LATELY : : DECEMBER 2018

As each new month begins, I think ‘this is flying by and we’ve barely done a thing!’ Then as I fill in these posts of mine throughout the month I realize we’re doing plenty and each month is filled with so much goodness.

I wrote about our final three weeks with our cousins back here.

Mae began December by spending a couple hours getting letters together for all of her penpals – including an e-mail to Grandma! She is getting pretty good at typing and knowing where the keys are.

She also received letters from most of her penpals!

Mae has been my number one helper. (Rae is mega helpful too, Mae is just constantly on the lookout for ways to help us all.)

I mentioned in the post about the boys that we didn’t do much in the way of structured learning this month. Mae did, however, do a report and portrait on George Bush Sr. and the girls began their study of France (via Little Passports) by making a couple sculptures of monuments. More will be made by the time they are done studying the country at the end of January, ’cause Model Magic is fun!

Dweebs.

^ We were gone so often. One afternoon as I got ready to leave with the girls, Maybe darted out the door and jumped into the van. She was sick of being home alone.

It took so much effort to get her out of the van and into the house! I felt awful. She would’ve been sad sitting alone in the car for so long though.

I took her out with me the next day to pick up the girls from play practice to make up for this giant jab to her heart.

We love you, Maybe!

She did so great on our trip to Charlotte. I believe she was just so happy to be with us. She slept the entire time in the car and never once complained.

We spent a good amount of our time in Zack’s classroom, helping (trying to help) him with the insane abundance of projects he had to complete before the winter break.

On one of Mae’s dance nights, we went grocery shopping and Rae picked Mae out some flowers. I couldn’t say no. She was so happy to give and Mae was so surprised. I love these girls so much it literally hurts sometimes.

We will be spending the final evening of the year at Six Flags with my sister and her family, freezing our bums off, riding rides, and enjoying fireworks!!

Our plans for the first day of 2019 involve cleaning the house (yay?), preparing plans for school on the second, and hopefully a cold weather hike with the girls!

OUR WEEK WITH SARAH

Earlier this year, Zack and I made plans to visit a childhood friend of mine and it worked out that we would be able to stay with Zack’s sister, Sarah, for the week.

Sarah is the most giving / selfless person we know. She gives one thousand percent and never expects anything in return (but she deserves way more than she gives!!). She made this trip so wonderful and far more than we expected – and we expected a lot, ’cause we know how she is! Christmas was beyond and then the generosity just kept on a’comin.

Zack caught up on sleep and did a lot of projects and enjoyed all of the fun times with us. I suppose, most importantly, was that he got to spend seven straight days with his favorite sister. That’s the only photo I got of him, so it’ll have to do…

The girls got to spend time with their cousin, Micah, for the first time ever. He went with us to Florida, but they were glued to their girl cousins.

Aunt Sarah had a 5-minute-story Christmas book set on the coffee table awaiting our arrival. The girls got a story each night before bed! She really understands the whole Christmas magic thing.

The days leading up to Christmas morning, the girls each got to open one gift. They got to spend their time playing with fresh items and, since they didn’t pack many time-passers, it really worked out well.

You can read more about our Christmas celebrating over here.

The girls also got to open a new game each day! So, we got to learn and play a fresh game E V E R Y D A Y! – and in the process, she stocked our game cabinet! (I am very excited about this!!)

We saw Mary Poppins on Christmas Eve and Spiderman on our final day.

They were both incredible!!!

THE DOGGOS!

Winchester was as chill as everrr and Zoey was more chill than I expected and! actually liked me this time around. She is normally mega jealous when I get near Zack, a.k.a. the love of her life.

Maybe got to hang out with some new faces and while I enjoyed spending time with two sweet pups. I found out the Maybe isn’t all that interested in being around fellow dogs. She did, however, get excited about hearing a cat on the television!

But she did great considering she was forced to share a house with two new dogs and seven people for an entire week.

After watching Spiderman, we went out for lunch (but all ordered breakfast) at a great diner and then the girls got to bounce around at a trampoline park! They played hard! And how ’bout that handhold up there?!? I can’t get enough of their constant hand holding.

Now, a little praise for these girls of ours…

They travel so well. We spent a total of 27 hours in the car, to and from North Carolina, and they didn’t utter a single complaint.

I really hope they keep that up forever.

On our treck home, they spent the final six hours awake and I didn’t hear them say one word. They played and read quietly. They made this trip so wonderful. Without their constant patience and kindness, I do not think all of the other grand, exciting happenings would have held the same glow within their memories.

Because of them, Zack and I came home not feeling drained from a twelve-hour car ride but instead felt well enough to get the furnace started, take the girls out for lunch and make our way through Walmart of all places so that we could have food in the house.

All of the cats seemed to have missed us. Bailey is snuggling with Maybe, and George is snuggling up next to me. The. Best.

RUHI : : DISCOVERY PLACE

My two favorite field trip destinations as a kid were to the Amish country in Winston-Salem and to the topic of the day, Charlotte’s Discovery Center. I was able to take our girls there yesterday- thanks to the suggestion of Ruhi, who enjoys this stuff as much as we do!

She joined us for day two and gave us the grand tour. I believe the two places Ruhi took us on this visit are now in the girls’ top five places they’ve ever been. You can see our drive through the Lazy 5 back here.)

There is an echo scenario just outside the building, It is the first clue that you’re about to be involved with an educational experience unlike most. You can kind of see the set up behind the girls in the first photo. They spent a good 15 minutes on this and we had to drag the girls indoors when it was time to get tickets.

The first section we came upon allowed you to build using thin blocks. They also had the most incredible displays of monuments made from the same sticks. (not pictured is the Eiffel Tower) – The kid up there had just knocked down a tower of some sort but quickly began cleaning it up. The DC was impeccably clean.

Creating wind and seeing the reactions!

The girls didn’t hesitate to lie on a bed of nails. It looked pretty soothing.

^ using her strength the pull herself up. She did awesome despite sitting in the “harder” seat. I think she wants us to put one of these in our house.

We made it to a viewing of a science experiment involving liquid nitrogen! Mae was quick to volunteer for all the opportunities to do so. She got to help demonstrate what happens when an inflated balloon is submerged in the nitrogen and what occurs when the balloon is released back into the room temperature area. (basically, snuggle then run away)

We also watched a rubber glove break up as though it was a tortilla chip and observe ice cream being made – the girls were able to eat some!

We got admission into the bug exhibit – Ruhi knew our girls are really interested / not grossed out by insects.

IT WAS SO COOL!!

I stole this from the sight: Bug Lab was created by New Zealand’s world-renowned museum Te Papa, working with five time Academy Award-winning film studio Weta Workshop. If you have the time and enjoy watching folks creating and building (we do), you should look up Weta Workshop. They had an interesting bit on Adam Savage’s Makers Space Youtube channel.

A n y w a y . . . In the photo above, the girls are climbing onto a slide that makes a ‘certain noise’ as you pass through and you become the spray the bug uses to attack other bugs. We learned that one of the main chemicals in that spray is peroxide.

The coolest rotoscope ^ ^ It looked as though bugs were flying and real frogs were jumping into real water! It was beautiful.

There were several ‘cocoons’ that housed these large displays, some were interactive, some were just lovely to look at, but there were many videos and investigative stations just outside of them.

We (Zack’s help seemed crucial in this ‘we’ I speak of) created some origami butterflies. They had a wind tube you could fly your creations in and the butterfly variety actually seemed to flutter more than soar.

Japanese honeybees are insane! Such a cool creature.

It had a rainforest area! Seriously, this place had it all. It was so humid and had I not worn a wool sweater I would’ve been in heaven.

They had several areas with very cool tropical birds that were free to fly about, but most seemed to be non-flying birds, and the girls were able to pet a large python –  which I hear, “feels like the most disgusting and awesomest thing, all at the same time!” They weren’t even a little nervous!

^ Looking at slivers of a corral. It looks so much like bone.

The girls got to pet a live Chocolate Chip Sea Star (Its official scientific nickname)!

The fish were all gorgeous, but I really enjoyed observing the various corral and enmities. They had so many live varieties.

– and the jellyfish! They were pretty fantastic (and near impossible to photograph with a cell phone!)

The final stop was a water-play area (I didn’t take any photos). If Rae wasn’t so tired, I bet she could’ve stayed there for another hour, but she was sleepy and it was closing time.

Before heading back to Sarah’s, we drove around the city so I could get a good look and soak it all in. It was just the right time of day. Still bright out, but all of the lights were turning on. The lingering Christmas decor was also a plus.

I recognized only that building above and the Discovery Center. I’m pretty sure the last time I did a decent drive through the city was before Y2K, so with good reason, I remembered very little.

 

Thanks so much for making time for us, Ruhi!!

RUHI : : LAZY 5

We set aside our winter break to visit one of my favorite NC friends, Ruhi. Our trips usually solely involve family (we fit plenty of that in, too!), so we needed a trip dedicated to friends. She is a teacher so a big ol’ holiday break worked out nicely!

She and I have kept in touch and we all enjoy seeing her adventures via Instagram (we actually pass the phone around when she posts anything). Surprisingly, it wasn’t weird seeing her after SIXTEEN! years.

She treated us to several days of activities – starting with a drive through the Lazy 5 Ranch!

* You can see when we took two and a half-year-old Mae back here.

Mae’s favorite’s were the llamas. So much so, they are now a favorite alongside her most beloved animals – the panda and the horse and the cat.

The deer! They were so timid. Definitely the sweetest of all the animals.

The ostriches? They seemed a bit entitled. But very very pretty.

Our first impression of the buffalos was – docile. They had a real devil-may-care look about them.

Not the case. They got real beggy real quick.

They grossed us out the most but evened the disgust out with the production of the most laughter. Sure, it was nervous laughter, but I think every giggle counts.

This was my favorite bird ^ They had many lovely birds.

So many rainbows showed up for this photo!

In reality, there was a lot of “Stand here. Hmmm, maybe stand on this step. No, Honey, the cactus won’t poke you, scoot on back.” and so on. Ha.

I am so very glad my girls finally met Ruhi – or as Mae and Rae call her, ‘that girl on your phone that goes on adventures.’

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS 2018

Zack’s school board for December. His first chalk drawing of the semester. He doesn’t teach drawing anymore, whatashame, but I think he needs to make the chalk drawings a regular thing again.

Last year, last minute, I decided to let the girls pretend Santa was real, so they put out cookies, and we wrapped matching notebooks and put them under the tree.

The girls decided to pretend to believe in Santa again this year. But more intensely. They know he isn’t real and they know the ends and outs of the myth, the truth behind Saint Nick, and why I think the Santa schtick is rubbish. But I told them I’d play along this year but that I wouldn’t lie to them.

I severely overcompensated with deep discussions about the true story of Christmas.

All that to say! – we began the Santa biz with a visit to him. Har Har.

We were out of town on Christmas day this year, so we celebrated with Grandma a week early. It was wonderful. Movies, music, baking, shopping, games, and our traditional cinnamon rolls.

The girls were in a play at church. They didn’t have lines, but they did sing some songs on stage. We couldn’t see Rae at all so I’m not sure she sang along, but she said she had fun. Her face tells a different story, but I’m going to believe her.

Mae performed in her Christmas recital just before the winter break.

She was incredible and, I believe, thoroughly enjoyed her last recital. I’m so proud of her!!!!

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Charlotte with Zack’s sister, Sarah. She took us all to Micadenville – a Christmas town – on Christmas Eve Eve. We picked up food to eat along the way and watched Home Alone while we waited in the very long line of cars. (We also had time to begin Home Alone 2!) It was so pretty. There isn’t really anywhere to see good lights where we live, so it was a real treat for us.

Christmas morning we found that Sarah Claus had gifted everyone everything they wanted and all the things they never knew they wanted. She has THE. MOST. generous heart. 

She gifted Rae her sole request – a Pimki Pop (she calls it a “pop pop”) and she even found a nutcracker that cracks nuts for Miss Mae!

Daniel kept making us laugh as he took photos for us.

Christmas afternoon, we went down the road a bit to visit my aunt! The girls didn’t call her Grandma Penny at all on this visit. I think they just know her enough on her own now. I like that they’ve seen her so many times in their lives.

We received a double treat when my cousin, Luke, showed up! He lives in the Florida Keys –  and – I haven’t seen him in somewhere around 16 years. He’s so calm and happy.

We LOVE spending time with my aunt and uncle. They’re incredible people. We never seem to get enough time with them. I’m not sure there is a limit that would make us content though…

We ended such a wonderful Christmas with a huge meal full of traditional Christmas food made by Uncle Jonathan and pre-bed story read by the wonderful, incredible, fantastic, most beloved Aunt Sarah.

Thank you, everyone, who helped make this December so full of Christmas memories! I had no expectations for this holiday season and I’m not sure I could have imagined just how great it would be!

LATELY: : NOVEMBER 2018

Normally November seems like a long month to me, but this year it flew by. I need to go back and see how many months I’ve said that this year…maybe it’s just what getting older feels like.

We stayed very busy – only stopping to slow down when forced,  like on snow days and the holiday weekend.

Busy or not, this month was wonderful!

We began the month celebrating our girls turning six and eight!

Rae turned six this month – there’s a post back here and Mae’s post back here.

We spent plenty of time at doctor appointments, for therapy and regular check-ups. So glad that mad-rush is over!

We had several days of snow – and three snow days / no school for Zack. It was pretty friggin fantastic.

Lady beat me at many a game over the month of November.

Rae wore some fantastic costumes this month. That Santa makes us laugh every time she sneaks up on us wearing it.

We watched It’s a Wonderful Life no less than five times.

Mae’s letter to Santa, a.k.a. “S”

(Notice the P.S.)

Have you seen the Pixar film, Inside Out? Well, Rae made the girl that serves them broccoli pizza out of model magic clay while we worked on their Japan project.

The eight weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (Ha! ..but, I’m not exaggerating…) had been so hectic and we had barely been all together in one place just being. So, we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving this year – and it was perfect.

The girls fill out a thankful journal most mornings as part of our school routine. We read through the entries from this semester as soon as we woke up to get us in a thankful mindset.

For lunch, we had a large meal – which lasted us a week in leftovers. We played all of the Hobbit / LOTR films and watched them as we went about our business, occasionally stopping to snuggle on the couch and watch our favorite scenes.

We also played games, read books, and the girls played outside.

Friday evening (The day after Thanksgiving) our friends, Dennis and Heather came over for supper and games (We saw the new Fantastic Beasts with them the weekend before!). They’re so great!!

The following day, my parents came for a visit. I wrote about our walk with them here.

“Hey, Mom.”

I just put a post up about the boys this month, two days ago, but ya know I can’t help myself. So here are some more photos of them. ‘Cause I like em.

We’ve got big plans to visit one of my all-time favorite people, Ruhi, over Christmas break (I haven’t seen her in fifteen years!) and we will spend Christmas day with the famous, Aunt Sarah!

Before all of that, we’re having our traditional Christmas slumber party weekend with Grandma Shari a week (and a half?) early, so that we don’t miss out on that great time with her.

I don’t like to rush Christmas, but this year, I can’t help but be a little impatient.

But tonight we’re ending the month with homemade sushi. I’m interested to see the result of this experiment…

Happy December, ya’ll.

PARENTS IN THE PARK

My parents came to visit the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We spent most of the day outside in some way, beginning with a walk at our favorite park.

The girls played Pooh Sticks, tried their confidence on the jungle-gym, and Zack even managed to sneak a not-selfie of me.

See! ^ That’s me. Worth the wait, wasn’t it? You’re welcome…

Thanks for visiting on the most perfect day, Mom and Dad. I’m sure you planned it that way. (As if you could plan anything around the weather here…)

SCHOOL IN NOVEMBER

This month’s schooling was more unstructured than usual due to snow days, travel, and an abundance of doctor appointments (everyone is fine!).

When we did “have school” (I need a better term for this.) we took our time. We read more, asked more questions, wrote more intentionally, and diligently finished up projects to make way for a fresh start in December.

The rest of this month will be spent just reading, practicing piano and dance / gymnastics biz – while I prep for December.

So, before I move on into the December mindset, let’s see what they’ve been up to. Or rather, what they did that I bothered to photograph. Ha.

This was the big kahuna – or big Koi. (Isn’t Rae’s Sumo wrestler the greatest?)

We’ve been using Little Passports for some guiding where geography / culture studies are concerned. This month they sent us JAPAN.

We have yet to have the girls make, or even just try, sushi. We do, however, have sushi fixin’s in the house, so we’ll get to that this week.

They learned some common phrases (No, they won’t recite for an audience other than Momma, sorry.), as well as how to count from one to ten. They discovered Sumo wrestling, bullet trains, and origami (or “origarmi” as they say. Thanks, BBC.).

They already knew plenty about Japan, so I really focused on things that they might not know. They ate with chopsticks even more than usual…as if Mae needed an excuse…

We also studied (again) the history of the nation, stopping just short of World War II – that will be its own study.

The girls made toilet paper roll Koi fish. Mae really got into this craft!

Zack joined in on the Model Magic portion of craft time. We love this stuff! We (it was all a group effort) made a sushi roll and a Mount Fuji, and they are adorable.

This month for school, we studied the Mayflower (and ships in general) and life of settlers, once again. We will study this every year, getting more in-depth as we go.

We read portions of The Story of the World, Vol. 3 as well as Our America, Grade 2 for our Thanksgiving lessons – using trusted history sites when needed.

For their biographies, they studied William Bradford and Squanto.

Our first assignment for the month was a paper on Katherine Ferguson (as their colonial era person to get away from middle-aged white males). She was incredible, you should look her up!

We spent one afternoon talking about surrealism and the girls drew their own silly animals.

Mae drew a horse bird (not a pegasus).

The girls also wrapped up the Holy Spirit portion of their Trinity project. It will not be like the Japan project but will involve simple paintings and plenty (plenty!) of discussion.

This has been so much fun for all of us.

I think “Son” will be next, as the Christmas season is nigh and we will conclude that study just after the Easter holiday.

*We, of course, continue our usual English lessons, but that just flows so smoothly into our routine. While it is still my favorite subject to teach, I may not continue to mention it. At least until Mae begins writing her own stories, ’cause it will be adorable and I’m totally going to want to share that goodness!

SNOW DAY!

It began snowing here last week while Mae was at dance class. The excitement for the damp, not too pretty snow was comical. As it snowed off and on throughout the weekend the excitement never dwindled. Jump on through to Monday and we woke to a full-blown snow day!!

Zack and the boys’ mom had to work on Monday (but students had off) and thankfully those in charge gave them a half day! The boys got picked up before lunch but G got to play with the girls out in the snow with the girls before he left.

Zack had time to chop some wood while the girls continued to play. We ended the afternoon with a couple of inches of snow and It’s a Wonderful Life – Zack’s favorite!