Monday, November 21, 2011

A place to find meaningful Christmas gifts and more.

I wanted to share a quick post with you about a great place to find meaningful Christmas gifts for those on your list (and because they bribed me with a $300 gift card drawing...haha.)  There is a giveaway through The Modest Mom blog for three gift cards totaling $600.

The giveaway is for Vision Forum.  Many of you have probably heard of them before.  They sell all kinds of different things to encourage parents in their calling to train their children "in the way they should go".  Here is a list of just a few things that you can find at Vision Forum.  Christian Books, videos, audio books, toys (the classic ones), and so much more.  If you have never been to their site, you should check it out at

That said, I love this particular venue and have bought more than just gifts from them.  This year, I bought several things to add to our homeschool curriculum.  One of them was the Jonathan Parks audio series, which we are just now getting around to using.  We put it on at night for the kids to listen to in bed while falling asleep (this has really helped to cut out some of the bedtime discipline issues:)) This adventure series focuses on teaching about creation...and we are studying "Creation to the Greeks" this year.

This past summer we purchased "homeschool convention" gifts for our kids like we do every summer but this year we just ordered them from Vision Forum when they were having a great sale.  We bought coon skin caps, army hats, wooden riffles, and several games like marbles.  Fun, fun, fun!  I love to see the boys out back pretending to track down bears or fight off an advancing army:)

So, before you finalize your Christmas shopping list this year, checkout Vision Forum.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Preschool play and learning styles.

So...I am not an expert on children's learning styles nor have I done an in depth study on this topic.  I did study learning styles a bit when I was earning a degree in elementary education, but only a surface level study.  However, I have noticed an interesting correlation between the way that my own children play in their preschool years and how they later learn.  So, here it goes...

When my oldest Nathan was a toddler, we bought all of the traditional preschool roll play, drama, and pretend toys that I knew to be enriching  He would occasionally dress up but he was more interested in just being outside and studying the world around him.  He was very inquisitive and asked tons of could just see the wheels turning in his head as he was deep in thought.  Here is a picture of him at 3 1/2 listening to Abby's heart...not playing doctor...haha.

Eighteen months behind him came his younger brother Brennan.  Brennan was the exact opposite.  He was full of energy, ran almost before he walked (and really hasn't stopped since...haha), and spent almost every waking hour (and some sleeping hours as well) in one costume or another.  One day he would be a fire fighter or police man and then the next he would be Spiderman or Superman.

There were even days when he did his "school" in costume:)

I was marveling (no pun intended) over the difference between the two one day when it hit me that the difference was in who they were in their imagination.  When Nathan played, much of his play was in 3rd person.  The action was always happening over there and he was the creator and spectator of the imaginary world around him.

 When Brennan played, however, much of his play was in 1st person.  He was right in the midst of the action and it was happening to him.  I found this to be a really intriguing difference.

As we added more little ones to our family, I watched to see if each of them would fit into one category or the other.  So far, each of them has...for the most part.  Abby was the next little one in our house and she played mostly in 1st person just like Brennan.

She lived in princess dresses and anything that was frilly and sparkled but she wasn't above being a little pirate every now and then:)

Being just 22 months apart and playing in much the same way, Brennan and Abby, would play house together for hours but Nathan usually would have none of this type of play...usually:)

Then we had our little Wesley.  He has played more in 3rd person just like Nathan.  When he does put on a costume he will be quick to tell you that he isn't a jedi or Davy Crockett, but Wesley in a costume.  I don't think that Brennan and Abby went by their rightful names for half of their preschool years:)
But, Nathan and Wesley are more of the literal type.  The two of them just really seem to understand each other.  They are buddied up for chores, etc. because they work well together.

Next to come along was Seth.  Oh boy is he ever a 1st person player!  He is a little Star Wars jedi much of the time.  He runs around in costumes, with swords, and light-sabers and rarely slows down!

 Can't you just see the adventure in those eyes?

Now that we are into the school years, there seems to be a correlation (at least among my own kids) between how they played as preschoolers and how they learn best as elementary students.  Those who played mostly in 1st person are more tactile learners, need that "hands on" approach to learning and struggle sitting still and concentrating.  Those who played more 3rd person as preschoolers are more visual/auditory learners and sit still and concentrate well.

This realization has helped me plan better for each one of them in their school lessons and also as I train them to sit still during church.  Those tactile learners really need to have their hands busy to sit still.  There is so much energy inside of them and it needs somewhere to go!  So, if their hands are busy, they can better sit still and their minds are more open to learning.

So, as I start to think about Wesley beginning school, I am preparing for an auditory/visual learner.  Even now, while the other kids are doing school, he likes to sit and do puzzles, look at books etc..  Seth on the other hand would prefer to run circles around the house, super hero cape flying in the wind and Nerf sword in hand:)  Guess I will gear up for another tactile learner after Wesley.  It will be interesting to see how Ransom develops over the next few years.

Have you noticed any of these same preschool play-learning style connections in your kids or the kids in your life?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Goodbye Schedule:)

Okay, so after that last post about all of the lists and schedules that make daily life in our home functional, I thought it would be good to follow up with a post about a day at home where we don't follow the schedule.

Today, I decided to take the day off from school and do some deep cleaning.  We are hosting several events and family holiday gatherings over the next six weeks and our house really needed a thorough deep cleaning. 

I decided NOT to tell the kids until the last minute.  (This is something that I am doing more and more these days.  I have found that when I tell the kids about plans in advanced, they build up expectations and then reality never measures up.  And, it helps if we need to make last minute adjustments to the plans.)  So, I waited to tell them so that they would sleep to the normal time (they always get up so early when they know something different is going on...amazing) and get their morning routine accomplished without the extra excitement and energy that comes with a change of routine.  We did everything just as scheduled until 10:30 or so when we completed My Father's World for the day (This curriculum is planned by the week so I like to stick to it as much as possible.). 

At this time, I explained to the older three kids that we would be having a "cleaning day".  You should have heard the happy cheering kids!  They know how I love to have a clean house and consistently tempt me to put school aside and clean so they were overjoyed that I was finally doing just that.  Everyone was given a different job and we all set about busily cleaning windows, ceiling fans, light fixtures, baseboards, walls, vertical blinds, etc.  I wanted to do all of those things that are hard to work into the normal schedule and those that we have skipped recently:)

The two little boys played computer games and watched a video and the baby napped.  Sometimes I have the little ones help but today I was more focused on actually getting the place clean rather than training little hands, so I used a cheap babysitter...haha.

It is always a challenge to get cleaning done while monitoring the kids doing their cleaning.  Between the ages of six and ten, they are still easily distracted and I have to chase them down from time to time and get them back on task.  

We took a break for a late lunch and then did a little yard trimming and clean up while the little ones napped in the afternoon.

 So, you see...I can leave that schedule behind...really I can:)  It is actually a nice change of pace every once in a while.

After mopping the floors tonight, I am now sitting in a clean and peaceful house...ahhhh.  Now to keep it clean past the event that we are hosting tomorrow night!

Monday, November 14, 2011

There is NO secret ingredient...or is there?

I remember going to a session at a homeschool convention that was going to be about how to "get it all done" (I put this in italics and quotes because we all know that moms never really have it all done).  I can't remember the name of the session but just that I was excited to finally get the answers that had been alluding me all these years (as if there were some magic formula).  I had four little ones five years old and younger and felt that I was always a few days behind in everything that needed to be done.  And, I had long since given up on perfection and decided to go for survival...haha.  Still, I was having trouble getting it all done.  With great anticipation, I watched the speaker go up on stage as I balanced my newborn baby on my lap with paper and pen in hand.  I was ready to jot down the secrets.  This was going to be my breakthrough.  The secrets to the universe would soon be mine...haha.  The first words that the speaker said went something like this..."I'm not going to talk about how I get the dishes and laundry done.  I'm going to focus on how I get the schooling done."...or something like that.  I felt the wind go out of my sail.  I wasn't so worried about how to get the school done.  My kids were still little and we were having a great time going through the Science based theme units that I had designed around the days of creation.  What I really wanted to know was how to get it ALL done...the dishes, house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, time with preschoolers, individual tutoring with older kids, grading, quiet time, time with my husband, staying in touch with family members, writing "thank you" notes, etc.  I can't remember anything else but the opening line from that session.  However, over time I have had different moms share with me some of their secrets to "getting it all done".  The biggest secret is that there is no secret...haha.  It took me years to finally learn that.  I was really looking for that one secret or magic formula.  It is much like the line in Kung Fu Panda "There is NO secret ingredient".  Although in my case, there is no magic...but there is a secret ingredient...or several actually:) 

Through the years, I have taken suggestions from other moms, changed a few around, and finally pieced together a good reliable plan that works for our family and will allow me to get it all done...well, most of it anyway...on a good day:)  I wanted to share them here in the hopes that somewhere out there in cyberspace is that young mom with four kids five and under, that was me a few years ago, looking for some "ingredients" that will help to create a smooth and workable homeschool experience.  So, take the ones that work for you and leave the rest behind.  As my dad says "Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds"...or eat the soup and spit out the noodles...or something like that:)

I have a great deal to get done EVERY day.  I know you are all shocked upon hearing this...haha.  I get up, have my quiet time, feed the baby, get little boys diapered and dressed, wake older kids, start laundry, get breakfast, adjust laundry, check to see if chores are done, adjust the laundry again, get out the curriculum that we will be going through that day...and did I mention laundry?  And, this is all before nine in the morning.  Whew.  I get tired just listing it all.  Here is what I do to "get it all done"...the vitals anyway.

1. I have a daily schedule.  I used a great book "Managers of their Homes" to help me put together a workable schedule.  Every child has a place to be and an activity (sometimes free time and yet scheduled) to be doing all the time.  Our days are scheduled from wake up to go to bed.  Now, I can see you all running for the hills.  Come baaaack!  It really isn't that bad.  I can choose to NOT follow the schedule any day.  But, it is there for me and if I stick with it everything will get done...most days:)  When we stick to the plan, I get to have time alone with each older child...and Peter does too.  And honestly, the days go much smoother when we stick to the plan.  Everyone knows what to expect and the little ones get to stay in a good routine.  Here is a picture of the detailed schedule that we follow...most days:)

Notice all of the white blank spots at the beginning of the day?  I am NOT an early riser:)

2. I have lists...yes the plural is intentional.  There is a list on my bedroom door telling me what to do before I go down stairs and another list telling me what to have done before retiring to upstairs at night.  (I really want to minimize the trips that I make up and down each day.)  There are several lists by the washroom door leading to the garage telling me what I need to have packed in the van for...PE, church, park outings, water play, etc.  It is basic enough that the older kids can read and then pack the van for me.  Believe it or not, the older ones usually like it when I trust them with an important job like this and are pretty willing to help...especially my organizer.

3. I have a chore list and Saturday cleaning rotation for the kids.  Each child has a chore to complete after breakfast every morning of the week, except Sunday morning, and another just before dinner (the evening chores are mostly related to picking up the mess of the day so that Peter comes home to a peaceful environment).  The two little boys are buddied up with an older brother and "help" them with their chore.  For example, Nathan puts the dishes away each morning and Wesley "helps"...the Padawan learner.

  Nathan puts away glass dishes and has Wesley put away the plastics that mom conveniently stores in low cabinets.  On Saturdays, rooms are cleaned (this is more in depth than the daily pick-up) and then everyone works together on one large chore from the rotation.  It may be yard work, or cleaning out the cars, etc.  These are jobs that can be done once a month or less.  After this, Saturdays are "free days".  The list below is old and needs to be updated.  From time to time, change is needed and I adjust when I see that one thing isn't working.

4. I have a daily cleaning and laundry rotation for me.  
The laundry rotation means that each morning I do a different category of laundry.  So, Monday is little kids laundry, Tuesday is Peter's and mine, Wednesday is towels, etc.  So, including cloth diapers that I do every day, I am usually doing 3-5 loads of laundry every day.
The cleaning rotation means that every afternoon, I clean one or two rooms of the house.  If I keep it up, the house stays in good condition...livable anyway:)

5. I have a biweekly menu planned along with an ever growing shopping list.  I do grocery shopping every two weeks so, I plan a detailed menu for two weeks at a time.  I plan every meal.  For breakfast, I normally have foods that the kids can help themselves to such as whole wheat bagels, cereal, instant oatmeal, or something in the crockpot.  (My current favorite crockpot recipe is steel cut oats.)  I make green smoothies for myself and four of my older kids will drink that as well.  Lunch is usually salad and sandwiches or leftovers from the night before.  I have a different food planned for each night of the week.  For example, Monday nights are leftovers, Tuesdays are tacos...or taco salad, Wednesdays are baked potatoes, etc.  We do fun and exciting recipes Friday through Sunday when there is less or no school, schedules are free, and Peter is home.

So, there you have it.  These are my "secret ingredients" that really aren't secret but, when put together help our home run more smoothly.  Most of this information I keep in a three ring binder that I lovingly refer to as my brain:)

I would love to hear other ideas on how to "get it all done".  What do you do to "get it all done"?

Friday, November 11, 2011

"First days" at the zoo.

We have had zoo memberships off and on over the last nine years or so, ever since Nathan was a baby.  So, my older kids spent much of their preschool years walking the trails at the zoo and learning about all of the animals.  When I was expecting Seth, we took a break from the zoo for a the thought of going with five kids seven and under seemed a bit overwhelming.  Wesley would have been just a toddler at this point.  About a year later when Wesley was two and a half, I decided to get another zoo membership.  Since he probably had little memory of the "stroller zoo walks" as a baby, I decided to try to make this "first zoo trip" really memorable for him.  He was really into these plastic safari animals at the time, so we took them with us.  We found each of those animals on the map and then went to see them.  We took a picture of Wesley in front of each animal holding up his little plastic animal.  It was so cute and he was really excited for all of the special attention:)  Here are a few pictures of that day two years ago.

 Yes, he still has the same "Alfalfa" stick up hair and the same little bald spot on the side of his head.  And, I still cut his hair too short therefore showing off the bald spot. *sigh*

 Oh my goodness...does it get any cuter than that?  Of course, I am totally biased:), we again renewed our zoo membership after a year or so off (this zoo cycle seems to go with the baby cycle...haha.  Not really a fan of zoo days with newborns.)  This time it was little Sethy who would be experiencing the zoo for the "first time".  I decided that he should have a really great experience and, while we didn't take the plastic animals, I focused much of my attention on him.  I put Ransom in the ergo backpack so that he would be happy and I could be available to hoist Seth up to see all of the animals.  It was overcast, afternoon, and the animals were really active.  Seth was amazed by all of them.  I let him walk for much of the trip (which doesn't happen often no matter where we are) and he was SO proud to be a "big boy".  Here are some pictures from Sethy's "first day" at the zoo.

 This fuzzy friend came right up to the window and had a staring contest with Seth...which Seth won by the way:)

 We "season" our homeschooling with a little Charlotte Mason, so we had our Science Notebooks with us to add a new drawing of something from God's creation.  Seth joined right in and drew on his own little paper and then just sat and watched the ducks while the older kids completed their drawings:)

 After sitting so patiently, I decided to let him loose...haha.  He went right down to the water's edge and watched the ducks...and threw a few rocks:)
Here is the "Mama just caught me throwing another rock" face...haha!  Seth had a marvelous time at the zoo today.  I will post later about the rest of the kids but thought that being #5 in a family calls for your own post now and again:)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ya gotta eat ya spinach...

Thick, green, and straight out of a blender.  What's not to love?  Haha!  I have been on a smoothie journey for many years now and have recently gone green.   Well, green with my smoothies anyway.

Originally, I started out using organic plain yogurt, fruit (both fresh and frozen), and apple or orange juice.  These are fantastic smoothies and my kids all couldn't get enough.  At first I added a bit of honey to even out the bitterness of the plain yogurt but over time dropped that as my kids grew accustom to the taste.

A few years ago, I skimmed through part of Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" and decided to start adding a few deviously deceptive things to these smoothies...and several other dishes as well:) Wahahaha.  I would add a handful of spinach.  At first, it was just a bit and I had to sneak it in when the kids weren't looking.

Over time, I have cut out the yogurt and have a 40% spinach, 50% fruit, 10% juice smoothie...or something close to that anyway.  I also stopped "sneaking" in the greens.  The kids had been drinking them for so long that they didn't seem to mind what was going in them...scary I know.

We like to use apple juice with blueberries or strawberries and orange juice with mango or other citrus smoothies.  I usually put in two or more bananas to help sweeten (the juice helps too) and then at least one other fruit.  I find that I have so much more energy and am more peaceful throughout the day when I start the day off with a green smoothie (and my prenatals and Omega3s too, of course).  It could be all in my head but, hey, it works.

Here are several of our green smoothie recipes.

Blueberry Smoothie:
Fill blender 2/3 full with baby spinach (it will be about right after blending)
Add 2 bananas
Add 2+ cups of frozen blueberries
Add 1-2 cups of apple juice
Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.

Strawberry Smoothie:
Fill blender 2/3 full with baby spinach (it will be about right after blending)
Add 2-3 bananas
Add 2+ cups of frozen or fresh strawberries
Add 1-2 cups of apple juice
Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.

Mango Smoothie:
Fill blender 2/3 full with baby spinach (it will be about right after blending)
Add 2 bananas
Add 2+ cups of frozen mango or tropical blend
Add 1-2 cups of apple juice
Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.

I have tried tons of different things but these are the ones that tend to work best for us.  Sometimes I throw in a little kale or some other greens...just to shake things up a bit:)

Here are a few things that I don't put in.

Grapes:  I tried putting red grapes in a smoothie but my kids were bothered by the skins that didn't blend as well.  I might still put them in if ever I was making a smoothie for just myself as the flavor was really great.

Pears:  When we used pears, it seemed to give the smoothie more of a "gritty" texture that I didn't mind but a few of my kids didn't like.

Since the goal is to get fresh raw spinach down my kids on a daily basis, I stay away from the things to which they have aversions:)

I do also use quite a bit of frozen fruit as I have a hard time keeping fresh fruit around with my little ones.  I mean, really, if each child ( the baby is still mostly on veggies) has 2-3 pieces of fruit each day, that is a ton of fruit!  And, it goes fast.

In the end, I am happy to see them all drinking down their dose of fresh, raw greens most mornings.  Makes me feel like they are healthy kids:)  And, I am doing it myself (one of my great joys in life!) instead of buying from one of the popular and expensive smoothie stores. 

How do you get your veggies?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where did I leave my brain?

I would like to introduce you to my brain.  It's not what you think.  My brain is purple, has three rings, lots of paper and dividers in it, and every thought that I deem important.  (That is, if I remember to write it down...haha.)

I didn't always have this notebook.  As a matter of fact, my "brain", is a relatively new addition to my attempt to be organized and together.  It has been a process, to say the least.  It all started a few years back.

I noticed that one of my friends frequently carried a 3 ring binder with her.  I was impressed at her organization but thought little of it...until my sixth baby made his appearance.  Still tunneling through stacks of boxes from a recent move and unpacking from several weeks vacation in Texas, I didn't feel like I was coming up for air.  After taking care of all the needs of my little ones, spending special time with them, and schooling them, there was little time left for getting caught up.

Then, I noticed another friend of mine with a 3 ring binder and she made a comment about having all of her important things in there.  I knew that I must be missing something really important here because neither of these mommy friends had time for frivolous notebook creating:)  I decided to dig deeper and find out just what was in these three ring binders.  A few conversations later, I was hooked and decided that I should give this 3 ring binder thing a shot.  It definitely couldn't hurt and maybe my friends were on to something:) I really did need help me keep it all together without reinventing the wheel...definitely don't have time for reinventing!

So, first I went shopping...always my favorite part of any project:)  I picked out a purple (my favorite color...hoping I will be more inclined to actually use it!) binder that had not only the three rings in it, but also several files and a place to keep pins and small items...and most importantly, a zipper to keep it closed.  (In this house, it won't last very long if it's not zipped closed.)

Years ago I used to keep a notebook next to my bed so that if I thought of something important when falling asleep, I could write it down and sleep peacefully knowing that I would not forget that ever important thought...haha.  I am always amazed by the number of the things that I think of or remember when I am falling asleep!

This notebook is a larger and more in depth version of that same thing.  Included in my "brain" 3 ring binder is my monthly meal planning, ongoing grocery and shopping lists, house cleaning schedule and rotation, daily schedules for school, things that I want to research, writing projects, anything involving my kids, a calendar (home made...of course), and things that I organize like events for my local homeschooling support group, church potlucks...and anything that I would like to remember.  As Henry Loftin, director of Glowing Heart Ministries used to tell us college kids many years ago, "The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest mind."  I totally agree!

Amazing the difference!  My brain can actually rest now and not have to remember every detail of everything going on.  I just run and check my "brain" when in doubt...and I run to it quite often these days.  I can rely on my "brain" to remember for me.  And, as long as I write it all down and check the "brain", I stay on track:)

What things do you do to organize and remember all the details?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kind, Necessary, and True: The Taming of the Tongue

One year on Mother's Day, my church showed a video of different members honoring their mothers...sharing things that their mothers had sacrificed for them, done for them, or taught them.  As a mother, one message spoke to me above all the rest.  It was a man sharing what his mother taught him about controlling the tongue.  His mother taught him only to say what is "kind, necessary, and true".  What a great guideline...kind, necessary, and true.  This short, quick reference has been truly pivotal in my own life.  I am still a work in progress for sure, but I refer to this often...kind, necessary, and true.  As my children have grown older, I am attempting to pass it on to them.  Right now, it is just little seeds planted in their moist, fertile hearts, but one day I believe that it be a living and growing guideline in their lives.  Kind...Necessary...True.   

One of my favorite scripture passages on controlling the tongue is from James 3.  As homeschooled children, my brothers and I memorized the book of James (along with hundreds of other kids who schooled with the same curriculum).  It is still a driving force in my heart and mind.  Here is part of that passage.

"3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."  James 3:3-11 NIV 

I love the part about the ship.  It paints such an amazing picture...reminds me of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian (one of Peter's favorites).

Here is this massive structure being controlled and turned by a comparatively small piece.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words so I will leave you with this picture of a ship being turned...kind, necessary, and true:)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Abbylocks and the Three Little Brothers

I was driving home the other night and happened to have just the younger four kids with me.  It had been a long day and they were thoroughly wiped...and so was I.  As I drove, I could hear the sparks of arguments and clashes starting to ignite. So, before this could turn into an all out blaze and in an effort to get a few giggles out of them, I told them the story of "Abbylocks and the Three Little Brothers".  I enjoyed re-creating the characters in the story with similarities to my younger four kids.  They laughed over and over again as I re-told this beloved children's story.  Of course, our Abbylocks played with the three little brother's legos instead of eating their porridge and when the middle "little brother" realized that his legos had been disturbed, he said "mine, mine".  Then Abbylocks was chased from the room with two of the little brothers wielding Nerf swords and another crawling after her.
Pretty soon, Abby and Wesley wanted to make up their own versions of a nursery rhyme or story.  It was truly delightful to hear the thoughts from their little minds and the giggles from their hearts as they told their nonsensical stories.  Before we knew it, we were home and ready for baths and bed.  I was amazed at just how easy it had been to turn around the mood in the van and even more amazed that I had forgotten this little trick for so long. 
It had been possibly years since I had made up these stories and I had forgotten just how much the kids love hearing their names in these stories.  Although, Abby wasn't as excited about "The Three Little Brothers and the Big Bad Abby"...haha:)  Next time we may have to try "Snow Abby and the Four...I mean Five Dwarfs" (even I have a hard time keeping up with how many kids I have...haha!).
This made for a super sweet ending to a long day...and put us all in better moods:)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

State Fair

It's that time of year.  The Arizona State Fair is here. So, we decided to take a fieldtrip.  I used to go to the Texas State Fair with my family as a child so I have many happy memories of the fair.  I also grew up watching the movie "State Fair".  So, as I planned this trip, I had visions of children in overalls enjoying the petting zoo, grandmothers entering pie contests, barbershop quartets, grilled corn, and cotton candy.  Actually, this is what I envisioned.

Pretty picturesque, right?  Well, those days seem to be a thing of the past.  I was not going to find this at the Arizona State Fair this year.  But, I did find some really great and educational things to share with the kids and we had a fun day laughing, riding, and eating...and we were thoroughly exhausted at dusk when we left.  Here is a more realistic picture of our day at the fair.

Here is how we do the fair.  

1. We register as a fieldtrip (they even have a special form for homeschool families).  It is free to park and enter the fair when you register as a fieldtrip.
2. We do the ABC 15 Read and Ride.  Each of the school age kids reads three books, writes three reports, and receives three free rides.
3. We pack our own lunch and bring tons of water bottles.

So far, it is basically free!  Yay.

4. We plan our trip on $2 ride day and buy a limited amount of tickets.  The kids know how many rides they get and then choose which ones they will ride.  I like the life lessons that are sure to come as someone uses up their rides and then finds "the best ride" and has to forgo.  Over the years, the kids have learned to look at all the rides first and then choose carefully:)
5. We buy a few different foods to snack on in the afternoon.
6. We take TONS of pictures:)
So, each year is a little different as far as what the AZ State Fair is offering for educational exhibits.  This year we had a blast in the butterfly exhibit.  Here are a few pictures.

Wesley dipped this Q-tip in nectar and then the butterfly landed on it.  We were all amazed.

What little girl doesn't want to see butterflies up close?  Abby was overjoyed with this exhibit.

What amazingly beautiful little creatures that God made for us to enjoy.

Even my older boys were interested in the butterflies and really got into watching them in their natural habitat (if you can call the fair a "natural habitat"...haha).
This is our happy baby boy.  After a nap and lunch, he was ready to go for a while longer:)

Here are a few pictures of the kids on rides.  First, the bumper boats.

It's tough to be the little guy who isn't tall enough to ride with the older kids so, I took Seth on a special ride just for him.

Next were the bumper cars.  Hmmm...there seems to be a theme of "bumper" rides...must be all the boys:)  The bumper cars were definitely the favorite this year.

Do you think that just maybe these boys are having fun?  I love the expression on Wesley's face.

This is not a great picture and yet the expression of glee is so fantastic that I just had to share it.
 When you have all brothers, you have to join in the roughness from time to time.  Abby gave the boys a run for their money in her own bumper car.

This is one of my favorite shots from the day.  I love how they are holding hands...and we didn't even tell them to:)  ...and yes, the orange shirts were intentional and helped us keep track of everyone.

There was a great train area that we could have stayed at for hours.  But the babies wouldn't last (neither would the parents).  

 Just before leaving we watched a little racing and were treated to a great view of an Arizona skyline at sunset.

We then gathered up all the tired kids (and exhausted parents) and headed home to curl up on the couch with a good movie and a bowl of popcorn.