Monday, December 31, 2012

Real conversation I had today + Happy New Year!

This is the Facebook status I posted this morning.  I wanted to share it here as well, for your amusement:

Conversation that actually happened this morning, as I was making sangria for tonight:
Me (calling Shane at work):  It has come to my attention that I have never actually opened a bottle of wine by myself before.  I sat on the floor with the bottle between my knees and pulled on the corkscrew with all my might, but I can't get that thing to budge.  Any advice?
Shane:  Pulled?!  No, you put the little teeth against the bottle and pry with the other side of the corkscrew.
Me: ... OHHH!  Yeah, that was WAY easier!
Shane:  Are you SERIOUS?!  You didn't know that?
Me:  No I really didn't.  I hardly ever drink wine, and on the rare occasions when I did, someone else always opened it!  Totally LMAO at myself!

Yeah, so that's my TIL for today.  Just wanted to wish everyone out there a Happy New Year!  The one thing I resolve to do is get back into writing regularly.  Apologies for the sporadic-ness of the past couple months.

New Year's is not my favorite holiday - in fact it usually depresses me.  I may have even written about this before, but I am acutely aware that *these* are the best days of my life - right now - while my kids are small and every day is an adventure.  When New Year's Eve comes, I feel sad knowing that another whole year has slipped by already.  I guess this is a good thing; that I'm so lucky to have a good year worthy of missing as it passes.  Today I am focusing on feeling grateful about that and am in better spirits than I normally am on this holiday.

I hope everyone reading this has also had a year wonderful enough to miss as it becomes history, and that 2013 is full of goodness for you as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snow Play!

If my kids were in public school, they would not have had the opportunity to drop everything to go outside and play in today's first stick-to-the-ground snow, which both arrived and melted within about 2 hours.  I did have to cut their snow play short, though, because we had to leave for a playdate with my friend and her 5-year-old twins... but if they were in public school they would not have had that opportunity either because in school 6-year-olds only spend time with other 6-year-olds and 3-year-olds only spend time with other 3-year-olds.  So ages 6, 5, and 3 would not have been permitted to mix and have three and a half hours of free play together.  That would be anarchy, right?  :)

PS.  Sorry again that I haven't written much lately!  My hard drive is full and I can't fit any new pics onto it to put onto the blog until I back up some crap and delete it to make room.  I've also reached my limit on free online photo storage for the blog, so I am going to either have to pay a small monthly fee to be able to add more, OR find time to learn how to somehow host images elsewhere for free.  So I have been procrastinating on dealing with that.  Sorry!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Road trip Oct 2012

Finally catching up on vacation pics from our trip to the Outer Banks back in October...  here are some highlights from the road trip.  I joined AAA the day before we left and got a triptych for navigation - first time I'd ever used one and it was super helpful - I totally recommend it.  (Side note:  The AAA store has TONS of great FREE travel info for members - maps, brochures, etc.  I came out of there with a big pile of stuff with future field trips in mind!)  I really love road trips - in my opinion they are half the fun of going on vacation.  I love being "stuck" together in the car and getting to enjoy each other's company, while watching interesting new sights pass by our windows.

On the trip, I decided to make it "my thing" to take a picture of every state welcome sign we passed.  I got all except the elusive West Virginia.  Somehow I missed it both on the way down and on the way back.  My OCD was really itching.  Grrr.   

The DS kept Monkey pretty happily occupied...

While Bug found other ways to entertain himself.  (Whoopie cushions are SO hilarious to a 2yr old!)
This cool toy that I picked up on Amazon also helped keep him busy.

I love driving through the mountains.

Tunnels are exciting!

A scenic group of windmills.  We passed several of these clusters.

The boys snuggled into their bed in the hotel room (where we stopped halfway overnight), watching cartoons on CABLE - what a treat!  (We do not have cable at home, which makes us pretty much Amish, I know.)

Next post:  Our arrival at the beach!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Just some thoughts I wanted to record...

Ok, I have tons of homeschooling-related stuff to post, but I just wanted to quickly record some thoughts that came to me today...

Bug's birthday is coming up, and this evening I started to reminisce about my pregnancy with him... which eventually led me to think about my uncle who passed away about 6 weeks before he was born.  Not only is it amazing that Bug has been here 3 years already, but I can't believe Uncle Kim (Bug's middle name comes from his middle name) has been gone for 3 years either.  I was remembering being very pregnant at his funeral - the only occasion I had to wear "dressy" maternity clothes during either of my pregnancies - and having my distant relatives fawning over me and asking "Boy or girl, when are you due, do you have a name picked out?" type questions, which was actually kind of a helpful distraction since I detest funerals.  Different memories and images of him are flashing through my mind.  I remember his voice, the distinct way he talked, his laugh - and how he always seemed to be laughing.  I remember running into him at work one night, when I was pregnant with Monkey, and I remember him timidly asking if he could feel the baby kick... and I remember him standing with me, smiling, in the middle of my store, with his hands on my belly.  (Side note: strangely, I normally do not like other people touching me or being in my personal space, but when I was pregnant I actually liked letting people feel my belly, sharing that.)

I still feel a twinge of anger that he's gone whenever I think about it.  Just not fair that this world had to lose someone so smart and fun and full of life, so early.  So, that's all.  Just missing you, Uncle Kim, and don't really have anywhere else to address that feeling so it's going here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TEDx talk: What if We Trusted You? (Jerry Michalski)

When people we care about (there are plenty whose opinions we don't care about!) are confused by, or even blatantly disapproving of, our educational choices, I wish I could get them to sit down and watch this video.  Explaining why we do what we do is so complicated, and this video does an amazing job of it.  It's also a good pep talk for those of us who occasionally need a bit of encouragement, to remind us why we've chosen the path we've chosen.  Brilliant.

As a bonus, here's another favorite of mine.  I've shared it here before, but I'm sharing again, for anyone who may not have seen it.

Feel free to direct your next critic to this post, and refuse to discuss the issue further until they have watched both videos.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Luray Caverns, Virginia

 When planning our trip to the Outer Banks, I had noticed that the Luray Caverns in Virginia were not very far off our route, so we planned a slight detour to check them out.  For some reason, I've always wanted to experience being in a huge underground cavern, and I thought the kids would dig it, too.  The husband was not as excited about the idea but he's a good sport and went along with the plan.  (He ended up thinking it was pretty cool and not as claustrophobic or scary as he'd expected.)  The caverns were beautiful and fascinating.  The tour is an hour long and the route is 1.25 miles over a wide, well-maintained brick walkway.  The tour guide told us the history of the caverns and pointed out interesting formations as we walked along.  (He also said, "Be sure to stay with your tour group. The lights are on a timer and will turn off after we pass through. You do NOT want to be left alone in the dark!")  Admission was a little pricey but also included the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum (which we visited) and the Luray Valley Museum (which we did not have time for).  There was also a really amazing looking hedge maze (note: separate admission fee) that we wish we'd have had time for as well.  It was very challenging to get decent photos in the caverns - they were lit beautifully and it didn't feel too dark or creepy when walking through them, but when taking pictures with the flash, items in the foreground would be too-brightly lit, and things in the background were too dark to show up at all.  With the flash off, the colors and formations were more visible but it was harder to get clear photos in the low light.  These are the best we got.

The stairs that take you down into the caverns.  The white sign with the black cross marks the point where the original discoverers of the caverns first entered them, through a sinkhole.

The first formation you see, at the bottom of the stairs.


Stalactites and stalagmites... or as Bug later said, "That cave had TEETH!"

Daddy pointing something out to Monkey.

One of my favorite parts of the caverns - this is Dream Lake.  It is perfectly still and presents a beautiful mirror reflection of the ceiling.

Bug got tired of walking about halfway through the tour and wanted me to carry him.  He was feeling a bit camera shy too.

Looking down onto a lower section of the path from a higher section of the path.  Kind of gives you a bit of an idea of the scale of the place.

Saracen's tent


Double Column in the Giant's Hall - 47 feet tall.  If I remember right, this is where the tour guide said we were at the deepest point in the caverns - 164 feet underground.


Even though this pic is pretty blurry, you can get a sense of the size of the space by noticing the little people at the bottom of the image.  They actually hold weddings in there!

Fried eggs formation. 

Wishing Well.  They clean it out every so often and donate the money to charity.  The board on the wall details how much was given in various years, and to which organizations.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Pinterest-Inspired Post

So, I haven't posted here in ages because I've been fairly consumed by the preparation for, and the taking of, our trip to the Outer Banks.  It was my kids' first time seeing the ocean, and it was amazing.  I will be making a series of posts about that in the days ahead.  But first, during the preparation stage, I wanted to share a few Pinterest-inspired ideas that helped make the trip easier and more fun.  (If you are not already on Pinterest, you should go sign up now.  All that stuff you've been hearing about it is not just hype - it will seriously change your life.  Go now, I'll wait.)

Okay, first is this excellent universal packing list.  It was very useful and it did actually help me remember several things that I would have otherwise forgotten.

Next is this "Are we there yet?" progress bar.  The original idea called for some string or a ribbon strung across the inside of the car and used a clothespin, but I used an adhesive road tape similar to this one instead, with a car that I cut out with my Cricut machine and laminated, then stuck it on the road with a rolled up piece of packing tape on the back.  I moved the car along the road as we traveled, so the boys could see how far we'd gone and how far we had to go.  I used it on the way back home too.  It definitely helped put the distance in perspective for them.

Another Pinterest idea I used was to make these super simple tray tables for the kids out of $5 cookie sheets from Walmart and some velcro (illustrated instructions can be found here).  The boys really dug them, but I must offer a disclaimer:  when they get tired of them and take them off and drop them onto the floor, they make such a loud bang that you will think another car has crashed into yours and you will have a mini heart attack.  Every. Single. Time.  But they were perfect for eating, coloring, magnet play, etc.

Finally, I used this idea to make little goody bags to pass out every so often as we traveled.  I filled them with simple things like a hot wheels car, a magic ink coloring pad, a prism, etc.  The original pin said,  "To keep the kids happy in the car, create mystery bags to be given to them about each hour or two. They get a map with each city marked, and they have to follow the route and ask for the bag when we get to that city. Bags are filled with snacks and small toys and games."  I didn't do the map part, I just gave them one whenever they were getting cranky or overly wound up; I would just announce, "Guess what time it is?!" and they would gleefully reply, "Time to choose another bag! Yaay!" and peace would be restored. 

And since I am sharing Pinterest ideas, here is a BONUS tutorial I'd like to share on how to make the perfect wedding gift for your bestie.  I was so thrilled with how these turned out...

Step 1.  Stalk your friend's Pinterest boards looking for ideas.
Step 2.  Find this pin on etching glass to add personalization.
Step 3.  Pore over friend's wedding registry looking for glass items; choose pretty champagne glasses.
Step 4.  Quick trip to Joann and Hobby Lobby to get supplies.
Step 5.  Use Cricut machine to cut out designs on adhesive vinyl and adhere to glass.  (Borrow perfect font cartridge from your fabulous sister-in-law if necessary.)

Step 6.  Paint on the etching cream and cross fingers.
Step 7.  Wait 20 minutes; rinse off cream and remove vinyl; wash well.
Step 8.  Enjoy the awesomeness!  Can you tell I'm quite pleased with myself?

And BONUS #2, did you know that you could make something so pretty out of toilet paper rolls?!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hubbard Valley Park - Seville, OH 8-26-12

 Over the weekend, we went on a nice family hike at Hubbard Valley Park in Seville, Ohio.  This was our first visit to this park, and what brought us there was a special program the Medina County Park System has, called the "Natural History Mystery Quest."  It's similar to geocaching only instead of coordinates, there are simple rhyming clues that you can print out online and you follow them until you find a hidden cache box.  Inside are small trinkets left behind by previous hikers, a log book to document who was there, and stickers to add to your quest form to prove you completed the quest.  There are six quests at different parks, and if you complete them all, you turn in the sheet and receive a small reward (not sure what).  We've done two so far (we did another one with friends awhile back), and I'm planning for us to do the other four, in addition to the Summit County Metro Parks' Fall Hiking Spree, which consists of eight hikes.  So we've got a lot of walkin' ahead of us this fall!

I really liked this park.  It had a nice playground, a fishing area, lovely views along the top of the dam, and lots of shady forest areas too.  Definitely worth a return trip sometime.

So, here are the quest clues:

Take the path that heads south; my directions, please trust.
Pass two little houses. Stop if you must.
On the path, up a hill. Read the sign. Learn a lot.
Years ago, lots of rain. Damage. Floods. We must stop!

Now here in the valley where Hubbard Creek flows
A flood control structure protects cities below.
The lake that was formed is a good fishin’ hole.
Bring a pole but no license? To the pokey you’ll go.

Stay the course on the dam. You’ll get quite a view,
Of the lake and the spillway, Buffalo Creek Retreat, too.
Take a look at that bridge, an unusual spot.
Rescued from Sandusky, so scrap it was not.

Now here’s where our trail takes a turn to the right.
Wind your way to the ridge top. Get a view from this height.
Cross small streams, dry in summer. In spring, they will flow. 
Carving channels, cutting down to the valley below.
At the top of the hill, a trail marker you’ll pass.
Destination ahead. Now don’t go too fast.
The path curves to the left. Find the key landmark.
Two trees close together with deeply grooved bark.

Up ahead just a bit, fallen trees you will see.
Look around by the small one. Then shout with glee.
But a warning my friends, if you pass the bench by.
Turn around. You’re too far. And again you must try.

This clue might be helpful, the cache site you’ll find.
Seventy-five paces from the trail marker behind.
Now with quest in hand, stay on the loop trail.
Back to the beginning, you’ll walk without fail.

Bug riding on Daddy's shoulders as we trekked across the top of the dam.

The cool old bridge rescued from Sandusky, Ohio and brought here, that was mentioned in the clues.

The view looking across the lake from the top of the dam.  This pic doesn't really do it justice though.

We succeeded in finding the cache box after walking a little ways through the woods, but I forgot to take a picture of it.  After that, we continued on through the woods and made a few other interesting discoveries:

Interesting tree we saw with a hole in it.

Most romantic tree EVER!!!

Monkey tried climbing this slightly sideways tree.

After our hike, the boys played baseball in the field near the parking lot, while I surreptitiously watched the professional photo shoot of a cute baby (perhaps her 1-year shots?).  She is the white dot in the background to the right of my husband.  You can't see much but I bet those pics turned out amazing!

Me & Bug

My guys

Family self-portrait!