Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, You Two!

Well, the big birthday party of 2015 is in the books!

This year, for the first time ever, I decided to combine Ty’s and Lucy’s birthday parties.  Since their actual birthdays are only two months apart, we split the difference and hosted a birthday bash right smack in the middle of the two dates.

Upon first mentioning the idea of a combo party, I received a little resistance from the monkeys, but I reassured them that they would each be able to have their own cakes and eat them too, so to speak.  Once the monkeys finally agreed to the plan (as if they had a choice) I had the challenge of intermingling two totally different party themes:  Star War and Minnie Mouse.

For the most part, I kept the two themes separate.  We had a Minnie area, and we had a Star Wars area.  For the buffet I created an arrangement and a menu that reflected both themes.

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At 11 years old, Ty has nearly outgrown extravagantly themed birthday parties.   Still I had to do a little decorating for my birthday boy.  I jazzed up the Star Wars table with touches of black and gold.  For the table centerpiece I filled a vase with gold star balloons and black crepe paper.  I also hung black and gold crepe paper from the ceiling.  Then I set out this bowl of “Chewie’s Wookie Cookies” for the boys to carry home as favors.  Out by the pool I had a basket full of pool noodle light sabers for the boys to battle with.

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Since I was pretty busy with all the party planning, I had to keep the cakes fairly simple.  Ty requested a vanilla cake with two light sabers crossing on top.

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On the Minnie Mouse side of the house I got a little more fancy with the decorating.  Lucy and I created this name garland to hang across the mirror, then we placed the party favors and utensils on the buffet underneath.

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Inspired by the Minnie’s Bowtique cartoons, I created ribbon ponytail holders for Lucy and her friends.

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Lucy helped me out in the kitchen making and bagging these sweet Mice Krispie Treats.

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On the other end of the buffet we set out the Mouseketools for cake and ice cream.

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Lucy’s cake was red velvet.  The mouse figures on top were purchased at Dollar Tree.  Minnie’s outfit was initially pink, but I gave her a makeover with some red spray paint.

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After swimming for a while and dining on some yummy hot dogs and hamburgers, the monkeys eagerly opened their birthday presents.  Lucy received lots of Minnie toys, a bracelet making kit, camping gear for her American Girl, art supplies, some cute clothes, and this sweet handmade card from her friend.

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The one thing Lucy requested for her birthday was an aquarium.  Of all things!  An aquarium!

She was thrilled when she opened her last gift to find this neat little tank with a colorful Betta fish.

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Ty told everyone who asked him that he wanted Legos for his birthday.  Well, he got what he asked for – lots and lots of Legos.  I was dumb enough to think that all those Legos would keep him busy for at least a week or two.  Ha!  More like a day or two!

He assembled all the kits before the weekend was over.

As you can see he was particularly excited about these Minecraft Legos.

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One last picture for you today.  Little sis enjoyed the birthday party too.  Tacy had a blast batting around balloons, blowing bubbles, and helping Lucy open presents.  I think her favorite thing of all, though, was this chocolate ice cream.  As usual, Tacy insisted on feeding herself, and she didn’t get one drop on her dress.  Although, she had quite the chocolate mustache by the time she was finished.

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Whew!  It was a fun party, but I’m glad it’s behind me.  I think I am officially through with all my summer duties:

  • Plan next school year – Check!
  • Chaperone children’s church camp – Check!
  • Vacation Bible School – Check!
  • Birthday parties – Check!
  • Relax the rest of the summer – Working on it!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Shoo Fly

Ahhh, summer!

It’s the closest I get to “time off.”

I am often asked if we take a summer break from homeschooling.  Yes, we take a break, but the reason may not be what you think.

Our summer break is more for my own sanity than for the kid’s pleasure.  I do believe I’d go crazy if we did school twelve months a year.   My brain desperately needs the time to recuperate, recharge, and relax.  Taking a summer vacation also gives me the chance to tackle various projects around the house like:  cleaning out closets, organizing clutter, purging the ever-increasing mountain of toys, making jelly, completing craft projects, sewing for the girls, and planning birthday parties.

I also have the tough job of keeping the monkeys occupied throughout the summer.  While I could think of hundreds of household chores to keep them busy, the monkeys are none too thrilled with the thought of doing housework all summer.  I can’t say that I blame them, but I do make them do their fair share.  A few chores that the monkeys help with include: laundry, pet care, mopping, wiping down bathrooms, watering plants, and dusting.  Their leisure time is spent sleeping late, swimming, playing Wii, riding four-wheelers, digging in a dirt pile, building with Legos, and aggravating each other.

Occasionally I try to sneak in a little education during the summer.  A while back I told y’all that I am trying to incorporate nature study into our academic work.  (See this post.)  While I am not planning any formal nature studies for the kids this summer, I would like to send them out to observe and explore creation from time to time.  And I’ve noticed that sometimes, if you keep your eyes and ears open, opportunities for nature studies knock on your door.


A few weeks ago there was a very strange looking critter clinging to the back door of our house.  I’d never seen an insect with such a long, slender tail.  It was the perfect specimen for a nature study!

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Being insect ignorant, I had to use Google to help me identify this creature as a mayfly.  Once I had a name for this bug, I did a little reading online, so I would have some information to share with the monkeys.  I even found a couple of short, informative videos about mayflies for the monkeys to watch.

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The monkeys thought the mayfly was a neat looking critter.  They eagerly got out their nature journals and started sketching with their watercolor pencils.  What was particularly cool is that this mayfly molted on our door leaving an empty exoskeleton for the monkeys to examine.

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Lucy especially loves nature journaling.  She never tires of adding pictures to her notebook, sketching everything from sunsets to pinecones.  I’m very encouraged by her enthusiasm for nature study.

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During our brief study we all learned that mayflies are pretty amazing critters.  A few interesting facts:

  • Mayflies live the majority of their lives (up to 3 years)underwater as nymphs (immature insects).
  • Once the mayfly develops into an adult, it leaves the water for the land.
  • Enormous swarms of mayflies emerging from the waters of the Mississippi River have actually been detected by weather radar.  Wow, that’s a lot of bugs!
  • The adult mayfly typically lives only 1-2 days.  There are some species of adult mayflies that live only live 5 minutes!
  • Adult mayflies exist only to reproduce, hence they do not have functioning mouths.

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I tell you, the more we do nature studies, the more I like them!  The monkeys definitely enjoy them too.  It almost makes me want to get started on our new school year, so we can dive deeper into outdoor learning.


For now I think I’ll be content to enjoy the rest of my summer.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Not-So-Little Boy

I can’t believe I let Ty’s birthday sneak by without mentioning it here on the blog.  Yes, Ty celebrated his 11th birthday a couple of weeks ago. 

That’s just a little too close to the teenage years if you ask me!

You may remember that I have a tradition of taking the monkeys’ pictures at their exact time of their birth each year.  This year Ty had his two best friends over for some birthday fun, so I had them all get together for the annual picture. 

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Ty has know these two his whole life.  They are a great bunch of kids, and they all get along so well.  I am thankful God has provided Ty with Christian friends to grow up with.

Now for a picture of just Ty.  He’s such a handsome guy, on the inside and out!  (If you’d like to see birthday pics from years past you can check those out here.)

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You won’t meet another boy with a heart as tender as Ty’s.  Sure he’s not perfect, just ask his sister.  He could worry the horns off a billy goat, as my grandmother used to say.  But Ty is the most kind, honest, polite, considerate little boy I’ve ever met.  And most importantly he loves the Lord!  God has been working on Ty’s heart a lot this past year.  It’s been a difficult journey at some points, but it’s been a joy to watch Ty mature spiritually.  I’m excited to see how God will continue to grow and use Ty for His purposes.

What about Ty’s birthday party?

Well, some time last winter, the Tool Man and I decided it might be easier nice to combine Ty’s and Lucy’s birthday parties.  So this year, half way between the two birthdays, we will be throwing a Star Wars/Minnie Mouse party for both monkeys.

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The big party is only one week away, so we will be super busy cleaning, crafting, and cooking over the next several days.  I am beginning to question whether a combined party was actually the easiest route.  It’s kind of tricky melding two separate themes into one congruous celebration, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.  Stay tuned for lots of party pics!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Walk on the Wild Side

Sometimes I get tired of being the bad guy around here.  And by “bad guy” I mean the person who is always making the monkeys be quiet, do their school work, mind their manners, and tidy their rooms.  Let’s face it, when it’s time to have fun, I’m usually not the person the kids come running to.  That’s ok.  I understand that “having fun” is not necessarily at the top of my job description.

But once in a while I enjoy surprising the monkeys with a little pleasure, like treating them to a trip to our local zoo.  Boy were they excited to go!

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Truth be told, our local zoo is not the greatest zoo ever.  The landscaping needed some tlc.  Several cages were vacant.  Quite a few exhibits were closed.  But a subpar zoo is better than no zoo at all, right?

Of all the animals we saw on our zoo excursion, I have to say that birds were my favorite, particularly the bald eagles and this guy.  Have you ever seen such beauty in all your life!  His tail was magnificent, and he knew it.  I guess there is some truth to the old adage, “Proud as a peacock.”  I’ve been wanting a peacock of my own for quite some time, and seeing this gorgeous guy reminded me why.

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Lucy, who is quite used to being around poultry, was eager to get to know this gaggle.

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A landscaper working nearby warned Lucy that the geese may turn on her and try to attack, but these geese were quite docile compared to the ones in our own backyard.  Our birds honk and hiss and chase when the kids get near them.

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As usual, Tacy was so well behaved.  She was content to ride quietly in her stroller as we made our way around the facilities, silently observing the animals at each exhibit.

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I think Tacy enjoyed our field trip, but she never expressed much interest in anything.  She’d watch the animals through the fences with about as much expression as one who was watching a can of beans.

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The exhibit that got the kids most excited was the reptile house.  Lucy squealed like a pig upon seeing the first snake up close.  Ty had a blast trying to locate the snakes and lizards in their tanks.  Some of those critters were great hiders, unlike the two beasts below.

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There were quite a few tortoises who lived at the zoo, and the kids liked watching them creep around on their toes.  Lucy quickly spotted a baby tortoise, and before I knew it, she had her arm shoved through the fence, up to her armpit, petting its back.  I am happy to report that Lucy returned home with all 10 fingers. 

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A portion of the zoo was dedicated to animals of the Louisiana Purchase.  Here the kids discovered a teepee replica.  (Or is it a wigwam?? I never know the difference.)  Ty quickly hopped in for a photo op, but Lucy was little wary.

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What zoo trip would be complete without a couple of hungry, hungry hippos?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that if the hippos decided to charge that a measly fence and shrubbery could hold them back.

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I’m so glad I decided to treat my monkeys to a day of leisure!   We all enjoyed our “free” day, as the kids like to call it.  I think it would benefit us all if I incorporated a few more of these “free” days into our schedule.  The monkeys have already decided where they would like to visit next… the safari park.  Lucy is dying to get up close and personal with a zebra.