Sunday, September 30, 2007

A new phase

Our daughter entered a new phase of life today, and since I am her mother, by definition I entered one too. It has to do with clothes.

Our daughter has up until now not really cared too much about clothes. She would happily wear anything I brought home for her and didn't need to be with me to pick it out herself. She has also gravitated toward very plain styles - no sequins or lace, no flowers on dresses, only pattern she liked was stripes. I cannot tell you how nice and easy this was! Consignment stores provided most of her clothes until a few years ago, and I, being the practical and frugal mom that I am, felt immense satisfaction at providing her with plain, serviceable clothes at a minimal cost.

That all changed today.

We went shopping after church. (No flames please! I know it's a Sunday, but my hubby was here to stay home with the boys, so it worked.) She wanted a new skirt to wear to church. Since all she has right now is a denim jumper and an Easter dress from last year that's nearly too small, I thought this was a perfectly reasonable request. Not only did she find a cute skirt she liked, she also picked out a cami with fancy trim at the neckline, and a little black sweater to wear over the cami. I was completely floored. This was a huge switch from her usual style.

She looked absolutely adorable in the outfit, and absolutely grown up. I admired her outwardly while inwardly beseeching her not to grow up so fast. She clearly loved the outfit, and she loved herself in it. It was actually really fun to watch her face. So I bought the whole thing. And it was really fun to do it for her.

She quite happily wore the whole outfit for the rest of the afternoon! Then I had an epiphany. Provide her with cute skirts that she loves, and she will be more likely to want to wear them to church with a good attitude. My husband and I have already decided that beyond the modesty standard, we are not going to make church attire a battlefield. But I have always hoped that she would continue to want to wear dresses or skirts to church for a while longer rather than switching to pants. For the record I am not opposed to wearing pants at all, and in fact I sometimes wear them myself, but I prefer skirts/dresses. Maybe I'm old fashioned that way?

I'll post a picture of her new grown up look next Sunday when she's all dressed up for church!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Schooling at the Car Doctor

"Car doctor" is what A called it when I told him we had to go find out what was causing the bad sound. "We go to the car doctor?" he asked in his sweet little voice. I just love that boy! So I packed up our history book, some coloring sheets, and our entire plastic drawer of colored pencils and off we went.

We spent an hour doing history in the waiting room of Belle Tire. I read 3 chapters of William Bradford, Pilgrim Boy while the children colored a picture of Puritans for their history notebooks. Now for you fellow homeschoolers, especially those of you using TOG year 2 for history, I want to assure you that both myself and my children know the difference between the Pilgrims (who were separatists) and Puritans (who were not), but since we'd already colored the picture of the Pilgrims, it was Puritans today. We paused now and then to admire the beautiful chrome rims on display near us. L wanted to know why we didn't buy them for our van, and I explained that they were $600 each and we'd rather spend that money on other things since our plain rims worked quite well. Then we had a little impromptu math lesson while they figured out how much $600 x 4 was.

Thankfully, the bad noise was only caused by rust and corrosion in the wheel drum and nothing serious. They cleaned the drum at no charge. I love no charge!

So after our delightful adventure at Belle Tire we proceeded to the grocery store where I found not one, but TWO bench carts outside in the parking lot! Yes, you heard me right. TWO BENCH CARTS. I found myself wishing for more children so we could use them both!! If you knew how many times I have pushed two carts through the store (one for food, one for kids) while wistfully looking at someone with one child using a bench cart, you would know how exciting the sight of two was. All our children but A are now old enough to walk on their own two feet, but it still goes sooooo much faster if I can restrain the 5 year old as well. And for those of you who are not familiar with bench carts, they are a regular shopping cart with a 2 seat bench bolted on in front, so they essentially seat 3 children. I LOVE bench carts. Bench carts were made for mothers like me (for those of you with 1 or 2 children who have used bench carts, no offense intended!).

After our delightful adventure at the grocery store we went home for a late lunch (it was past 1:00 by this time, and A was getting cranky). But when we arrived home we found that the roofing crew had been shorted one bundle of shingles and they couldn't finish the roof. They were a crew from a town about 2 hours from here and didn't know our area at all, so I loaned them the phone book to try and find a wholesaler in the area who sold the kind of shingles they needed, while silently praying that the shingles purchased today would completely match the shingles already on the roof. (post script: still not sure it's an "exact" match, but time will tell, and they're on the back of the house, so I'm not going to quibble). They found a wholesaler and I found directions for them on mapquest while my daughter whipped up some sandwiches for her hungry brothers. I love that girl!

A got to bed about 2:30 and we officially started school at home right about the time that everyone else in traditional schools was finishing for the day. Such is the nature of homeschooling. Some days we are done shortly after noon. Some days we are not done at 5:00.

BUT.....we have a new roof, our van is safe to drive and didn't cost us any money today, we had a great history lesson, we got to use a bench cart, and tonight is pizza and movie night. For now, all is right in our little world.

Anatomy of a new roof

The new roof is ON and it looks fabulous!!! Since I know for certain that all of you are just as fascinated by and interested in our roof story as we are, here is the whole photo story for your viewing pleasure! :-)

Loading the roof supplies onto the conveyor belt,

and stacking them atop the roof.

All stacked and ready to go! You can't tell very well in this picture, but our old brown roof (2 layers) was curling in many places.

Good bye old roof!

In process.

Tearing off the old roof of our front porch and garage.

Ta da!! Finished product. Beautiful, new, non leaky roof. I am so grateful. I'm anxious for them to come haul away the dumpster filled with old roof garbage, but in the meantime maybe I can find lots of other things that need to be thrown away??

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New piano student!!

Our son L had his first piano lesson today! He has wanted to take lessons "forever", but we wanted to be sure his attitude toward practicing matched his zeal to begin. He has been asking for over a week how many more days until my piano day? I am thrilled that he wants to learn, and thrilled that he has this new thing to be uniquely his. Our daughter, who is in her 4th year of lessons, is not as thrilled as I am (after all, piano used to be something that was uniquely hers), but this is good practice for her to be happy for her brother. He really is very excited, despite his goofy expression in this picture. He was trying to look "cool". Notice the tops of his hands are not at all parallel to the keys - guess we have some work to do!
Our daughter G began work on her timeline notebook for the first time this week. She is learning to be careful in all she does and to take pride in a job well done, and she particularly loves anything artsy. She did such a fabulous job on these figures!

The roofing crew called a rain day today, so we rescheduled for tomorrow. And yes, it really did rain! They didn't just call a rain day cuz they felt like it. :-) Our school was interrupted this morning when a crew came to drop off all the shingles. I'm not sure they have had an audience before, but the kids and I stook outside and watched the entire process of getting the conveyor belt in place, loading each package of shingles onto the conveyor, and then stacking them on the roof. It was really interesting! I love homeschooling.
My husband took the kiddos to Awana tonight so I got a couple hours alone! I baked bread and did my Pilates tape. Ugh. Love the bread, hate Pilates. It just occurred to me that they are sortof opposite of each other.......hmmmm. I really am working on the losing weight/being healthy thing but it's so hard. It took years to come on, so I know it will take years to take off, yet I keep hoping it will magically disappear overnight. I do know from experience that those things you work hardest for tend to give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction, but the weight issue is a particularly hard one for me to keep a good attitude about. Maybe it's a stronghold, cuz I sure seem to get discouraged about it very easily. I need to pray about that, and if the Lord leads you, please pray for me too!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Today's little daily things

Two year old A correctly used the word "ridiculous" today. He also pulled open my shirt, and hollered down "fire in the hole!" to my cleavage (don't ask me where he got that, I think it might be a boating phrase he picked up at the cottage this summer).

Seven year old L sounded out the words "wondering", "different", and "surprise" while he was reading to me today.

We started back to school today after taking yesterday off as a buffer day between vacation and real life. I am more tired today than I was yesterday. It was a good day, I have absolutely nothing to complain about, it was just looooong.

We are getting our new roof tomorrow. Our house is very happy.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's Good to be Home!!

Yay! We are home! We had such a wonderful time, but it's grrrrREAT to be back in our own home with our own beds to sleep in. Even though we were sightseeing parts of every day during our trip, we also had times to just hang out at the condo or swim in the condo pool, which was really fun and relaxing. In this picture, my husband and our youngest are doing some snuggling.

Some things remain the same even when our location changes! Here our son G, our resident builder, is making an amazing lizard out of K'nex.
C and L goofing around with their new "hotch potch" dolls from Williamsburg. These dolls bend at all their joints enabling them to form every letter of the alphabet.

It was rather a loooong drive home. When we finally got to our midway point on Saturday night, it was 9:00 PM and the 2 year old hadn't had a nap all day. Need I say more? So in an effort to keep him entertained while waiting for our food, the menus became dancing people. Anything to comfort and distract a toddler!

Then he decided he wanted to try a lemon. Before.....

and after!

I'm so glad we could go on this unforgettable trip, AND I'm so glad to be home. Our children are all asleep in their own beds and I think I'm going to join them!

The Yorktown Living History Museum

Before beginning our drive home on Saturday, we spent several hours at the Yorktown Living History Museum (called the Yorktown Victory Center) which was really fantastic! There were several galleries inside the museum that explained the war from several different perspectives (soldiers, women, black slaves) and then out back there was a continental army encampment with costumed interpreters who demonstrated different aspects of military life.

Sons C and G, pretending to be General Washington, writing an important letter to one of his officers.

One of these circular oven units was built for each company, and then one man from each tent (of 6 or 8 men) would come and cook for his tentmates. There was no such thing as a camp cook back then.

This gentleman explained all the different types of artillery to us. In this picture he is talking about the 6" cannon.

Then he fired off a 4.5" mortar for us. It was VERY loud! (no live ammo in case you were wondering!)

We then learned about muskets, and everyone got a turn holding one. They were quite heavy. Here is L.

and daughter G

and son G

and son A.

It was a wonderful way to end our trip to the historic triangle!

Yorktown Battlefield

On Friday we visited the Yorktown battlefield. To refresh everyone's memory, the battle of Yorktown was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and essentially destroyed any remaining will the British had to fight. It was fascinating to learn a bit about war strategy during that time, and particularly what the continental army's strategy was at Yorktown. General George Washington himself led the continental army in this campaign, and pictured below is his sleeping tent. Yes, THE actual tent he slept in during the war. It is the only known surviving 18th century American officer's tent, which I thought was very, very special.

The French were instrumental in helping the continental army win this battle, particularly with their navy which sent the British fleet packing back to New York after sinking several of their ships. Below is A with an actual cannon recovered from the H.M.S. Charon on the bottom of the York River.

This shot of us sitting on cannons was taken at the battlefield, at the first line the continental army dug and occupied, facing Cornwallis's troops. After heavy artillery fire for a number of days, they were able to take a second line only 400 yards from the British troops.
L pretending to fire off the cannon.

This is one of two "redoubts" (earthen fort) built by the British and captured by the continental army.

A climbing up the redoubt the hard way. Boys!

All our children had a grand time running around the battlefield. They could have stayed here all day long!

A view of one entire redoubt from a distance. After learning just a bit about this battle and all that went into its planning and execution, I can see why George Washington was so loved and revered. He was brilliant!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg - Part 2

Our second day in Colonial Williamsburg started with about a half hour private audience with Patrick Henry himself! They had arranged these "private audiences" with different founding fathers all week long as part of home educator's week, so a group of about 40 homeschoolers gathered in the backyard of a home to hear Mr. Henry's thoughts. I was absolutely riveted throughout his entire talk. The man portraying Patrick Henry was totally in character, his speech was very 18th century, and his perspective on events happening in 1774 was fascinating! It was a highlight for both my husband and myself and really made history come alive for us.

On our walk to the main street we happened upon this pair of oxen pulling a cart. The driver told us that ox would have been seen more frequently in Williamsburg than horses. Of course the horse population would have increased greatly any time the House of Burgesses met because so many Burgesses would have come in from the surrounding countryside.

Next we visited the foundry. The founder was working with liquid pewter when we arrived, in this picture he is stirring it in a pot buried in hot coals. The liquid pewter was about 700 degrees! He made several pewter spoons while we watched, pouring the liquid pewter into a mold and then cooling it (which happened very quickly) before taking it out of the mold.

Each of our children took turns pulling on the bellows cord. They would pull on this cord which was attached to a wooden arm that went to the large bellows located up by the ceiling and attached to the chimney above the fire. It was hard to pull!

Our daughter G took this picture of a British flag against the white backdrop of a building. Isn't it nice? She takes some very creative pictures! I think photography is becoming a hobby of hers.

Another one of the tasks that our militia recruits had been given on our first day in Colonial Williamsburg was to go to the post office and collect a letter from Boston. They were to deliver this letter to the printer because it contained information that may be printed in the Virginia Gazette. Here is the printer at work:

Later in the day our family split up. My husband took 4 of the children to one end of town to hear a drama on the courthouse steps while I took our 5 year old son C for a carriage ride. This was the one thing he really wanted to do. Going in and out of historical buildings is not really that interesting to a 5 year old! Again we had to make a choice based on finances, the carriage rides were $10 per person. So we chose the child who wanted it the most and off we went! We had a wonderful ride around town in this 18th century carriage with a nice couple from California.

There were so many lovely houses and gardens in Colonial Williamsburg! Here is just one of them. Doesn't this make you want to sit a spell?

On our way out of town we stopped to tour the jail. The two cells pictured here are the only two original cells to have survived since the 1700's and they once housed Blackbeard's pirates while they waited for their execution! Since the jailers young daughters were helping to care for the prisoners, they did have food slots in the cell doors to slide the food through, and they had toilets in each cell so the prisoners would not need to come outside for any reason. I believe this is where the word "throne" came to be used for toilet. They really did look like thrones, with a couple steps up to a seat that was about the same height as my chest. So that was some trivia we learned on this trip!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg - Part 1

Wow. What a fabulous two days we spent in Colonial Williamsburg! I highly recommend it! We had planned on renting costumes for the boys (daughter brought hers from home) but when we got there we learned that it was $20 per person per day for costume rental, so we just rented one boy's costume and had our boys share all day long (minus A who wasn't quite big enough for it). In fairness to all of them, here is 7 year old L and daughter G:

Here is 5 year old C:

And here is 8 year old G. They each had so much fun carrying around the wooden rifle, L especially really got into the role of being a recruit for the militia. There were lots of other children (and some adults!) in costume so it added a really fun element to the day.

The first thing we did after renting the costume was tour the Governor's Palace. It was a beautiful building inside and out, and was home to the British Governor appointed by the King. Did you know that the first elected governor of Virginia was Patrick Henry? He lived in the palace at 3 different times, and it was absolutely fascinating to learn more about this patriot. We had fun going through a hedge maze in the palace gardens.

Then it was on to the main street, where everyone had fun (?) pretending to be in the stocks and the leg irons.

I really enjoyed everything about Colonial Williamsburg, but if I had to pick a favorite spot it would be this colonial garden. I could have sat in there for the whole day, soaking up the colonial aura and asking questions of the gardener! It included a large working garden, where gardeners tend the garden using tools and methods from the 18th century, as well as a little shop tent where you could purchase books, plants, and gardening tools/knick knacks. It was so beautiful and peaceful!

When we rented the costume for the boys, we were given a list of special tasks for our militia recruits to accomplish throughout the day, and one of the listed tasks was to go to the colonial garden and plant some seeds. More recruits would mean more mouths to feed in the winter, so everyone was to chip in and do their share of planting. Here is the colonial gardener with our daughter G and sons L and G:

The 3 of them planting cabbage seeds.

Son G watering the row of newly planted seeds.

2 year old A trying on a straw gardening hat! I was soooo tempted to buy it, but I'm sure I can find one cheaper somewhere else!

After exploring many streets and building and shops, we ended our first day in Colonial Williamsburg by watching a fife and drum corps as they marched and played down the main street. They were very good!