Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Deciphering Poetry - 2nd grade style!

The Sugar-Plum Tree

Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
'T is a marvel of great renown!
It blooms on the shore of the Lollipop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town;
The fruit that it bears is so wondrously sweet
(As those who have tasted it say)
That good little children have only to eat
Of that fruit to be happy next day.
When you 've got to the tree, you would have a hard time
To capture the fruit which I sing;
The tree is so tall that no person could climb
To the boughs where the sugar-plums swing!
But up in that tree sits a chocolate cat,
And a gingerbread dog prowls below---
And this is the way you contrive to get at
Those sugar-plums tempting you so:
You say but the word to that gingerbread dog
And he barks with such terrible zest
That the chocolate cat is at once all agog,
As her swelling proportions attest.
And the chocolate cat goes cavorting around
From this leafy limb unto that,
And the sugar-plums tumble, of course, to the ground---
Hurrah for that chocolate cat!
There are marshmallows, gumdrops, and peppermint canes,
With stripings of scarlet or gold,
And you carry away of the treasure that rains
As much as your apron can hold!
So come, little child, cuddle closer to me
In your dainty white nightcap and gown,
And I 'll rock you away to that Sugar-Plum Tree
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Time 4 Learning

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. This online curriculum can be useful for those wanting homeschool materials or for those seeking help with topics such as homeschool record keeping. Find out how to write your own review!

Stay tuned!

Favorite Stories to Listen To

The girls absolutely love "Patch the Pirate" and listen to the stories over and over again! They sing the songs, and have most of the lines memorized. I like the stories because each CD emphasizes a different character trait, and uses a fun story to reinforce the lesson!

The newest Patch CD is "Kingdom Chronicles" which the girls received for Christmas. My favorites have always been the older ones, and I haven't been real thrilled with a few of the newer ones, but I have to say that this one really caught and held my interest, and is very enjoyable. One thing about the CD's is that even though they are geared towards a juvenile audience, there are enough subtle jokes and puns in there for the adults to catch and get a good chuckle from too!

The newest Patch the Pirate CD story

"Kingdom Chronicles" tells the adventure of a young knight growing up and learning how to handle responsibility, while trusting the Lord. It's a great story, and we were all hanging on the edge of our seats in the car while listening to it, waiting to see what would happen next.
Each of the CD's is about an hour long, so they are great for longer road trips in the car too.
The Misterslippi River Race is my all-time favorite Patch the Pirate adventure!

We are learning from experience that the Patch the Pirate adventures also make great story lines for group plays and dramas. For several years now, the girls have been involved in a group that puts on a play every spring, and they have been able to be in several plays now. Last year, the play was based on the "Villain of Venice" and all the girls were involved, either with a speaking part or with singing in the choir. The great thing about doing one of these stories as a play, is that the cast can listen to their lines over and over again, just by listening to the CD! This makes it very easy to memorize the lines, as well as getting down the right emotion, voice inflection, accent, and emphasis when saying lines.
Melissa playing the part of "Sissy Seagull"

I'm very thankful that there are such talented people out there making merchandise available that is not only entertaining but also has great value as character training for my children!
I am not affiliated with Majesty Music or Patch the Pirate in any way - just a mom that enjoys their material and wants to pass the word on to others who are looking for enriching multimedia entertainment for their families.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Time is it in __________?

Since two very special people are currently absent from the family, on a missions trip to the other side of the world, the remaining children and I have been talking a lot about time zones, travel, and exactly how it is that daylight makes it's way all over the world!

It's so interesting to note that it is already tomorrow on the other side of the world!

My world travelers completely skipped a day last week, because of traveling east to west and crossing the International Date Line. When they departed the US it was Monday, and when they arrived in Australia, it was Wednesday!

Coming home will be even more interesting because they depart Australia early Saturday morning, and arrive home on Saturday evening here in New York, after traveling for over 30 hours!!!  That will be the longest day they will ever experience....literally!

My husband and oldest daughter are experiencing life in the "bush" of Papua, New Guinea, and from the pictures they are sending back, it looks as though they are enjoying every bit of it.

I wanted to post and share a really neat website we found, World Time Zone and have been using, to instantly know what time it is where they are, without having to do mental math calculations!

This website works with all time zones, anywhere in the world! You just click on the area you are studying or wondering about, and a current time will be shown. This would be great for any types of studies or discussions about faraway places, or when praying for missionaries. Also, there are options on the site to show the time in 12 hour or 24 hour format, which is very helpful.

Some other unique things we found on the site were a call planner (so you won't be calling your long distance international friends in the middle of the night!), a sun clock, and lists of cities along with Daylight Savings Time information. (Not everyone follows it!)

Current location (Papua, New Guinea) that we have been keeping a close eye on!

Next time your lessons involve a far away place, take a moment to click this link. I hope your children are as fascinated as mine were about discovering what time it is all over the world!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

How To Have Fun on a Backyard Ice Rink

For the past few years, we discussed making a backyard ice rink. We typically have a couple months of pretty cold weather, and there are a lot of backyard rinks around our part of the country! The girls love ice skating and hockey, and they came up with all kinds of good reasons why Dad should consider building one.

After looking into costs and types of rinks, we settled on building a wooden frame and lining it with a plastic liner. Dad estimated the cost of materials at around $300 and we had a garage sale to raise the funds.

So....Just to clarify - this will NOT be a post on how to build a rink. Why?  Because between last winter and this winter, we have just about made every mistake in the book, and we are still very much "ice rink rookies".  If you google, you will find a LOT of great websites, most of them way up in Canada somewhere, that will give you step by step directions for building a rink, or even sell you a kit to do so easily!

Instead, this is a post talking about the memories that we have built so far with our backyard rink.

Last winter we had the mildest winter that our area has seen in many, many years. We had little snow, and less "freezing" days.  Well, in order to have fun on a backyard rink, you HAVE to have freezing temps! Otherwise, you  might as well turn it into a little backyard pond where you could sail remote control boats!  So we definitely did not get as much use last year as we could have....but we are hoping and praying this winter will be more ice-rink friendly.

But even without an abundance of skating days, we have been able to use our rink to build some family memories, first by raising the money together.

Next, there is the "rink building day".

Laying out the framework.
Screwing the boards together.
Thanking the Lord for power tools!

Then there is the night maintenance crew! There's nothing like hauling buckets of hot water on a freezing night to build family ties!





Finally, there are some good results and rewards for your labors!!!

I can share some mistakes we have made and a few lessons learned along the way, just in case it helps!  First big mistake was having too much water in the liner before the temperatures dropped. We got the rink and liner set up but then received a lot of rain. Since that was our first attempt, we didn't know to pump some of the water out, and we ended up with too much water, which had a hard time freezing all the way through, and delayed our skating opportunities until the ice was finally thick enough.
Another lesson learned.....don't step out on the ice to test the thickness! Yes, this is one of our favorite stories - and it involved some very cold feet on the way to church!
Hot water spread in thin layers gives the best and smoothest skating surface.
Don't use a sprinkler, even though a few sites tell you to spread the water this way. It gives a very pitted and uneven surface, especially if the temps are really cold.
Don't leave a hose running across the surface of the ice! The running water melts a big hole in the ice, and the hose also can melt a rut big enough to sink into....and then freeze!
Great Stuff makes a great filler if you get a tear in your lining!
Keep snow shoveled off the surface but be careful walking out on the lining. If you can avoid walking on it, and can shovel (or carefully pull the snow off with a snow rake) from the edges, than you should just do all your snow removal from the edges.
Ice skating at night in your own backyard is VERY cool!  If you live in a climate that is conducive to building a backyard ice rink, I hope one day that you will make the attempt to do so. Our family has had some great fun together because of our rink, and we are looking forward to many other fond memories in days to come!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Tornado In My Kitchen!

No....I'm not talking about the kitchen remodel that we are currently working on! (pictures to come eventually....)

Recently we made a tornado in a bottle for the kids to enjoy. We used the tornado tube and two empty, clear 2 liter pop bottles.


Two of the girls have studied weather quite in-depth and were pretty fascinated by the tornado in the bottle. We discussed the kinetic motion of the water and the water spout.

Very simple supplies!

Attaching the bottles together with the Tornado tube

By asking some leading questions, the girls were able to come up with some great facts! They realized that without the water spout, the water really was unable to move from one bottle to another. We filled one of the bottles about 2/3 full of water, and then just turned the bottles over. The water barely dripped from the top to the bottom bottle. The girls noticed that by squeezing the bottle, they were able to get a little more water dripping action, along with a lot of air bubbles flowing upwards! They were able to figure out that the air was being displaced from one spot to another, and that the amount of air pressure in the bottom bottle was too strong to allow the water to flow quickly.

But what a difference when the bottles were twirled a few times in a wide circular motion, creating a waterspout!

The water moved SO quickly from the top bottle to the bottom! One really neat thing that we learned is that the middle of the spout is completely hollow! Once the girls heard that, they were quickly able to realize that the air moved UP the middle of the spout from the bottom bottle into the top, and pushed down on the top of the water, helping to force it down even quicker. They were pretty fascinated by the whole process, and wanted to keep repeating it.
Once they grew tired of watching the tornadoes, we decided to add some blue food coloring to the water to make "pretty" tornadoes!

With our busy days and all the girls at varying science levels, it was nice to be able to grab a quick project that we all could enjoy and understand, and then do it together. It was cool to watch and take pictures of too!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013



As a continuation of my last post about setting goals, I would like to further expand on some of my thoughts of goal setting for my own personal life.  I am a very goal-oriented person. I like to make lists and check them off, seeing my accomplishments in a tangible way.

For a person like me, setting goals for the new year can be a daunting task because I tend to set too many and then get frustrated with myself for not keeping them. This year I really thought long and hard about what my goals should be.

One thing I knew for sure - that I really need to try to tame my chaotic life in some small ways. I thrive on being busy but sometimes it really gets out of hand. Since I am constantly instructing the children to do their tasks well, but also trying to teach them to be balanced, I decided it was high time I started to heed my own advice and try to achieve some balance in my own life.

From that thought came some lists, of course, in my brain, of exactly what my priorities should be. How can I balance them if they are scattered all over the place in my poor, tired brain?

So my list of priorities is something like this:

I'm a child of God.
I'm a wife.
I'm a mother.
I'm a daughter.
I'm a friend.
I'm a youth pastor's wife.
I'm a Sunday School teacher.
I'm a neighbor.

Alongside these, of course, I'm also a citizen and a church member.

One thought I had, while looking at my list of priorities, is that when opportunities arise, I must weigh them against the list of priorities in my life. If they don't fit into my list, then it is time to make a decision between what's good, and what's better, for me. Perhaps I might have an opportunity to volunteer somewhere. It might be a good thing - but if it cannot mesh with the above listed priorities, then I can only say yes if it does not take away from or affect those other areas. If I can volunteer alongside my family members or youth group members, combining a good deed with people who are on my priority list, then that would be an effective way to connect and spend time with the people God has entrusted to my care! So that would be a much better choice!

It may sound very simple, or maybe not. But breaking it down into a very black and white decision helps me to know what would be best, and when it's ok to say no.

Some goals I have set to achieve balance in the areas above are:

  • Make my daily devotions, Bible reading, and prayer a priority to do first thing in the morning, before I check email or get into my day.
  • Try to anticipate the needs my husband might have, so I can be proactive in helping him, rather than playing "catch up" and neglecting him. I need to try to stay at least a step or two ahead of him!  Also, to make sure that if there is anything I can do to make his life easier, that it is getting done. This covers the areas like clean laundry in the dresser, ironed shirts hanging and ready to go at a moment's notice, lunches packed the night before so that if he has to leave early he's not starving all day, and reviving some of those "lovey" things we did when first married, such as little notes or gifts 'just because'.
  • I would like to spend time with each of my children individually, and also be invested in getting to really know them well - what makes them tick, what are their hopes and dreams, and how their walk with the Lord is doing. We have already discussed their goals for the year, and now that I know those, I would like to do whatever I can to help them reach those goals.
  • As an adult daughter, I would like to really let my mom know how much she is loved, not just as a grandparent but still as a mom too! I would like to be a loving support and encouragement to my husband's parents as well.
  • I have set a goal to reach out to others and be a good friend. As a homeschooler, sometimes life can be an island where you deal with your own family all day long, and never look past your four walls. I don't want that to be the case in my life. I am trying to take opportunities as they arise, to be an encourager to others.
  • Although this crosses over the goal of helping my husband, as a youth pastor's wife, I want those teens to know that they are 'ours' not just 'his'. I want to be an integral part of his ministry, and as he shares his vision with me, I hope to be the one to put "feet" to it and help make his dreams and visions a reality for the ministry that God has given to us.
  • My goal for my Sunday School class is to have them really fall in love with the Lord, and get to know Him in a more personal way. Just about everything I say and do in Sunday School will be pointed in that direction, with that goal in mind.
  • As a neighbor, I want to be a good one - one that points those around me to Jesus Christ. That might mean putting up with something I don't care for, or going the extra mile when I don't feel like it, but I want to do it, knowing that God will bless my efforts and love my neighbors through me. If they will only turn to Him, all efforts will be totally worth it.
I have begun mentally cross-checking the opportunities that have come my way against my list of goals, really examining it and asking if doing activity x,y, or z will help me meet the goals and priorities I have set for myself. Surprisingly, even with the wide range of areas that I have, many opportunties do not fit into any one of the categories. I can "make them fit" but I have really tried so far this year (I know, I know....only one week into it) to allow the principles I have set on this list guide my optional decisions. So far so good. I have found that it relieves most of the stress of 'saying no' if you have already pre-decided what your priorities will be. When something doesn't fit or match, then it's easier to say, "I'm sorry, but I just can't do that."

It's also easier to motivate yourself to do something you really don't want to do, when you see that fulfilling the opportunity will help achieve something right near the top of the goal list!

I hope some of these ideas will be a help and encouragement to someone else. It has taken awhile for me to learn some of these lessons, enough to practice them. Hopefully if I am able to establish some good habits in making decisions concerning my schedule, it will be easier to look back at the end of the year and feel a real sense of accomplishment in fulfilling the purposes God has given me!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Setting Goals for 2013

This past New Year's Day we had a "family meeting time" where we discussed lessons learned and memories from 2012, as well as some goals and hopes for 2013. I really enjoyed hearing the thoughts of everyone in our family.

I saw this printable on Pinterest that inspired the idea. It's from a blog called Thirty Handmade Days

Each of the children filled one out and wrote down their thoughts, then we shared them together. One of the best parts was that when they shared their favorite memories of 2012, almost all of them had written the exact same things! I guess camp and VBS were pretty special events to everyone!

Lessons learned ranged from the serious: "You reap what you sow" and "Be more patient to work through when things are hard" to the downright funny "Don't keep dropping the remote or it will break!"

In continuing with the thoughts of the last post, each family member also selected a daily Bible reading plan for themselves, and we set out on that journey. The youngest member of the family is going to read through the New Testament for the first time this year, and the rest of us chose one of the "Through the Bible in a year" plans.

I love the feeling of "resetting" that the New Year brings. It fills me with such hope and renewed vigor to tackle the projects in my life, even if they are the same ones that I have been working on for months now.

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;
old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.      2 Corinthians 5:17

This post is linked to a series of homeschool blogs on the topic of setting goals and new year's resolutions for 2013! Click the button to read and share in the creative ideas!

New Year's Resolutions Button