill tank. Life was made 100% easier with this addition to camp. I also had a pantry, countertop, coolers and big Igloo water cooler. One of my fondest memories is taking my showers, fresh from a solar heated camp shower, right out in the midst of nature. We did make it to friends houses a few times a week to wash up the girls. I did laundry a little bit at a time in a hand-cranked camp washing machine and dried everything in the sun.

The only pics I have of our campsite are small and not great quality. They were taken before I got my stove, but you get the general idea of our set up.







As of Friday, we are passing the property on to a nice, older couple who plans to set up a camper on our old campsite (while using our little lean-to that is still standing up there after 4 years!) and also use the property to store some extra things they have. I know they will enjoy it and I will always treasure our memories of living up on the property.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

After many, many days of rain and clouds, today has been simply beautiful. The sky is a brilliant blue and without the steady rain, I can open all of the windows and let the house air out a bit. I had gotten really behind with the laundry, not having a dryer and relying on the clothesline. So, today I did about 6 loads in total and it feels good to have the gigantic dirty clothes pile out of the closet and fresh sheets and blankets on all of the beds.

I haven’t updated in a few days, so here are a few pictures that I’ve taken recently.

On Friday, there was a “Scales and Tales”  presentation through the local Naples Library.  We met many friends down there and everyone enjoyed the menagerie of creatures.

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Our host with a rather feisty Monitor Lizard.

 

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Petting a Water Snake.

 

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Nice necklace, Nico!

 

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Luna’s not quite sure what to think about a snake around her neck.

 

Then after the program, Nico and Kaya had 2 of their friends over for a slumber party. It was a Giggle-Fest for sure.  They’re all such good friends.

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Sunday was a nice day, despite a drizzly start.  After church, Jay’s Mom and Step-dad came over for a while. We managed to get the girls in bed early and Jay and I got to spend a bit of time togehter for our Anniversary.

Today, it was wonderful to wake to a warm, dry breeze. As the morning went on, the skies cleared completely and we were able to soak in some sun. Because we are technically on our Summer homeschool schedule, the morning’s sit-down work was light.  Nico wrote an essay about a book she just finished, The Diary of  Remember Patience Whipple.  Kaya wrote a character study on Sarah from the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy. Then they did some quick math review and I shooed everyone out to enjoy the beautiful day.

For Art, the girls did some watercolors and experimented with wax resist using white crayons.

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Luna is finally started to get the hang of using water colors.  I have found that she gets better results if I have her repeat after me: Dip, dip (in the water), scrub, scrub (in the paint pan), paint paint.

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This is Kaya’s kitty inspired work.  Nico was not as thrilled with her end result, but as I told her, art is as much about the process as it is about the product.

Here’s a few pictures I took around the house today.

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Last picture, I’ll keep small so as not to creep out my Mom.  This is a smaller version of the Nursery Web Spider I found stuck to my sliding door a few weeks back.  This one is holding her egg sack, which is a common trait of this kind of spider.  Even at half the size of the one I found previously, she’s still darn big.

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On the topic of homeschooling, I am getting more and more excited to plan for our upcoming adventures in learning.  As many might know, we do not follow any set curriculum. I have always just kept myself a few steps ahead of the girls so that I can adjust what we’re doing to where they are at with their abilities. Recently, though, I have learned about a few different curriculums like Sonlight, which are very heavy on the literature.  As I looked through their catalog, I became inspired to swing towards a more “literature-rich” slant.  We have always been really into reading and books, but I have started being more deliberate in the choices of the books we focus on.   I have already seen Kaya and Nico become inspired by reading and listening to some great, classic literature. I will come back tomorrow with some links that I have really enjoyed lately regarding children’s books.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Surprise by the Clothesline

On Tuesday evening, some of the laundry I had hung out wasn’t quite dry so I decided to leave some of it out overnight. But, by 10 o’clock, it started seeming like a storm was coming, so Jay went out into the dark to bring in the laundry. He was out there for a little bit when he heard a noise and thought there was a white sheet flapping in the breeze. When his eyes adjusted, he nearly jumped out of his skin when he realized that two white horses were standing next to him. He came in to tell me and we went out to try to figure out what to do. Next thing we know, Kaya had gotten up and then she woke Nico up, and we were all out in the yard trying to corral the horses. (They were small and very friendly, though spooked a bit so I didn’t take pictures that night)

We eventually decided to tie them out in the yard and wait until morning to try to find out where they came from. The girls were thrilled beyond belief to have foster ponies for the morning and were busy finding clover and grasses for them to eat.

To show how little we know about horses, we initially thought they were mama and baby. After talking with the owners we discovered that they are both pregnant females and the little one was 10 years old while the bigger one was 12!



Just another randomly interesting day out in the Boonies!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Marvelous and Messy Monday

It is amazing how a few days of feeling pretty crummy can make you appreciate feeling normal again. I am 99% back to my usual health and was very thankful for it today.

We started the day with a light day of home-learning. Nico and Kaya wrote a journal entry about their fun on Saturday and then they both did some math and some reading. After lunch, we headed out to meet up with some of our fellow homeschoolers at a nearby Continuing Care center to visit with their residents and do some Flag Day crafts.

Kaya was a bit bummed that her friend, Rony, was resting while we were there. She met Rony last time we were there and instantly bonded with her. “Rony” is short for Veronica, and she is a spunky 99 year old woman. Kaya is thrilled to have a friend that is almost 100 and she writes to her from time to time. We all really enjoy going to spend time with the residents and they seem to love having us there. Some of those ladies are real fire crackers!

Here’s a few pics from our trip.

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Luna thoroughly enjoys anything that’s messy. After we got home, she wanted to paint some more. I found these cute word plaques at the craft store, so she went to town on one of them.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Disappointing Day

Yesterday, I was all amped up for a fabulous day.  We were going to be meeting up with our fellow homeschoolers for a picnic and then afterwards, meeting up at the same park with my family, who was camping out there.  I had been looking forward to the day for quite some time.  

Well, the day started out good despite the fact that my stomach felt just a little “off” in the morning.  I thought I had just made my coffee too strong.  We packed up and headed up to Ontario County Park.  Our girls had a great time, but shortly after I got there, my stomach started feeling worse and worse.  I tried to distract myself, get through it, but when it came time to sit down and eat, the smell of all of the food was too much for me and I nonchalantly excused myself and got sick out behind a building. Ugh. By the time the first picnic was over, I knew I had just better go home.  I was really disappointed to miss out on time with my family, but was feeling so gross and miserable I couldn’t have enjoyed myself.  On the bright side, we live close enough that Jay was able to bring me home and then go back to the park so that he and the girls could at least enjoy the fun.

At least Jay was able to take a few pictures of the homeschool picnic, where the kids all had fun with different Field Day activities. I’ll share a few pictures here before I slink back to bed. I’m not sick to my stomach anymore but my body is still feeling pretty weak.

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Nico with her friend, Nancy.

 

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Kaya and Hannah doing more of a balloon pass than a balloon toss.

 

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Nancy and Nico are Master Balloon Tossers.

 

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Just a few of our homeschool co-op kids.

 

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Luna with her buddy, Owen. Aren’t they cute?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just a Quick Update

Nico just finished her first book from her piano lessons, so I thought we take a video of her playing on of her favorite songs ~ Pirates of the Sea. Sorry for the initial squeaky noise, I think something was still a little screwy with the camera after its plunge into the gully. Seemed to work itself out, though. Without any further ado.....
video

Also adding a cute picture of Kaya and Jay playing patty cake from a few days ago.

We're on our way out the door for a fun-filled day with friends and family. As long as I don't mangle my camera, I should have plenty of pictures to post tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Interesting Turn of Events

I tried my camera out today and initially got a Lens Error flashing on the screen. After a bit of tapping, a little bit of finesse from the air compressor, the camera seems to be working and taking pictures just fine.

The bumpy tree picture is the last picture taken and saved before the camera plunged to it's watery resting place.

The rose was taken after drying out and getting a once over. Sweet.

Disaster Strikes

So, yesterday when the girls were laying down for the mid-afternoon siesta, I decided to grab my camera and take a little walk around the property. We have a sweet location with two sides of the property bordered by gullies, and we've put in several nice trails. I was down by one of the gullies when I found this cool looking tree that had a hole through it and I thought it would make for a nice picture. I took one picture and looked at the LCD screen and thought maybe I should try another shot with the flash off for a better effect. Somehow when I went to hit the button to turn off the flash, the camera slipped out of my hand. It was all slow motion for a few minutes....

Bounce.... "Please let the camera stop!" Tumble.... "Oh, no! Stop!" Kerplunk. Splash.

My heart dropped and I slid down the hill to retrieve my beloved camera from it's murky landing spot. She's fried. :(

I tried several tricks found online to possibly save her, but I think it is no use. I am looking on Ebay for a replacement to my much missed Photosmart M425. A great little camera with the bells and whistles I desire, but not too expensive. I haven't found anyplace online selling the same model anymore, so hoping to find a good deal on a used one.

Note to self: When a camera comes with a wrist strap, it is a good idea to hook it on and use it if you're taking pictures near hills or water.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday Evening Updates

Well, yesterday we drove over to Ithaca to see Nico perform in a Variety Show that was part of the Learning Center where she takes different classes with other homeschoolers. It is a little over an hour and a half drive, up and down hills, and Luna slept for most of the ride. She’s so adorable when she sleeps, isn’t she?

HPIM1060 The Variety Show was, well….. interesting. Many of the participants were adorable. There were some great performances, for sure. One teenaged boy blew my mind with his piano and keyboard skills. I mean, he gave me goosebumps he was so amazing.

On the other hand, going there was a big wake up call for Jay and I and showed us just how fortunate we are that our attempts to buy a house and move to Ithaca were thwarted. It seems as if the laid-back, ultra liberal trend is to not only allow, but encourage the freedom of expression in any form. Sometimes in allowing kids to wear extremely provacative clothing, other times in laughing while kids tell each other, “Shut up, stupid!” and ridicule each other or scream into microphones and throw soda cans at people’s heads. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. While we were once drawn to Ithaca because of the large population of homeschoolers, we are now feeling extremely *blessed* to have found our small, local community of comrades. I much prefer to have quality over quantity and a group of friends where compassion and kindness are promoted.

On a related note, Nico’s “friend-that’s-a-boy” also made the 1.5 hour drive to the Variety Show with his family. He brought Nico some beautiful roses and gave them to her after she danced with her group. I didn’t get any shots of the actual dance because the girls moved so fast, every time I took a shot I ended up getting Nico’s back. :lol: But I did get a nice picture of Nico with her flowers this morning.

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Today was a lovely day with the whole family hanging out here at home. The girls played outside for hours and I think Kaya must have put a good 5 miles on her bike, going up and down the driveway and dirt road.

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Right after dinner, Jay got the wagon out and hooked it to the mower and took the girls for rides.

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Soon, I will call everyone in for showers and get them into bed. We got in pretty late last night and they need to catch up on some sleep. Before I sign off, I will show a few things the girls have been working on recently.

Kaya made this really sweet embroidery of a dolphin.

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Luna wanted to do “boidery” too, so she made this little abstract number.

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Nico’s is still a work in progress and I’ll post a picture of it when she is done.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Savoring Spring

It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood… The perfect temperature, bright blue skies and lots of sun.  Jay stayed home to do some paperwork and office tasks.  Kaya and Luna spent hours running around outside and having a ball.  I was happy to see some of my peonies and lillies blooming and to hear the melody of the Orioles singing in the yard. 

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Luna has just learned how to “cyime a tree” and even thought she can only get about a foot high, she is still so proud.

HPIM1059And, yes, she did pick out her own clothes today.  :lol:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another Clip of the Barn

Finally an update with a few pictures!

Here are just a few pictures we have taken since our internet went off last August. First, Nico with a watercolor painting she made for her Mom's birthday last November. It went along with a beautiful poem she wrote.


And now the lovely day is done,
The moon will rise above the sun.
Brilliant colors blend in the sky,
Beautiful colors make me sigh.
Colors are so vibrant and bright,
Then it gets darker towards the night.
On a high hill I see two tall trees.
The trees slowly wave from the breeze.
Together, tall and close they stand.
The branches reach out to hold hands.

Here are Kaya and Luna last November.

For Kaya's birthday, a group of extremely thoughtful friends chipped in and bought Kaya the American Girl doll that she had been longing for. She was totally surprised and thrilled.
Fast forward to some recent shots, our family got together at my Grandma's house for a work party/family reunion.
Here are my three girls two weeks ago. We went to the theater in town to see a dance performance,
Sometimes you have to pick your battles. Luna has a thing for mud puddles. (Or "muddles" as she calls them!) When we have a few rainy days in a row, our dirt driveway gets a few and it is next to impossible to keep Luna out of them.


Last week, Kaya finally learned to ride a two wheeled bike. We bought Kaya a fancy new bike 2 years ago and our jerk of an ex-landlord threw it away. We never had a chance to replace it, but Nico brought over a bike she had outgrown and Kaya learned to ride by the next day.

Ok, that's it for pictures for now. I should update on a few things I had posted about before the internet went down. Most importantly, we have had incredible changes in our relationship with Nico's mom and our time with Nico. While we were going through the custody battle, I kept trying to convince myself that God had a plan, but the whole situation was so painful it was hard to take to heart. Well, He did have a plan. Things are better then they have ever been, and it feels like a miracle. We, as parents, are working together, compromising and respecting each other. Our time with Nico is back to just about 50/50 and sometimes we have her more than half the time if her Mom is swamped at work. It is amazing. When I think about the anger and heartache we all went through, it seems like sooooo long ago. Answered prayers, for sure.

Jay has been blessed with plenty of work. The income of a self employed carpenter can be feast or famine, and we have gone through both. While many of Jay's friends are having a heck of a time finding jobs, Jay currently has work lined up for a while and that is a good feeling.

The girls are all doing really well. Nico is our tween now, turning 11 in April. We have our ups and downs that go with the territory of this age, but overall she is a great kid. Kaya is 7 and just completed second grade. Luna will be three soon and is on the move all. the. time. She puts me through my paces on a daily basis, and is extremely talkative and funny.

I have been blessed with my involvement in a local homeschool cooperative where we all made some great friends. We had our Open House last night and it was so nice. The children all sang songs and there was a talent show that was so adorable. All of the students received Certificates of Achievement and a big round of applause at the end. Then, friends and family got to look through some of the work the children completed over the year and sigh their yearbooks.

Well, enough updates for now. I've got some things to get done around the house and need to work on Kaya's Individualized Home Instruction Plan for third grade. Have a great day and be blessed!