Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 2: Four Things You May Not Have Thought about Bringing But Might Want To

How do you find the balance between what you want to bring on a road trip with the room you have in your vehicle?  Honestly, I'm not sure, and that's not what this post is about anyway.  :)

As I planned for our trip touring the Southwest months ago, I started a list of things that I knew I wanted to take but that I would probably forget if I didn't write them down because they're a little unusual.  But I'm so glad that we made room for them in our van as they made our lives just that much easier.
  1. Sleeping bags.  You might have already thought of this one, or maybe your family doesn't really need them because you don't have many children.  But bringing sleeping bags on a trip makes it possible for six people to sleep in a hotel room that technically only sleeps four.  (Add in a portable crib, and you can get seven in there.  ;)
  2. Food.  You can save tons of money by bringing your own lunch food and/or snacks, especially if you have room for a cooler.  Besides, don't you get tired of eating out every single meal?  I do.  We usually eat supper out, but we like to eat our own food for lunch and some snacks.
  3. Ziptop baggies.  I took a handful of these on our trip to the Southwest, and I ran out!  I had to buy more!  They're great for dividing up family size snack packages so that your children don't fight over them.  I also appreciated having them when one of my children didn't finish part of his meal or snack so we could save it for later.  They're also handy for souvenirs with small or many parts, like a deck of cards.
  4. Handheld vacuum.  If you have room for this and already own one, you will want to bring it.  When your children start picking cactus spines out of their shoes inside your van, you'll be glad you have it.  (Ask me how I know!)  Or when your toddler drops a goldfish and another child steps on it, it can save your sanity.  :)
What unusual things do you take with you on trips?  What should I add to this list?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review: The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr

In this third and final book of the Darkwater Saga, Willet Dura keeps drawing closer and closer to the secret of the Darkwater, making him more and more of a threat to it.  His fellow Vigil members have their own tasks to perform as they work to outwit the terrible malevolence contained in the menacing forest.  Toria Deel and Fess work to help the soldiers guarding the Forest while Pellin travels to the southern continent looking for answers from the Vigil there.  Will they discover the answers they need in time to figure out what the Darkwater is and how to defeat it?

This book was a splendid and exciting conclusion to the Darkwater trilogy.  The character development is fantastic as each person has his own personality and is fully fleshed out.  The story is fast-paced while the writing is thrilling and keeps the reader coming back for more.  What's going to happen next?  What's going to happen to Willet next?  I especially appreciated the religious aspect to the book, as the characters -- the good guys -- call out for their god's help and protection.  While not overtly Christian, there is definitely a fight between good and evil just as in Tolkien's books.  I highly recommend this book with one caveat:  start at the beginning of the trilogy with the novella By Divine Right.  You won't be disappointed!

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishing for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sarah Beth's Twelfth Birthday!

This year has been a big one for Sarah Beth as she finished up six years of Foundations and three years of Essentials, getting ready for her first year of Challenge in Classical Conversations.

She enjoys doing things with her daddy:  hunting, camping, whatever.  

Don't let her fool you, though; she's got a mischievous streak!

Sarah Beth is a wonderful big sister and is a tremendous help, especially with Hannah.

She loves to learn new things, whether it's reading a book or listening to a lecture on a history tour.

I look forward to see what Sarah Beth's twelfth year holds for her!

Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Lots of Activities

Daniel playing the part of an engineer at a small-scale plant.

After a relatively quiet week last week, this week felt very busy.  We were out of the house a good bit, but most of it was fun so it was worth it!  Since this is our last week of school, we also have lessons to finish up.  We're looking forward to our summer break starting next week!

Yes, I know that I said last week we had a couple of weeks left for school, but Sarah Beth and Daniel had the opportunity for swimming lessons with a world champion swimmer next week.  I wanted to take advantage of that.  Homeschooling allows you to be flexible, right?  So we're doubling up math lessons and finishing up other books this week.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • meeting friends at the park on Monday
  • meeting another family who are interested in CC on Tuesday
  • getting my teeth cleaned.  Well, that wasn't fun, but I do like having clean teeth!
  • watching Rachel have fun at her soccer skills assessment
  • attending something that John's work put on for children, teaching them a little about how a plant (manufacturing, not a flower) works along with some chemistry demonstrations
  • staying home all day yesterday; after a busy week out of the house, it was especially nice!
  • going out last night with friends; I did leave the house for that, and it was wonderful fun!
  • having cookies twice this week when it rained
This evening, our three oldest girls are participating in a short soccer clinic, and tomorrow is Sarah Beth's birthday.  She wants to go shopping at Half-Price Books, so that's our plan.  Other than that, we expect to have a quiet weekend at home.

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 1: Keeping Them Happy in the Car

Three of my fellow travelers.

While I do not consider myself an expert on traveling with children, I have taken four extended trips (meaning that it took longer than a day of driving to get to our destination) with my children in the past year, two of them by myself without John.  We had a wonderful trip to Atlanta, Georgia for a tour on the Civil War; a nice visit with my parents when we had to flee Hurricane Harvey; an educational and amazing tour of Washington, DC; and recently, an incredible trip through the Southwest.  With all of this traveling, I have learned a thing or two which you might find interesting, too.

The hardest thing about these trips is the time spent in the car.  There is just so much of it, and it's boring.  You're all packed in together like sardines, or at least it feels that way.  :)  So how do you keep your children happy, or at least content while also maintaining your sanity?

Here's what we've found:
  1. Audiobooks.  Admittedly, this tip has to start long before your actual trip because you have to instill a love of books.  You can usually find a great selection at your library, and I also highly recommend Heirloom Audio.  Their dramatic renditions are outstanding.  The added bonus to audiobooks that movies don't have is that the driver can enjoy them, too.
  2. Let your children pack their own bags with what they may want in the car.  I told our children they could pack one relatively small bag, but they had to keep their stuff in it when they weren't playing/using it so our van wasn't a mess.  Also, it allowed them to change seats more easily when we stopped.  Sarah Beth packed books, Mary took some toys, and Rachel took colored pencils and a coloring book.  I'm not sure what Daniel packed.  ;)
  3. Snacks.  It was amazing how my children's (and John's and my!) attitudes improved when I pulled out a snack.  It let us drive a little longer which we needed in several places in the Southwest because there just wasn't anywhere to stop.  Make your snacks something special that you don't normally have at home.
  4. Don't forget the water.  We don't usually let our children have unrestricted access to drinks while we drive because we don't want to have to stop for bathroom breaks.  But a little bit of water is necessary after eating a snack.  :)  And it was so hot and dry in the Southwest, we needed the water.  I recommend water because it's not a big deal if it spills.  
  5. Occasional quiet time.  It was nice to have some time when we weren't listening to anything, when it was quiet in the van.  However, that quiet didn't usually last long as the children got bored and started bickering.  
  6. Little ones like Hannah can be difficult.  They don't understand what's going on, why they're in the car for so long, and they cannot enjoy audiobooks.  I packed several books and toys for her along with extra snacks just for her.  (Goldfish which no one else really wanted anyway.)  She also got all of the water she wanted; wearing a diaper has its privileges!  And the child sitting next to her had to help keep her happy!
  7. Rest areas are excellent places to stop.  When you get out, you can walk around, have the kids run from here to there three times, spread out, etc.  Instead of sitting at a restaurant after sitting in the car all day, you are free to stand up and move around.  Do not neglect these fantastic places to stop, especially since the bathrooms are usually clean.  :)
Have you traveled much with your children?  If so, how do you keep them happy and content in the car?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Being Home

At the Meteor Crater.  My little geologist.  :)

After being gone for a week and a half touring the Southwest, it has been wonderful to be home!  Don't get me wrong; we loved (almost) every single bit of our trip, but as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home."

Having arrived home about lunchtime on Sunday, we were able to get the van unpacked and most of our stuff put away.  I took Monday to finish unpacking, work on laundry, and pick up groceries.  Then we started back into our regular routine, i.e. our routine without Classical Conversations which ended the week before we left.  We're also working hard to finish up our school year.  After this morning, we will only have sixteen more days of school.  Hooray!

Then I guess we will start on our crazy-busy summer.  ;)

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • eating at home.  Yes, I got tired of eating out.
  • homeschooling which allowed us to take such a wonderful trip when everyone else is still in school.  ;)  The places we visited weren't crowded at all!  
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.  What a wonderful book about the black women mathematicians who worked for NASA!  The book has more information than the movie (of course!), and it follows the lives of several women not just the three in the movie although it doesn't really read like a story.  I really enjoyed it, though, and I learned so much about these amazing women whom, by the way, the author actually knew and interviewed for the book.  
  • Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage.  Nicely written murder mystery, great for vacation reading!
  • counting down the days until school ends!
  • starting swim team for Sarah Beth and Daniel.
I will have to admit that I really didn't enjoy getting back to school this week to finish out our year.  Honestly, I thought about saying, "Good enough," and starting our summer break.  But we are so close to finishing and have so few days left that I feel like we need to push through it.

We have a relatively quiet weekend planned.  Sarah Beth does have her end of the season soccer party, but that's all we have, thankfully.  

Do you have spring fever, ready to quit school even if you're not quite done?  ;)  What have you enjoyed this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Our Trip Exploring the Southwest

We left two weeks ago for a tour of the Southwest.  We had two goals:  to visit John's Aunt Alice, whom we had not seen for more than fifteen years, and to see the Grand Canyon.  While we did accomplish both goals, we also saw so much more.  

Our trip started with a stop at Saguaro Cactus National Park where we enjoyed learning about these slow-growing cacti.  

Then we drove to Joshua Tree National Park where we saw lots of Joshua Trees and...

our children enjoyed doing some rock climbing.

Our next stop was to visit Aunt Alice who lives an hour east of Los Angeles.  Even though I didn't get any pictures of our time there, we enjoyed spending time with her and John's cousin's family.  Also, we did some hiking on Mount Baldy along with a few other activities.  

Oh!  The Grand Canyon!  Words and pictures cannot describe how incredibly massive and beautiful this wonderful work of God's hand is!  All I can say is that, if you haven't had a chance to see it, you need to!

We toured the Canyon for two and a half days which was plenty of time.  We rented a house which was lovely after being in a hotel for so long.  John even took Sarah Beth and Daniel a short ways (two miles) down a trail into the Canyon.  They said that it wasn't too bad going down, but coming back up was tough!

We stopped at the Meteor Crater in Arizona which is a private enterprise and has a great museum.  It was very windy so we didn't spend too much time outside.  While it is over 500 feet deep, after being at the Grand Canyon, it didn't look very deep.  :)

The Painted Desert was our next stop, and it was beautiful in a different way.  Honestly, I was amazed at how lovely it was, all the different colors of the rock.  Pictures do not do justice to this desert, either.

 Inside the Painted Desert is the Petrified Forest.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the petrified trees although I don't really know why.  But we enjoyed seeing them.

We had a wonderful trip touring the Southwest for a week and a half.  There are places we weren't able to visit on this trip and places we would like to visit again.  While we haven't started planning our next trip yet and it won't be any time soon, we are already looking forward to it!