Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year!

Well it is the end of the year 2013 and if you feel anything like me you are wondering where the heck did the year go!  We had so many changes in the last year: moving, a new job, new house, attempting to make new friends, finding a new homeschool group where we fit in, moving closer to family, losing some great friends, losing our after school activities, and losing homeschooling support groups. Some of these things have been exciting, others a bit more stressful and more changes are still coming our way!  I always try to look at changes as a opportunity to improve, grow and adapt.  I will say this has been especially challenging this year as my move back to the states has proven harder than I ever imagine it would be.  I never thought in a million years I would feel like a stranger in my own country, but I do!

I haven't made a New Years Resolution in many, many, years.  However this year I have decided to really work on getting myself in shape.  My husband and I began Weight Watchers in October and  are slowing losing weight.  We have signed up at the local YMCA and have begun exercising.  Not sure this counts as a New Years Resolution since we started in the last quarter of the year 2013:)

So instead of a New Years Resolution, I have chosen a theme for our upcoming year:  Get Healthy!!   We are eating out less, trying to exercise more and improve our portion size for meals.  It is a work in progress and I am sure we will slip up every once in a while but it is something we are striving for.  I was quite please that both my husband and I lost weight over the Thanksgiving holidays and so far we have managed to maintain (not lose) our current weight over the Christmas holidays.  We are looking at our lifestyle and making every effort to make better healthy choices for ourselves and our children.

But getting healthy doesn't just mean getting our bodies back on track it also means getting our souls/spirits back on track too.  It means finding ways to be less stressed in our new surroundings and feeling more like we belong in our new community.  This is proving to be much more difficult than our weight loss journey.  Without getting into too many details I became discourage with organized religion, this occurred even before we left the states and went to live in the UK.  Since we have returned to the states I haven't been very impressed with the way religion is discussed or even how certain people practice their faith.  It seems to have gotten even more polarizing than ever before.  I just don't feel like I belong in church anymore.  So were does that leave me and my family, well we are struggling...

So over the coming year I will continue to post about our homeschooling adventures, traveling adventures, weight loss journey and even my spiritual journey.  I have a feeling it is going to be quite different from what people expect and I know I will probably lose readers because of it.  But I am for the first time in a very long time willing to row upstream and stand alone in my personal journey.   This is my journey and I will make mistakes along the way and I hold only myself accountable in what decisions I make.  I will no longer be afraid to say something in case it upsets someone.  I don't intend to be confrontational, but I will be honest which might be uncomfortable for me and for you the reader.   It is great if you agree but it is also great if you disagree.  This is what makes the world a more interesting place.  I invite you to share in my journey but if it makes you uncomfortable, I will of course, understand and wish you well.

If you are making some changes in your life for the New Year and have some pointers you would like to share leave a comment.  I have no idea in what direction my life is about to go.  I have jumped into the boat and am hanging on for dear life as I maneuver the white water rapids in the hopes there is something calmer and better down stream:)


Monday, 23 December 2013

Home for the Holidays

I am taking a break from blogging for the next week to spend time with my husband and children and enjoy the holidays.  I am very fortunate that my family is together this holiday season.  There are many service men and women who are not so fortunate to be able to spend time with their families this Christmas.  They are overseas fighting for the safety of Americans or fighting for basic human rights in foreign lands.  Whether you agree or disagree with US policies please say a prayer for these brave men and women and that they will come home safe to their families soon.

I was recently contacted by DropCam who is providing live streaming to military men and women overseas so that they may be a part of their families festivities via video streaming.  Using this service  these men and women will be able to see their children faces while they open Christmas presents or hear the voices of their loved ones.  While they may not be there in person they will be a part of their family holiday celebrations.

Click on the link below and it will take you to some amazing video  links of service men and women.  I dare you not to cry while watching these emotional clips.  While you enjoy your time with your families remember there are so many who are serving that are not able to be home this Christmas.  Hug your families a little closer and  be Thankful for the sacrifices these men and women make for you and your family.


disclaimer:  I did not receive any compensation from the above company.  I simply wish to remember those who serve and those who will not be able to join their families this Christmas.  

Friday, 20 December 2013

Parent and Child special time

My husband and I always try to spend some individual time with the children, it is a great way to connect with them and really hear what they are thinking as there are no distractions from their siblings and no competition to get our attention.  Despite our best efforts to provide this for them every single day our kids still seem compete with each other which I am told is perfectly normal although very frustrating.  Our goal is to make time for these special day at least quarterly although it doesn't happen that often, it is more like twice a year:)  This last time we did this was in May of this year right before we moved back to the states, I took my son to a Diggerland amusement park and my husband took my daughter to a RUSH rock concert, her first one.

This time I spent the day with our daughter while my husband spent the day with our son.

My daughter and I went out to Sunday brunch at a local restaurant where we had time to just talk and connect.  

Next we went to see Hunger games 2, both of us read this book over the Thanksgiving and were looking forward to seeing the movie.  Afterwards we enjoyed comparing the book to the movie and just discussing the book/movie plots.  We are anxiously awaiting the next installment. 

Lastly we went Christmas shopping, here she is deciding on a  gift for her brother which she buys with her own allowance money.  

While my daughter and I were having a great day out, my husband (who still doesn't understand the need to take many, many pictures) spent the day with our son.  They went out to lunch, played glow in the dark miniature golf, went Nascar racing and my husband helped my son shop for a Christmas present for his sister, again spending his own allowance money.

I am told that MarioFan smoked Daddy on the track:) and he can't wait to race against me next time:)
Later that evening we took the kids to see more Christmas lights not far from our house.

We had a great time spending some one on one quality time with the children we always notice how much older and wiser each child is getting after one of these fun days.  I truly hope my children remember these times as much as their father and I will:)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Touring College

Over the Thanksgiving holidays we headed East to visit my parents but first we made a short stop at one of my husband's favorite places, Williamsburg Virginia.  My husband went to college at William and Mary and prior to his professional employment, he even worked at one of the colonial shops for a year.  His first foray into re enactment:)!  Ever since our children were born he has dreamed of them attending his alma mater and on this trip he certainly sparked an interest in Firedrake.

My husband showing the kids the campus and where his dorms used to be.  The campus has grown a lot since he went to college there.

Seeing the important Mr. Wren statue where at one time student would bow or curtsey when entering the school grounds.  

We toured the Wren building which was built in the 1600's and is the oldest college building in the US.

Visiting the chapel inside the Wren building

My husband showed the kids the bridge where he first kissed a girl, alas the kids found out it wasn't me:)  He had some explaining to do with the kids on that memory;) They were quite shocked!

 After visiting the campus we stopped by the admission office to find out the requirements for admissions for homeschoolers.  Firedrake was most impressed with the campus and is already dreaming about attending, making her father's wish come true.  It is never to late to start introducing the idea of college to the children according to my husband.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Artist study Joan Miro

The kids and I completed another artist in the series Meet the Masters.  My daughter has been interested in Surrealism art for a while, every time we enter a museum she seems drawn to this style of art.  Joan Miro is a Spanish artist of the 19th century who mixed abstract and surrealism into his art projects.   We start all our lesson by listening to the unit on the website learning about the artist and examining his style of art.  Then we began the assigned art work, out of all of us, I probably struggled the most with this project because I need everything to be balanced and organized in my art work.  The kids an the other hand loved the freeness of it:)

First the children drew large scribbly lines over a white piece of card stock 

Next they took two different colors of construction paper and drew scribbly lines on the paper

This was the hard part -- we had to look very closely at those squiggly lines and try to find shapes that appealed to us and cut them out.  They could be large or small for some shapes that appealed to us we folded the paper over and cut out several pieces of the same shape.

Next we arranged all the shapes we found onto our white paper securing them on with glue

Next we added eyes, tails, or feet to the colored paper shapes
Finally we  added a little bit of color to our masterpiece
MarioFan's final project

Firedrakes final project

Mine attempt at this style of art.

We did this art project while at my parents house and my Mother loved them so much she kept them and plans to hang them up:)  Kid were so pleased to hear that and can't wait to see where the pictures will be the next time we visit.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas activities and some family traditions

We are getting a real slow start this year for Christmas.  It didn't help that Thanksgiving was so late this year.  I thought I would do a post that combines a few of the Christmas Traditions that we do as a family.

It took me almost half a day to locate my Christmas boxes in the basement (which is a mess since we have move in to our new house)  It didn't help that every time I opened a box I found a broken Christmas ornament:( or a completely unrelated item in the box, I found my husbands fencing shoes and helmet in one christmas box.

My poor beheaded angels were found in a box:(  I made these ornaments nearly 20 years ago and was not too happy to find them broken due to being carelessly thrown in a box with no wrapping paper, by the packers:(. My husband is going to try to glue them back together for me but they will never be the same with all the little chips.

One of my favorite things at Christmas time is going to  local community tree lighting service (we did this while living in the UK as well)  and this year we were able to go with my mother in her town!  The kids got to sing Christmas carols, have hot chocolate and see Santa arrive on a huge fire truck.  

Another of my favorite events is going to see many of the Christmas lights displays.  This one was near my parent's house in PA and it was excellent 1/2 mile walking trail through a park with many interesting light displays.  Most of my pictures didn't turn out but attending Christmas light displays get me into the Christmas spirit:)  There is one being held at the Botanical Gardens where we live and  I plan on going with my family...Another favorite thing is on  Christmas Eve after attending church, we take the car and drive through the neighborhood and see how everyone decorated their houses while playing Christmas music.  Once we get home we have chocolate milk and the kid can open one gift from their grandparents. 
I really missed this while living in the UK, I never found an outdoor light exhibit there and hardly anyone puts up lights outside.  This always made me miss the states, as to me, seeing the sparkly lights and hearing the Christmas music is just part of getting into the spirit of the season:)  

It was fun seeing my kids reaction to this, because is was as if they were seeing this for the first time (it has been five yeas)  As soon as we finished the walk, MarioFan wanted to go thru it again.  

This year only MarioFan wanted to sit on Santa's lap.
 For the past several years my friend and I in the UK would get together and the kids would make Gingerbread houses.  She was so sweet and would make the dough and cut out the shapes and bake them all ahead of time, while I just showed up with the candy:)  She was even kind enough to give me her recipe and pattern so I could continue this back in the states.  But alas...
I have resorted to purchasing a pre made kit, just like I did prior to meeting my wonderful friend...I just wasn't organized this year, but next year, I swear I am going to make one from scratch 

This kit was what Firedrake picked out and it was already assembled

So she only had to add the candy...I gave her the bowl of Halloween candy and let her go at it:)

The finished result -- looking good

MarioFan wanted to try this kit instead of the traditional gingerbread house

He had fun adding the decorations

His finished piece:)
Another family tradition we do for the children is buy a new Christmas ornament that has their name and the year written on it.  When the children were little I would carefully chose the ornament that signified something the kids learned or enjoyed that year.  For example when MarioFan was 2 or 3 he played continuously with a phone so that was the ornament I got him.  Or the year we visited Germany and we bought two nutcracker ornaments. However as the children get older they pick out their own ornaments.  My plan is once the kids move out on their own and on their first christmas in their own home I will wrap up all these ornaments and give the ornaments to them along with a small note as to why I or they picked out these ornaments.  I am hoping it will bring back wonderful memories for them.

This year we went to a Christmas shop in Santa Fe and MarioFan  bought a hot air ballon ornament with the pueblo  houses on it.  While Firedrake found a Dragon ornament and fell in love.  The kids really look forward to this tradition and finding the perfect ornament can sometimes take many trips to different Christmas shops to find the perfect one.

Another tradition that I can't wait to resume with the Children, now that we have stateside, is visiting a live nativity.  I never could find one in the UK, that doesn't mean they don't exist,just not in the area we lived.  There are several in our new area and we just need to find and schedule family trip to see it in the next week or so.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Weekly wrap up and Homeschool Journal

I have been MIA from my blog for about two weeks because I have been so busy.  Have you ever gotten the feeling that you are swimming upstream with your head just barely out of water...well that is me and where I am at this time.  For the first time ever I am suffering from homeschool burn out and the holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving and now Christmas) have completely overwhelmed me this year:(  I still haven't got the Christmas tree up and it will probably not happen until this weekend

We just got back from my parents for a 2 week visit.  My father had surgery and is non weight bearing on his left leg.  Just as we arrived my sister was admitted into the hospital for a week for atypical pneumonia.  My niece has been in her third car accident since obtaining her driving license and needs to be driven to and from work.  So our arrival was much needed as my mother was running around trying to take care of everyone needs in addition to completing her role as President of the local garden club.  While I was there I helped her (a little) make over 15 table flower arrangements for various events.  I swear my Mother has more energy than I do:).   We had a great visit and the kids loved, loved playing with my parents and sister's dogs.   They were super good about walking the dogs and feeding the dogs with out so much as a whimper:).   I feel so bad that we can't own a dog due to my husbands allergies:(, because after this trip I have no doubt they are responsible enough to care for a dog.

We left our reptiles, Isaac and Lizzy, with a local pet store that boards reptiles.  The owner and her mother were so sweet and sent the kids pictures and email updates on the reptiles so the kids could see their pets were doing well.  We will definitely be using her again to petsit the reptiles for our future travels.  We even got some Christmas photos of our pets:)  Is it bad that the reptiles have Christmas photos but I haven't had time to get any of my children.

On the school front we are plugging along quite nicely in all areas.  For Science, we are turning our attention to the layers of the earth and plate tectonics.  For History, we are learning about Jamestown, the first English colony.  For reading my daughter is reading the Hunger games trilogy, she can't wait to see the next movie with me this weekend.  I wish she would read it with me but she no longer likes to be read too as she says it is too distracting :)  We did however, have some great discussions about the book, characters and plot.  My son and I are reading Mr. Poppers Penguin's together.

Onto the family news:  My daughter is now officially taller than me by a 1/4 inch, more if she is wearing shoes.  When it was pointed out to her (not by me I might add) that she is now taller than her mother she was super excited, it appears that she has been waiting for this moment for years :).

My husband and I have finally bitten the bullet and join Weight Watchers online about 3 weeks ago and even lost weight over the Thanksgiving holidays, which I didn't think would be possible.  So far I have lost 10 pounds and hope to continue.  It is fun to do this with my husband as I have absolutely no will power and would have quit after the first day, but he kindly  and gently keeps me in check and I try to do the same for him.  Somehow with our recent road travels we were able to lose weight every week!  My husband wants us to join the YMCA but I honestly don't know how we can fit it in our schedule, but I suppose it must be done to make real changes and progress.

Lastly, my husband was recently promoted at work and he is super excited about the new job and all the responsibilities it entails.  I am very proud of him and the hard work/sacrifices he makes.   The official start date for his new job is still being determined but should begin early next year.  We aren't sure what that entails for us regarding his work travels but we are actually hoping it decreases some.  Right now, in his current position he travels for work every 4-6 weeks for at least a minimum of one week.

I hope this weekend to get caught up on visiting other blogs and writing a few posts of my own and get back on track with posting 3X a week.  Thanks for reading:)!!!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Field trips galore

We have been going on weekly field trips, some I have posted about and others I have not for various reasons.  I thought I would do a recap on some of those places in case it gives you ideas of places to visit while in St Louis:)

We took a tour of a local fire house -- kids have decided they have seen enough fire houses as they are very similar to the ones we saw in the UK:)

We toured the new Civil War Museum in the city.  I learned tons about the role Missouri played in the civil war, things I didn't know but that I will be researching when we get to this point in history with the kids and I am sure we will visit again and I will make sure I do a post on it.

The Magic House is a fun educational center for children.  They have expanded the building since we lived here 5 years ago but the electric ball is still my kids favorite:)

We toured the old Fox theater which is a very impressive theater for the area.  My husband took me to see Phantom of the Opera there many moons ago.  We learned about the history and the architecture of the building. 

We went to the St. Louis Zoo and a truly beautiful fall day
We are enjoying the many field trips we are taking in our area and attempting to meet new friends