Thursday, February 28, 2013

On My Nightstand~

I really enjoy taking a peek at what others are reading, so here's a shot of what's currently on my nightstand.
And, if I may point out~ they are all {ahem} from the library!
I recently finished "The Dirty Life" and thoroughly enjoyed it, and just started "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap" today, and it has pulled me right in. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013



And isn't she just about the cutest little puddle jumper you've ever seen????
So have you all had a lot of rain where you are?  Or perhaps snow????
We've been downright wet and soggy around here lately, and sweet Ellie has had ample opportunity to practice her new word "puddle."  Goodness knows she's heard it enough, as in, "Ellie, watch the puddles.  Ellie, stay out of the puddles. Ellie, let's keep our feet dry."
So, as we were driving in the car today, after having been out of the car and navigating a very "puddley" parking lot (without those cute boots) Ellie was practicing her new word, and I said to her, "Ellie, we've got a story book about puddles at home.  Remind me to get it out and read it when we get back." 
To which Charlie replied, "Mommy, we have books about EVERYTHING at our house!"  And my boy was exactly right.  You see, he's got a mama who LOVES books.  Most especially children's books.  It could just be an obsession of mine.  I mean, as we turned over the calendar to 2013, my dear husband  began talking about how we could "cut back" this year (gotta love having a banker for a husband) and what did he mention as the place I could cut back?  Amazon.  Yep, he asked me if I thought it might be possible to cut back on my book purchases because they had become a line item in the budget.  And THAT, my friends, is a really tough thing for this mama. 
Ooooh, that "buy now with 1*click" button.   That is my downfall. I can see a book recommendation on a blog, clink the link which takes me to Amazon, click that little "buy now with 1*click" button, and then that book will be at my doorstep in just 2 short days.  And what's not to love about that???? 
Are any of you with me on this????  


Monday, February 18, 2013

More History~

Over the President's Day weekend, we decided to head to VA and visit 2 of our president's homes and learn some more history!
Day 1- Monticello
This side of the house was having some work done to it
Our day at Monticello was beautiful.  Warm (for Feb.) and sunny.  We began our visit with an introduction movie at the visitor's center and then boarded a small shuttle bus that took us to the top of the mountain, where the house is located.  We toured the home, which was so interesting.  So much of Jefferson's personality was reflected in his home.  Our kids were great listeners, and Grace was even able to answer some of the questions that our guide threw out to the group.  She had been reading a biography on Jefferson in preparation of our trip. I had thought the biography might have been a little above her reading level, but evidently not!
 AnnaClaire had sharp eyes and was able to spot a peace medal displayed in the entryway of the home.  That room was filled with Indian artifacts that were presented to Jefferson by Lewis and Clark, after their expedition.  We had seen the peace medals at the Museum of the Westward Expansion (at the Arch) in Dec. And when she pointed it out to our guide, and told her about it, the guide was most impressed!
After touring the house, we walked the lovely grounds, visited Jefferson's grave site, and then walked a wooded trail back to the visitor center.  We had lunch and then spent some time in an interactive children's area at the visitor center before heading back to our hotel. 
Now THAT must have been a HUGE tree!
Kate showing her nickel that has Monticello on it
Charlie's in the kitchen.  Yes, there's a bed in there.  Talk about never getting out of the kitchen....
Strolling the grounds and of course, reading the signs!
The children's room~
Grace with an early polygraph machine (Jefferson had one in his house)
AnnaClaire doing some open hearth cooking
Ellie has fun ringing a doorbell
The kids wanted Chick*Fil*A for dinner, and there was one right by our hotel, so that was easy enough.  After a little swimming in the indoor pool, the kids were ready to call it a day.
Day 2~ Montpelier
Day 2 dawned a bit chillier, but still nice.  We drove through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley countryside to get to Montpelier.  Again, upon arrival, we viewed the film and then toured the home.  From what I understand, Montpelier has just been opened for touring since 2006.  Before that, it had been owned by the DuPont family. They are still working on furnishing the home, so there was not as much to see in this home as in Monticello, but we had an excellent guide, who was really able to make James and Dolley Madison come alive for us.  It is a painstaking process to try to locate and acquire the original Madison furniture; much research is involved, of course, so very slowly will furnishings be added.  After our home tour we ate lunch and walked the grounds and visited James' and Dolley's burial spots.
Thomas Jefferson said to his best friend, James Madison, "I cannot live without books."
Still working on constructing slave cabins and some other out buildings 
AnnaClaire looking at Dolley Madison's tomb stone
At 2:00 we left the house grounds and met across the street for a Civil War walk of the grounds where the Confederate Army under Lee, regrouped after their retreat from Gettysburg.  By this time, the outside temps were dropping and there were a few flurries in the air, but that did not deter us!  Our 1 mile walk took us through the woods and to the winter encampment of the soldiers.  Archeologists are still working in this area, and it is said to be the last preserved Confederate campsite.  At the end of our walk, we also were able to visit a freedman's cabin.  When we arrived at the cabin, a camp fire was burning and toys had been laid out for our children to play with. 

The kids listening to our tour guide on our "Civil War walk."  Whenever we'd stop for the guide to talk, I found it worked best to have the younger kids sit to listen.  To the left in the photo (cropped out) were about 15-20 adults who also did the tour.  By keeping our kids to the side and sitting we were able to keep things pleasant for the other adults on the tour. 

Kate at the winter encampment
Ellie plays while the rest of us warm up by the fire
Right by the entrance to Montpelier is the Montpelier depot and post office, and this was also part of our walking tour.  We received a little "civil rights" lesson as we toured both the "white side" and the "black side" of the building.
Notice the signs above the doors
AnnaClaire snapped this photo!
We headed back again to the main house property, where Bill and Grace visited  an area where archeologists are still working on the site, while the 4 younger kids and I went inside and warmed up in the children's room.  Inside were some toys and also a rocking chair with a small library of picture books on Dolley Madison, president Madison, the constitution, etc.  It was nice to be able to spend some time reading aloud with the children and to let them play.
Beautiful Grace on her walk with her daddy
We left at closing time, and drove back to our hotel, ate a quick dinner, and again Bill took the kids swimming.  The perfect end to the day!
Day 3~  Appomattox
We awoke to a COLD and blustery day with a few flurries in the air.  We ate breakfast and checked out and drove about 2 hours to Appomattox.  Not quite tying in the our "presidential theme" but since it wasn't too far from where we were, Bill had wanted to stop there for a visit. The kids were all geared up to earn another Jr. Ranger badge, but upon our arrival, what did we see?????
We were SHOCKED, as yes, there was snow, BUT all the roads had been COMPLETELY cleared.  We had eaten lunch just 5 minutes away, and all the businesses there were open.  We passed a civil war museum just a mile or so from the park and it was open.  But Appomattox was CLOSED.  
So, what did we do?  I pointed out to my fuming husband that THIS was a memory.  And one day we would look back on this and laugh!  So, we parked the car, bundled everyone up, and let them romp around in the snow for about an hour.  They loved it! 

This is the only photo we have of Ellie.  Evidently she's not a fan of snow play!  She and mommy sat in the warm car while the others played.

Snowball fight!
Kate with her snowball!
Grace and AnnaClaire with their Hello Kitty snowman. (You've gotta look closely!)
Then we loaded up the van and drove home!
Over dinner that night, we asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was, and you guessed it, they all said, "Playing in the snow!
Is it hard to do all this "history" touring while the majority of our kids are pretty young?  Actually, yes, and it does take some planning and effort.  BUT it is so worth it!  At each house we visited, our guides complimented us on our well behaved children.  We do not want our children to be a "bother" to the other adults when on our tours. We work hard to train them to be still and quiet, and to listen.  Even Ellie did very well with this.  We try to keep the kids well rested and fed on schedule, and this helps a lot.  We also try to balance the times where they need to be quiet with times where they're able to run around some and burn off energy.  This trip, Ellie came down with a bad cold as we were driving to VA.  It actually hit her in the car on the way there.  Our first night in the hotel was not good, as she was restless and crying about every half hour throughout the night.  The other kids slept through it pretty well, but Bill and I were up most of the night.  Night 2 was a little better, but night 3 again was hard as Kate and AnnaClaire both came down with the cold and slept very fitfully.  But you do the best you can and power through it! 
This is one of the reasons why we've chosen to homeschool.  We wanted to be able to take our children and travel.  Not to exotic places, but to see as much as we can of our country.  We're thankful that Grace loves to travel and see the sights in her new country. We won't have her home with us for all that long, so we want to show her as much of the US as we can! And the younger children love to travel and see things, too. We love being able to travel "off season" and have the places virtually to ourselves.  And we love learning TOGETHER!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Living History~

Saturday dawned a beautiful day, and my history lovin' husband decided spur of the moment that it would be the perfect day to visit a nearby National Historic site.  So we packed up and headed out!
Our first stop was for an early lunch at McD's.  The kids were beside themselves with excitement over this bonus treat to our day.  Their mama, not so much.
We arrived at Kings Mountain just in time for the start of the documentary film explaining the Revolutionary War battle that had taken place there. Grace and AnnaClaire are always riveted to these historical films, and especially LOVE our historical field trips.  After watching the film, we got our Jr. Ranger books and began the activities required for earning their badges.  The children hunted through the museum for answers to the questions in their booklets and played historical games.  Once we completed all the inside activities, we headed outdoors, for the main part of our visit, which was the 1 1/2 mile hike up to the top of King's Mountain.
Crossing the stream over the log is MUCH more fun than staying on the paved path! 
AnnaClaire~ 7
Kate~ 6 next month!
Charlie, 7~ holding his Jr. Ranger booklet

We stopped and read every sign along our way and continued to fill our the Ranger booklets.  We're homeschoolers, after all!

We had the kids get off the path and run up the steep part of the hill, imagining that they were soldiers holding heavy guns and being shot at while they stormed to the top of the hill.  They LOVED this!

Grace got some additional exercise carrying Ellie on her back part of the way.  We had brought the stroller for Ellie, but being her 2 year old self, she wanted to "hike" like the big kids.  Much of her "hiking" was spent on Grace's back.

Finally, we reached the top!

Then we headed back down the mountain, which went MUCH more quickly. 

Back at the visitor's center the children turned in their completed Jr. Ranger books and took their oath to "Explore, Learn, and Protect."  

 We then headed home, with the only down side of our day being that we spent WAY longer at King's Mountain than we'd anticipated, and we missed attending a CNY dinner that we had planned to attend.  This seems to happen to us quite a bit~ we end up spending such long times at historic sites, as the kids just LOVE them. Last month we were in DC for a wedding, and we spent the Monday following the wedding at Mt. Vernon. (the kids earned imprinted pennies with Mt. Vernon on them for completing the children's activities there)  We thought we'd be there just a couple of hours but we ended up staying about 6 hours, and still we had not seen everything, so we purchased year passes with which we plan return when we're in that area again for our nephew's graduation from the Naval Academy.

In December we visited this National Park while on our 3200 mile road trip!  The kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges here, too. 

Once again, what we had thought would be a fairly quick visit to see the Arch, turned into a daylong learning adventure as we found the National Park Museum of the Westward Expansion~Lewis and Clark~to be right there with the Arch. And we had no idea.....
Stay tuned, because we have another history trip coming up this weekend!  We love making history come alive for our children!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

One Year Later~

Goodness, but it's been a while......
Today (now yesterday) we celebrated our precious Elisabeth LiMeng's 1st Forever Family Day!  And my, has she blossomed!
In Dec., as we were celebrating the birth of our Savior, it dawned on me in a whole new way that Jesus, the very God of the universe, came down to this earth as a baby, born into a FAMILY.  Of course the Christmas story is not new to me, but for whatever reason, it fully hit me THIS Christmas in a new and fresh way, the value that God places on the FAMILY, and I've been pondering this ever since.  Of all the ways He could have chosen to come to earth, He came into a FAMILY.  It is God's perfect design for children to be born into and raised in the family.  A family that includes human parents, who are not perfect. Yet this is how God has planned for things to be.
We have seen the effects on our Ellie of what happens when a child is institutionalized.  Ellie's time in China was not easy on her.  
We know from a visiting mission team that Ellie spent much of her day sitting by herself.  Never smiling.  Very afraid of strangers and not wanting to interact. It was the goal of one of the young women on the mission team to "get a smile out of her" before their week ended.  At 21 months, Ellie spoke no words in Mandarin. We saw her cry (scream actually) and push her nannies away from her on our orphanage visit, just 3 short days after we had received her. We saw her head droop down and her entire demeanor change when we visited the little room that had been her home for her first 21 months.  We saw firsthand the devastating effect that life in an institution had on our daughter, even though she had been there for less than 2 years. And even though her orphanage was a "good" Half the Sky orphanage.  
Gotcha Day~ 2012
Yet, our God is faithful, and despite this less than desirable start, He has painted a beautiful picture of redemption in the heart of our baby girl during this year.  And although it is an ongoing process, we have seen HUGE changes in Ellie this year, for which we give God all praise and glory.  
And just look at her now!!!!!!

Isn't she beautiful?
And so full of JOY????
THIS is why God sets the lonely in families.  And THIS is why every child NEEDS a family.

Happy 1st Forever Family Day, Elisabeth LiMeng.  You are SO very loved.
Please check our travel website to see our final update post there as well.