Super Summer Schedule

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Summer break started Monday! This year, since we’re not faced with crises to start our summer (broken arm, broken elbow, baby), I’ve decided to have a little more structure to our break. I hope to once a week: do an outing, teach them to clean something around the house, and participate in summer reading club at the library. Summer reading club starts the week after VBS (very convenient!)

This week, we had a dusting session. In about 2 hours we dusted the living room, school room, my bedroom, and the kid’s bedrooms. Whew! It wasn’t done to my high standards, but it was done to my satisfaction. And now I feel like Andrew, and perhaps Charlotte, can dust something without my assistance.

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Our outing was to the Wonder Place. Andrew had to stay home for this one.

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We also wrapped up piano with Andrew and Charlotte’s piano recital. So special that their Nana gets to teach them!

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And last but not least, my tulips for our anniversary. I carried tulips on our wedding day and now he carries them to me on our anniversary!

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The End Is Near

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The End Is Near

We are on the downhill slide to our school year ending. Only about three more weeks!

We continued our study of Moses and the Israelites by somewhat celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I say somewhat because I knew it would be too miserable on everyone to go without bread for a week. So I decided that only for their snacks, not main meals, would they need to avoid leaven. At the beginning of the week they made a list of the different names of leaven so they could easily check their snack boxes to see if it was approved. Unfortunately for the kids, most of what they like, except popcorn, was on the Do Not Consume list. Fortunately for the kids, this was the week after Easter and they had plenty of candy to consume in its place. Which was unfortunate for the teacher. Hmm, not exactly the “suffering” I was hoping to achieve! Oh well!

They made tambourines because after the week is over, the Israelites would have a big feast to celebrate its end.

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The next week I read passages about God leading them in a cloud by day and fire by night. So, we made our own pillar of cloud fire.

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A little difficult to capture our cloud on fire in a picture.

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Today we went to the National Park Aquarium in Hot Springs. I thought it was a nice wrap up to our study of marine animals this year.

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Now, when I think aquarium, I’m imagining tunnels of water surrounding you and coming face to face with huge sharks. That is not that type of aquarium! Think, smaller version of the lizards and spiders and snakes section of the LR Zoo. Plus it cost us about $60 less! It did have some other unique animals not found at our zoo, like stingrays and crabs. And the best part of this field trip, we had the entire place to our selves. The whole time!

We got up close and personal with  a lizard

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and a turtle.

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Andrew found the pet he wants

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and Joey trying to pet an owl (not real.)

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The girls’ favorite animals

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and Jacob’s.

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Joey said there was no proof of me being on the trip, so here’s my selfie.

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We’re phasing out school this year. As each student wraps up a subject, it’s done! Andrew has finished English and once each says their 10 Commandments verses to Daddy, we’ll be done with Bible. Next week we’ll be done with science and I hope Charlotte will have finished her history. Andrew finishes reading next week, too. Everyone will finish math sometime in mid-May. It’s nice to have a relaxing end to our school year!

Plagues and Passover

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Plagues and Passover

After reading the book Four Blood Moons, I decided I want my children to at least be familiar with important Jewish feasts. So I found a curriculum called A Family Guide to the Jewish Holidays. It had great worksheets in it and a good explanation of how the Feasts point to Jesus. We will be celebrating 3 spring festivals. The first is Passover. I decided that for the past two weeks, we would study about the Israelites journey out of Egypt. Each day, we studied one plague and did an activity about it.

Nile to Blood: They ate jello and drank Kool-aid

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Frogs: frog snowflakes

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Gnats/Lice: they covered themselves in white dot stickers and had to leave them on all morning

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Flies: I put chocolate sprinkles between contact paper and taped it to their desk, as a reminder that the flies covered everything. Charlotte is working on a word search.

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Disease on the cattle: They had to get out ALL of their stuffed animals and we divided them into the Israelite camp (on the left) and the Egyptians (on the right.) The Egyptian animals are turned face down to represent death.

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Boils: they had to cover themselves in Band-aids

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Hail: I bought plastic golf balls and they had fun throwing them up in the air

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On this day, the girls made our Passover Lamb. God specifies that they are to choose a lamb and bring it into their house a few days before Passover. Andrew painted the egg carton legs and face and the girls glued the cotton balls. They named the lamb Cloud.

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Locuts: made out of clothespins, which I made them clip to their clothes.

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For the plague of darkness, we did school without lights on or curtains opened. And we just talked about who we knew that would have died if they had been Egyptian during the last plague. On the day of Passover, we killed the lamb,

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which had blood (red ribbon) inside.

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We applied the blood to our door frame.

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That night we celebrated a traditional Seder/Passover. The Haggadah included in the Guide focuses on Passover pointing to Jesus, so we did some traditions (Seder plate) but not most of the ones that the Jews added much later (looking for Elijah etc.)

Because candles are an essential part of any Jewish tradition, the kids made candlesticks for our table.

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Our Seder included the 4 cups of wine (grape juice,) a Seder plate with bitter herbs, parsley, Haroset, salt water and lamb bone (Fisher Price lamb.)

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And of course the 3 pieces of Matza.

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I set the table with our fine china, since most Jewish women have a set of dishes used exclusively for Passover. All the kids had a good time and I hope they grasped some of the spiritual significance of the meal.

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This week is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I won’t let them eat any snacks that contain a leavening agent. And we’ll continue working on memorizing the verses about the 10 commandments.

March Madness ( a bit early!)

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Ten weeks ago Andrew’s homeschool basketball team registered for the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships. We didn’t think we would be able to go. It’s about a weeks committment and then add a hotel room (or two) and meals x6 people, it just didn’t seem possible this year. But, I asked around on FB for any deeply discounted hotel rates, codes, etc. And Joey asked at FamilyLife. One of his co-workers at FamilyLife gave us their timeshare in Branson for a week! Because of their generosity (God’s provision, really!) we took this opportunity to make this our family vacation. Our FIRST!

Here’s the week in review: Monday

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery

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Table Rock Dam

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Butterfly Palace

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Unfortunately, we didn’t know that Celia is deathly afraid of butterflies (or just that many in one place.) She started crying and screaming the second we walked in to the butterfly room. Joey waited with her out in the atrium. Jacob  was frightened too, but only screamed once, and basically just took shelter in the stroller. He spent most of the time with his hands over his face.

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He did venture out of the stroller once, with the explorer’s hats they provide, firmly on his head. He is adventurous and couldn’t resist the elevated wooden walkway!

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Tuesday

Family photo!

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Little ladies and little gentlemen.

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Basketball started. The 10U boys Flames team is ranked #9 to start the tourney. We beat the Tulsa NOAH team to advance to the winner’s bracket.

Joey (as assistant coach) is crouched in the middle, leading the pre-game prayer.

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Andrew is #24. .

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Wednesday

Game 2. Joey was the head coach this game. We beat the OKC Knights, the #1 ranked team in the country, 28-23.  Andrew shooting free throws.

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World’s Largest Toy Museum. (God provided discount tickets! We  showed up and had friends in common with the man working admissions, so he gave us a 40% discount!)

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Xtreme racing go karts

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Thursday

Game 3: We beat the OKC Storm (the team that has won the championship the last 10 years), 42-25.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder home. This was a dream come true for me. She was my childhood idol. And she offers me hope that one day in my old age I can become a famous writer too!

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This is the spring behind her house that influenced them to purchase the land.

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On another part of their property, their daughter built them a Sears Craftsman house, very modern. After less than a decade, Laura and Almonzo missed their old house, and moved “back home.”

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There was also a museum on the property, which contained hundreds of items from both the Ingalls and Wilders families. I could have spent hours in there, but my children could only last about 30-45 minutes. If I had a bucket list, then visiting here would have been on it!

Friday

Championship game!

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Unfortunately, we lost to the Houston Wolverines, 33-42. Here is Coach Holloway giving an after game talk.

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Our boys played the toughest 10U schedule in the tourney. We are proud!

And to top off our week, we went to Jonah at the Sight and Sound theater that night! God again provided deeply discounted tickets for us. 55% off full price!

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This is the statue outside the theater. Because of heavy rain at the start of the evening, we took the picture afterwards. Kids are tired!

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But we all loved it. Even Jacob managed to make it through the end. I think every Christian who visits Branson needs to go to a show here. They incorporate the gospel message into each show and have ushers stationed around the theater for afterwards, in case someone needs prayer and wants to talk about what they’ve seen. LOVED it all!

Here are some random photos from throughout the week:

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Inside the condo, playing a game.

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And we ended the trip with a stop at Ferguson’s Country Store in St. Joe, AR, on the way home.

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The trip couldn’t have been any better. No one got sick. Jacob was a champ with no naps. It was a blessing we will never forget!

How to have fun as an 8 yr. old girl

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(or, how to make your Mom really tired.)

Invite over your closest friends and do a craft (no sew pillows):

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Have cake and ice cream (eat a lot of sugar):

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Open presents (make a mess with gift bags and tissue):

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Play a game (jump around the room and scream giggle when it’s not your turn):

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Apply make up and perfume (LIBERALLY):

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Watch Frozen and eat snacks (have more sugar and make sure and turn the movie up really loud so you can hear it above your own screams giggles, shout sing Let It Go, knock over all the popcorn boxes while performing to the movie and then proceed to scatter snacks across the living room floor)

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Have some art time (stay out of the living room so mom can vacuum up the previously mentioned snacks)

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Sleep in a circle (progress from talking really loudly, to whispering loudly, to screaming in fright because of unfamiliar house noises, cry and want to go home, and then have your Mom stay in the room until everyone falls asleep)

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Wake up in the morning (start talking at the first hint of sunrise) and have donuts for breakfast (sugar to go home with!)

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Do more dress up and videos until time to say goodbye (your Mom is thankful that at the end, everyone still likes everyone and she’s looking forward to watching you and your friends grow up together!)

Life goes on

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Things have calmed down around here now that the rush of Christmas is over. We had a bit of a stressful holiday, with our washing machine flooding our kitchen 3 days before Christmas. And I had some health issues and a change in some family dynamics that left me  feeling drained emotionally. I was so ready to say goodbye to 2014! Yet I know  that I am not  guaranteed a better year.

However, when we open our hands fully to God, surrendering complete control in all areas, He can send rainbows. Storms  do not last forever! Our first rainbow this year came when a couple at Joey’s office offered us the free use of their  timeshare so we can attend Andrew’s basketball tournament.  An almost completely free family vacation!  Our first!  The kids are so  excited. And the timeshare is in Branson. Woohoo! Joey and I both teared up when this man volunteered his condo.

The second rainbow occurred at the dentist office. An unexpected place for a miracle! I was scheduled to have two cavities filled and was really dreading it. My last experience with that was a complete disaster. As I sat in the dentist chair, the Dr. examined my mouth before administering the anesthesia. He found no evidence of the cavities. So he ordered a set  of x-rays to be taken  and they revealed no cavities either. My teeth were perfectly healthy! The Dr. said very rarely they have problems with x-ray films showing false cavities. But I know this was truly God’s handiwork. When we have faith in God, we can expect supernatural rescues  or  supernatural perseverance through trials (Hebrews 11:32-38.) God confirmed to me that I can trust Him to handle anything! Keep on in the faith! So, slowly my hope is building for the coming year.

School dynamics have changed this week with the addition of a new student.

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Jacob has learned to climb the baby gate. And he wants to stay in the room with us almost the whole time. And I thought the school room was messy before!

I had the kids do an art lesson/project this week. As part of art study, I buy famous artist coloring books and big coffee table books of the author’s works. This year, I introduced them to Monet. I photocopied whichever picture they chose from the coloring book and had them study the corresponding piece in the big book. Then, I had them paint in the style of the artist. I bought really tiny brushes so they could imitate the dots Monet used.

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The end result of their paintings didn’t look much different than when they paint with regular brushes. And that probably has more to do with the media of the paint: tempera vs. oils. But, they did come  away with an appreciation for the perseverance needed to create a masterpiece. Their hands got tired of making dots and they said this method would take them forever!

Also, this week I hung a stained glass in my house. My very talented cousin, Katherine, made this for me in honor of Cora.

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She also put it in the frame. Gorgeous!

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I put this in the schoolroom, which was the only living space room that didn’t have a memento of her. I can also stand at my stove in the kitchen and see this hanging up. I no longer cry often about Cora. But the times  I do seem strange to me.

I visited a doctor’s office this week and the nurse mentioned some health issues last July and said,  “I see they were probably related to hormones.” I knew that in my file was information about the stillbirth. Eventually, we  made some friend connections in town and we talked about people  we both knew who had buried their babies. She never mentioned my situation specifically. Perhaps  she was waiting on me to volunteer the story. But, I didn’t. Maybe I should have. On the way home, I started crying about Cora. Grief can be confusing and unexpected!

Well, I’ll end this post with some  snapshots  of Jacob, taken in about 1 minute time span. He has the most expressive face out of  all my children! The apron he’s wearing was mine when I was a little girl.

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Let there be….

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..Jesus!

The son of God was born at night. God sent Light to the darkness. God sent Light to Mary, in what I’m sure was her scariest hour. I can’t imagine how dark that stable must have been. How smelly. How nauseas I would feel going through labor there. How much I would long for my mother or sister to help me through this. And how relieved I would feel when it was over. How exhausted. And how satisfied. This baby is what I staked my whole  reputation on. And He was worth it. This baby I love. This perfect baby. This normal baby who shines into my heart until I don’t notice the odors and dirty surroundings.

Maybe you’re like me and your Christmas season isn’t all holly and jolly. Perhaps this year it’s pretty dark. Are you struggling to find the light, too? I just have to keep reminding myself that Jesus came at night. Came when everything looked black. He came when no one was smiling, when everyone was exhausted, when tensions were high, when He knew he’d be homeless. And that’s Christmas. He came to make me His home. He came to bring Light to me. He is there everyday, in the darkness, waiting for us to focus on Him until His brightness dims everything around us.

I  love this song.  As I listen to it, I keep reminding myself that all is well in what truly matters.

All is well, all is well
 Angels and men rejoice
 For tonight darkness fell
 Into the dawn of love’s light
 Sing A-le, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
 Let there be peace on Earth
 Christ has come go and tell
 That He is in the manger
 Sing A-le, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
 Lift up your voice and sing
 Born is now Emmanuel
 Born is our Lord and Savior
 Sing Alleluia, sing Alleluia, all is well.