Sunday, June 14, 2015

Just the 3 of Us

The boys are in Memphis for 2 weeks with their grandparents.  Usually in this time, I get to work a lot, and get some good time with ZB (doing activities just geared for her).  She's going to camp at her preschool this coming week, and then a VBS at the church on our block the following week.  Hopefully she'll like both of them, so she'll be staying busy (at least in the mornings)!

A few days ago, we met with some other homeschooling families with young kids to go to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary.  I haven't been there in about 16 years, I can't believe I'd never taken the kids.  What a sweet spot!  The favorite spot of most of the children was this climbing tree:
They climbed for a solid half hour and then wandered down the path to ooh and aah over all the turtles in the lake :)  We have lots of fun activities planned with this sweet group this Summer.  It seems even in break times, we stay awfully busy!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

1 to the 5

Clay turned 15 this week!!  He has been working so much doing yard work, that he is pretty beat on his off-days usually.  He decided to have a low-key birthday and celebrate by bringing a couple friends on a day trip to the Cherokee, NC skate park.  It's one of the best in the area, and it's free!
ZB and one of her friends also joined us for the day (that minivan does come in handy!).  Across the street from the skatepark is a playground.  The little guys were quickly bored by the playground and went exploring.  Hidden by some trees was the gentle Oconaluftee River!
The kids caught minnows and water skeeters and were even visited by a family of ducks including 3 fuzzy ducklings.  How sweet!
We walked back to the skatepark, and had a picnic lunch with the teens.  Once I realized they were not nearly done skating yet, it was time to think of a new activity.  We walked over the footbridge of the river to the "main drag" of Cherokee, and I spied a gem mining tourist trap spot.
They loved it!  Neither had done that before, and it was a fun treasure hunt for them.  They took about 20 minutes to get through their bags of dirt, and then examined their finds!
Each child wanted to pose for a photo with their finds - though it turns out ZB just wanted to pose for a photo.
We went back and played around the skatepark and watched the guys skate a little longer before it was time to head home.
We enjoyed some ice cream at another little tourist shop on our way back through the mountains.  I'm glad the rain held off and gave us a great day to get out and enjoy the mountains for this birthday!

Monday, May 25, 2015

May Out and About

May is a fun month for us.  A lot more time opens up from various homeschool activities ending for the semester, and the weather is so beautiful that new activites are added to the calendar very quickly!

Clay has been doing LOTS of yard work this month to save up for his Summer Camp in Pennsylvania.  He's nearly at the finish line, he's been working for 2 or 3 families every week doing mulching, weeding, building garden boxes, sanding and painting sheds, stuff he's good at and doesn't mind doing.

Most of Reed's classes and homeschool activities are actually lasting through this month, so he'll start Summer in June.  Until then, he's plugging along, mostly loving his Thursday homeschool classes - Art and Creative Writing.  He and I are also busy planning our trip up to New York this August (it will just be him, ZB and myself).  We had hoped to see Fallingwater since he's really interested in architecture, but looks like no little kids allowed.  So, we're still on the search of what to do between NC and Niagara Falls!  (suggestions??)

ZB kicked off the month by attending the Tiny Tykes festival - a fun little festival in downtown just for little kids.  We met some friends there and one of their favorite things was the little train.
Sweet Buddies (and I just love that her 2yo BFF is wearing the dress I made for Blossom at that same age):

Our homeschool co-op ended the Spring semester mid-May, and will continue with field trips through the Summer so everyone can stay connected.  We had great fun visiting the Cradle of Forestry with that group this week.
We got a kid-centered tour of old-time toys and lifestyles from the days when there was a little town in this spot of the forest.  I had no idea that the Pisgah Forest was once all owned by George Vanderbilt (built the Biltmore Estate here in Asheville).  The land was all run down farms and clear-cut, and he wanted to reforest it, so started the first ever (in America) School of Forestry right there.  Pretty neat history! 

After taking the tour, they led our group to the pond where the kids used nets to find out what little creatures lived on the edge of the pond.  They found baby salamanders, dragonfly larvae, giant tadpoles and water beetles.  A favorite tool was these neat viewers that you could look into from the top with a magnifying glass, or from the side and view the underbelly.  ZB and Reed had a great time!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

April Mash Up

Here's a catch up since I've last posted!
ZB's birthday was over her preschool's Spring Break, so they celebrated her "School Birthday" in April.  The teacher told her the story of the Rainbow Bridge, and how she used to be an angel, and how she had decided to come live on earth with her parents and brothers.  To get to earth, she had to cross the Rainbow Bridge.  She got to act out the story by running into my arms at the end!
Then we went outside and shared a treat, while ZB got to hear a snippet of what things she did each year of her life and light a candle for each year (and then blow them all out!).

At our Homeschool Co-op Spring semester,  I was co-teaching a "Book and Cook" class for grade schoolers, and an "Exploring Animals" class for preschoolers.  We had such fun in both classes.  In the animals class, we learned about the different classifications of animals and focused each class theme around them.  On our amphibian day, we took a trip to a local pond to catch tadpoles.
 We even got a surprise by finding a baby snapping turtle!!

Our co-op has started doing field trips, and one was to the Nature Center.  The older kids went off exploring on their own.  ZB liked to take her time and thoroughly explore each part!  Can't blame her - it's a great place, they even have a farm animal petting zoo.

Friday, April 3, 2015

4 Year Old Birthday!

This was the first year that ZB has been very aware of her birthday, we had so much fun!  We decorated after she went to bed.  The 4 year old woke up with balloons, ribbons and streamers hanging in the doorway and balloons all over the living room.

We made delicious coconut flour blueberry pancakes for a special birthday breakfast.  ZB sat in her birthday throne (her chair decorated with construcition paper shapes), ate her pancakes, and then opened her presents.
I bought her a first Disney Princess doll.  Those of you that know me, know I'm fairly mortified about this.  But dang, the girl really wanted it!  So, I tried to be the good mama and got it for her.
B made her something extra special, but only gave her a part of it.  ZB exclaimed, "I've always wanted this!!  ... What is it?"  We convinced her to bring it outside and we'd try to figure out what it was for.  She guessed for snowboarding.
Didn't work.
Then, she guessed maybe it was something for making her jump higher on the trampoline.
 Didn't work.

With a couple hints, she finally spied the new swingset that B had built in the yard.  "Ah!" she said, it's a bottom swing!"  She loves having her own big girl swing, and uses it every day.

We spend the rest of the morning decorating for the party  Grandma and Uncle David came in from Omaha to help.
The party was so fun!  Lots of friends came.  Reed had a face-painting booth set up.  Here is one of ZB's friends sporting a new kitty face:

I enjoyed seeing the sandbox get put to good use.  It was quite rewarding to see lots of kids using it at the same time and all have space to play!
There was lots of play time in the school bus, around the yard and on the trampoline.
The pinata was a pretty comical affair, since most kids there had not done one before.  There were several kids who insisted on just poking it with a stick on their turn.  After pinata, we did a cake.  ZB wanted a rainbow cake and the Frozen characters.  Since I was not planning to draw Frozen characters on a cake, I broke down and bought more Disney Princess junk toys and stuck them on the cake.  She was a happy camper.
2 or 3 pieces of cake later, ZB got up again to play with friends until it started getting cold and friends went home.  We finished the night with a big family dinner at a local pizza place.  Such a fun day, I felt really blessed have such beautiful weather for her birthday, and get to be with so many lovely friends while we celebrated this awesome girl!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gray Fossil Dig

Just over the Tennessee border, in the town of Gray, is an active fossil dig.  The younger kids and I had a really fun day today accompanying Clay's high school Earth Science group on a field trip to the dig site.

The DOT was actually bulldozing for a new road and starting seeing bones.  They explained this is quite common, and they have paleontologists that routinely come check it out, usually finding bones as old as the Ice Age.  At this site, researchers found bones that were even older, back when this part of the country was very warm (they found an alligator)... so cool!  They have also discovered two new (extinct) species at this dig site - new kinds of red panda and badger.  Also prehistoric bears, tapirs, a mastadon, etc.

We had a great tour guide show us the active dig areas and patiently answer questions from all the kids, including Blossom asking things like, "When will it be Saturday?" and "What will happen if it's night and a girl comes out of a volcano that comes out of a mountain, that comes out of a rock?"  Hahaha!
The guide said she was very impressed with our group.  She said most teens come through and are very disinterested (or at least trying to act like it), and don't pay attention, just goofing off the entire tour.  Our group was asking lots of questions and actually listening (yay homeschoolers!)

The labs are inside the adjoining museum.  Researchers were busy cleaning and examing bones.  It was pretty neat to be able to see this work in person.  To preface this photo, I'll say that whenever Clay saw me snapping a photo, he decided to be totally goofy, so half of the photos I came home with look like this:

The museum was small, but pretty neat.  Some of the kids brought home applications to volunteer as site workers this Summer!

No one in the group had to be home yet, so we decided to spend more time in Tennessee.  We headed to Bays Mountain.  It's only a $4 entry per car, and it was really beautiful!  There was a lot to do there, and we picked the ropes course for this group, and a quick walk to see some of the nature center animals.  We had hoped to visit the planetarium at the end, but the teens found a really great hike, so we followed their lead on that one.

The low ropes course was intended for team building.  The kids had a blast on it!

On the hike, the boys had discovered what looks to be an old dam or bridge maybe.  It is all surrounded by forest now, but apparently used to have a road, as they also found a car at the bottom of it.  The whole structure was semi-dilapidated, which I guess makes it all the more desirable to a teenage boy!
ZB was not allowed to go on top of the structure (lots of holes over a pretty big drop), so she settled with just striking some poses next to it ;)

The group of boys (7 of them, I believe) went off to explore the woods on their own for a while, and ZB found her inner mountain goat and was rock climbing all over the place!  It was really the perfect place for it.
If you ever find yourself near the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee, and have a couple hours to spare, I highly recommend checking out the dig site or Bays Mountain.  I'm sure we'll be back!

Monday, March 30, 2015

ZB 4 Year Old Interview

Here's a little capture of this moment in the sweet life of Blossom!

Birthday photos coming soon...