Friday, September 23, 2011

A Camping Adventure

I love camping.  Or I probably should say I love camping in my mind. 
Exploring state parks by foot, leisurly swims in fresh water rivers, making friends with our camping neighbors and chatting while the kids play together.  Watching my sweet hubby bait hooks and show kids how to cast their fishing poles.  Roasting marshmallows over the fire and enjoying the memories being made of sticky kids with chocolate smore faces.  Relaxing conversation with my soul mate by the fire when the kids fall asleep in the tent.

Ummm, yah, our camping experience was a little different than my expectations.

A spur of the moment decision to go camping with five kids and a dog might not be the best idea.  And while I like to plan things to every detail sometimes, I also like to just do things without thinking about it too hard.  And so we started out on our first camping trip in our new home.

After cleaning dog vomit out of my trunk from our carsick dog, we realized that we were the only tent in the camping area.  We were surrounded by RVs, which we'd rather not be, but actually wasn't too bad since all the camp spots were surrounded with a little privacy row of trees and brush. 
We went on a weeknight, so there were no other kids around and I'm sure that all of the guests where we were were thrilled with our loud kids (okay, and adults) yelling at our dog who was freaking out about constantly wrapping his 30 foot leash around everything in the area.  I'm sure they were relieved that we only stayed one night.
After we set our tent up, we walked along the hiking trail, looking for alligators in the alligator lake, and we decided to put off swimming until the next day since the camp ranger said while they had never had a problem with alligators in the swimming area of the river, dusk is the most likely time for them to show up. 
We cut our hike short because we were all getting bit by mosquitoes and we had left the spray back at the campsite but it was still a nice, quiet walk. 

We roasted hotdogs for dinner and marshmallows for smores.  It's a bit tricky, roasting marshmallows with five kids.  They were much more interested in roasting the marshmallows than eating them, except for Anna, who kept swiping the marshmallows out of the bag, her timing perfect for when Chris and I were both loading someone's stick with marshmallows, blowing out marshmallows that were on fire, or squishing crispy marshmallows between graham crackers and chocolate bars.

We brought the playpen for Anna to sleep in.  She's still in a crib at home and while it took a lot of space in the tent, we didn't think she'd sleep without it.  Well, she screamed when we put her in it, so we took her out and put her on the air mattress to see if she'd fall asleep with Leah.  After who-knows-how-many marshmallows, she was not anywhere near falling asleep.  We pretty much gave that idea up and the boys said they wanted to go in and get ready for bed, so all five kids ended up in the tent, and I'll just say it wasvery loud and very funny, watching their shadows jumping around, trying to find the perfect spot to sleep, but really, all they planned to do was to be crazy with the girls.  Chris and I let them have a few minutes of going crazy before we tried to get them to calm down. 
Yah, that didn't work.
Add to that that the temperature was still in the 80s, and I decided that I'd had enough fun, packed the girls and the dog into my car (we had brought two cars for just this reason), and we headed home. 
So call me a camping snob. 
We did have fun while we were there, and I'm glad we went.  Chris and the boys had a good time sleeping in the tent and I think they went for a little hike in the morning and then came home. 

I hate that it sounds like I'm complaining about the whole trip.  It was a nice memory to make, and we plan on trying again sometime later this fall at a different camp area.  But I'm sure we'll take two cars again, just in case.  :o)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Enjoying the Beach

I think my favorite restaurant in this area may be The Crab Trap on Okaloosa Island, just west of the Destin Bridge.  We first went there with some friends when we drove through this area over a year ago on our way home from vacationing in Orlando with family. 
We had no idea that we'd be living is this beautiful place just fifteen months later. 

Chris' mom, stepdad and brother visited in the middle of the month for a weekend and we ended up at The Crab Trap for the second time.  It's great because you sit on the deck right on the beach, and there is not many better views than that.  And the kids' meals come in these little buckets with a shovel and after you enjoy some delicious shrimp and hush puppies and grouper, you just walk down the stairs and you're in the sand.

And if you go for dinner, by the time you finish, you're just in time for this.

My God, thank you.  For this.

Seven swim suits, five kids meals buckets, and this beautiful emerald coast.  We are a blessed little family.

A perfect picture of this little girl's goal in life at the follow her sister's footsteps.

This one will be framed in the girls' room.

Yes, we enjoyed the beach very much.

Friday, September 16, 2011

School Weeks 1, 2 & 3

I guess on a blog that is supposed to be about our life, with homeschooling being a big part of that, I should give it some space here. 

I'll start with our school room, which after three years of using the dining room table, I am absolutley loving.

This room is supposed to be the formal living room and it is through double glass paned doors immediatley when you walk through the front door of our house.  I'm thankful that we can just close the doors up if we don't want it (the mess) to be noticable.  Even though the doors are mostly glass, it still closes the room up quite well.

On the left is Christopher and Matthew's desks.  (And the printer sitting on a makeshift box 'table'.  One day we'll give it a proper spot.)  Four Walmart type do-it-yourself shelves fit perfectly along the back wall.  We are using our old kitchen table as the school table for Gabe and I, although he would like his own desk as well.  You can't see it in this picture, but to the right, just in front of that swivel office chair is a tiny little utility stand about 1 1/2 feet high that Gabe has been using as a makeshift desk.  Why?  Because I joked one day with him, when he asked when he would get a desk, that he could use that as a desk, and he thought I was serious.  It's quite awkward for him to work at, but it's funny that a desk is so important to him that he doesn't mind the awkwardness. 

So that's where most of our homeschool business gets done.  We usually do read-alouds in the living room or outside on the patio table, and science in the kitchen quite often, but other than that, the kids and I like working in there.
Our daily routine has been pretty much the same from last year.  Our mornings are free for playing, cleaning, running around town, etc, and when the girls take a nap after lunch at about 1:00, I take about a half hour to just sit and rest (me time) and then we start our school day and finish up around 3:30 or so.  We don't take breaks and apart from the short complaint about english or math being "the worst thing ever", the boys keep focused and get their work done pretty quickly.  Sometimes I juggle helping the boys with their work and doing Gabe's first grade work with him, and other times I wait until the older boys are done and then Gabe does his school work. 
I'd like to have the boys do some school in the mornings so we don't work so late into the afternoon.  Christopher has a friend from public school that likes to come over at about 2:30 or 3:00 and I like for Christopher to have time to play with him before dinner. 

Chris also wants the boys to start a typing program as well as a computer Spanish program and I have the kids do math facts practice on a computer program as well (  So I have to figure out how to fit that into our day as well with minimal freaking out by the kids.  So we'll see what changes happen with our schedule in the near future.
So...first day of school!

We didn't do quite as much special stuf for the first day as last year, but the boys didn't mind since they were so excited about their Phineas and Ferb activity pads (Target Dollar Spot!)

In fact, their first day of school pictures weren't even taken on the first day!  (Shhhh!)
I did, however, wrap a bright pink sheet around myself and pretended to be Roman slave, in charge of tutoring the children of the home.  It was a fun act and everyone wanted a turn with the sheet/robe.
We did take a break for a snack that day...a typical (sort of) Roman snack.

We are all really enjoying the books we have been reading for Bible (How the Bible Came to Us), History (Anicent World, Streams of Civilization, The Roman Empire, Augustus Caesar's World), and Science (The Human Body for Every Kid, First Encyclopedia of the Human Body).  I'm so thankful that MFW did all the legwork of finding great books to use.
When I looked ahead to these years of the My Father's World curriculum we're using, I wasn't very excited.  I always thought ancient history was a bit boring.  MFW uses really good books and makes learning about everything interesting though.  I love the part of school that I get to read these books aloud to the boys.

We've read about Romulus and Remus and Julias Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and are now up to the point in Rome when it becomes an Empire run by Augustus Caesar.

We learned to play an old Roman game called Odd or Even and that was enjoyed by all the boys.  Gabe had a hard time when he was behind in his number of pieces of corn, but that's the norm these days with him.

To play, you have 20 pieces of corn (well the book said they used beans, but we didn't have any), ten for each player.  One player puts some of his corn kernels in one hand and the other player guesses whether he is holding an even amount or odd.  If the other player is correct, the first player has to give one piece to him; if he is incorrect, the first player gets a piece of his corn.  Simple, but fun. 
The boys started out learning about cells in science, then moved to learning about brain functions, and now we are learning about the senses. It was fun to test our involuntary reflexes and the kids enjoyed making a cell out of jello that was edible.

Another science experiment.

Matthew was excited to start learning cursive this year (I'm not joking!) and he's doing really well with it.  His printing is not the best, and he still gets letters like d, b, k, p, and a backwards, but it's easier to keep letters going the correct way when using cursive writing.   

Gabe is really into his phonics lessons and is eager to do school everyday to learn more.  He does really well at reading short vowel words and is doing great working at the first grade level.

Each week Gabe learns about a new subject in science.  This week was plants and we found some flowers outside to look at and we chose one to pick and dry in a book so Gabe can make a bookmark out of it to give as a gift to someone later. 

We soaked some seeds so we can examine their insides and we also are going to watch one grow in a clear jar, held up by a wet papertowel.  Fun stuff!

So, we've enjoyed our first few weeks of school and are getting more and more used to our new home.  We've found a church that we really like, the kids are starting Awana soon, we've gone on a couple more outings with homeschool groups, and the moving boxes are nearly gone. 

We've entered our new "normal".