wordless wednesday::going places

helmet? check.

school bus? check.

destination? unknown.

this kid is going places.

more wordless wednesday here and here.


BYOP v.6

BYOP (bring your own pumpkin) carving party version 6.0 (a.k.a. 6th annual).

the carving...
 and the finished products...
many thanks to everyone who stopped by to carve or to just say hello!  be sure to plan on next year's event...you know you can't resist the pumpkin fudge!


school days

i suppose the title of this post is a bit misleading.  with the exception of ty, there aren't really any school days for the rest of the kids.  but there are PLENTY of learning days (365 days a year of it, in fact).
we don't really do any "formal" schooling at home, except for those letter of the month activities (which i know has been non-existent for over 6 months...i blame the printer!).  and then there's the whole homeschool or traditional school decision to make for emma since she'll be turning 5 next year.  there are a lot of things to consider, but i will save that for another post.

but we have decided with certainty that we will not be enrolling emma (and most likely the rest of the kiddos) in preschool.  she seems to be thriving with her current learning environment at home, and for us, we feel preschool would not serve any additional educational "advantage" for her.  additionally, our little neck of the woods provides a lot of learning opportunities for the kids from the nature centers, the cleveland metroparks, museums, libraries, the city's learn through play programs, and local events around town (ingenuity fest, sparx city hop, etc.).
but what about the socialization aspect, you may ask.  ummm...have you met emma?  i don't think she is lacking in social skills.  whether it's library programs, the play ground, or a local event there are plenty of opportunities for her to socialize with other kids and make new friends.  and more often than not, she manages to strike up a conversation with somebody.
with that said, i have, however, started to establish a couple of "school-time" hours in the morning 3-4 days a week.  emma often talks about the day she will be "5 years old and then i will get to go to kindergarten."  we have tried to de-emphasize the kindergarten thing since we are undecided about her schooling method, but it seems that there have been a lot of well-meaning adults (and her big brother) who have brought up this idea since she's turned 4 (not to mention some of the books she reads).  so, the "school-time" hours help make school more official for her, and if we do decide to homeschool her then i think it will come in quite handy.
so what does she do during "school-time?"


we make this a top priority and it is part of our daily activity, not just "school-time."  there is not one day where there is no reading involved.  some days we only read 3 or 4 times.  other days we read up to 6 maybe 7 times in a day.  reading is such a great springboard for teaching and learning about pretty much everything.  at this point reading material will range from gibson's-attention-span books, like the big red barn, to more-words-than-pictures books, like the chronicle of narnia series.  i also try to incorporate bible reading time from our family bible.  even gibson will sit through a section of that and is very familiar with the book, differentiating a regular book from the family bible.  i've also started emma on very simple reading exercises using the sight word booklets found here, and i plan on writing out each word of her monthly memory verse on little cards to see if she can put them in order (with a reference of the verse to go off of).

we do a variety of number recognition and counting activities.  baking and putting away clean silverware have been excellent opportunities for this, but in regards to "school-time" i've printed out and laminated number cards for her to put in order and sort the appropriate amount of shells.  she blazed through this activity the first time she did it so i only bring it out once in a while.  i think maybe i'll add on more numbers (maybe 5 at a time?) and see how it goes.
literacy introduction

although reading (not to be limited to books, but can include signs, labels, etc.) is probably the best way to introduce literacy, i have made a word match folder for emma to do during her designated "school-time."  she has really enjoyed this activity, and will often request it even if i had planned on skipping it for the day.  right now i have about 3.5 pages of words, but i'd like to add more once she really masters the current set of words.
then there's writing...i'm not a fan of worksheets, especially at such a young age, but apparently emma is.  i don't know if it makes her feel like her big brother doing "homework," but i'm going with it.  using a workbook i found on super clearance, she has been working on tracing a letter of the alphabet each day we have "school-time."  she has had enough familiarity with the letters that she even wrote a simple birthday message for sam on her own, with mommy spelling out each word of course.  we have 2 more letters left and after that i'll probably throw in some letter-writing practice a couple of days a week.


writing down thoughts and the events of the day has been a big part of my life.  although i don't keep a paper journal anymore, i have found that this blog has served as my own personal journal.  i remember even as young as 2nd grade, keeping a special diary, recording my thoughts and ideas as a way to process the events of the day.  i felt this was something special and important that i'd like to pass on to my own kids, so emma and i created a special journal for her to "record" some of her own ideas.  i picked up a simple composition notebook, which we personalized by decoupaging the cover with some of emma's drawings.  at this point, there is obviously no writing involved, just pictures.  sometimes i suggest a topic for her to draw about, though i leave it up to her to decide whether or not she'll use it (even though the control-freak part of me wants her to use the idea).  i'm sure that in the future there will be a transition point where writing will be involved in the journaling process, but right now my main goal is for her to enjoy the activity and provide her with a tool to express her thoughts, ideas and feelings.
topical study

i just started this and our current topic for the couple of weeks has been about farms and farm life (which intentionally coincided with our bob evans farm festival trip and our apple picking adventure).  activities that will help reinforce the current study will vary but might include "field trips," lapbooks, baking, reading (of course!), scavenger hunts, and various crafts.  topical studies will obviously not be limited to the designated "school-time," but some of the crafts, activities and/or lapbooks will be reserved for that time.  i'm not sure how long i want to stretch topical studies yet, though it will probably be a minimum of 2 weeks.  right now, our topic study has been stretched out a lot longer than i had anticipated since we don't have a working printer at home to complete some of the lessons and activities i had planned.
and perhaps you might be wondering what gibson does during emma's "school-time."  as you can see, he gets a little learning done too.
there are so many resources online and at the library available for teaching your kids about the world around them.  check out the homeschool and learning resources list on this blog, or even some of the bloggers on my blog-o-rama.  i draw a lot of inspiration and ideas from these sites...which makes me super thankful for mamas and educators who have graciously shared their ideas with the word wide web. 

i really like being able participate with my kids in the whole learning process, and i think that as long as it is an enjoyable experience for both parties i don't see any reason to stop doing what we're doing.


an apple adventure

sunshine, fresh picked apples, family and plenty of little voices filling the quiet orchard...

 we had so much fun apple picking.  so much fun in fact that we managed to come home with 25 pounds worth.  that's almost as much as gibson's weight.  the last time we went apple picking was pre-emma and gibson.  in fact, it was pre-married days...almost 10 years ago, when ty was still pretty little.  i can't believe we waited so long to do it again. 

of course we discovered more at the orchard.  there were chickens, which the kids were absolutely enthralled with, and a very regal looking black stallion, who put on a lovely poop show for us (sorry no footage of that...i know you are all pretty bummed out).

 we couldn't resist digging into our giant apple stash on the way home.  the apples were just the way i like them.  crisp, juicy with a nice balance of sweet and tart finish.  sooo tasty.  and what's even more tasty were the apples that made it into our butterscotch apple crisp.

ridiculously good.


remembering you

did you know that october is national pregnancy and infant loss awareness month?  i had no idea.

and today, october 15, has been designated pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

a little over 2 years ago, i remember delivering a meal to a lady who had lost her son.  she was about 4 months pregnant, when she found out he had died in the womb.  then she had to go to the hospital and deliver the baby.  then there was the whole process of explaining the loss to their 2 young children, since the pregnancy was far enough along that it was physically obvious.  and then she showed me these teeny, tiny baby footprints.  and told me about holding her sweet child...holding him for the first time, but not really meeting him.  i can't imagine all the emotions associated with an experience like that.

as i experience another pregnancy, looking forward to the time when we can welcome this sweet baby into the world, it's hard not to forget the fact that there is one sweet baby our family has yet to meet during this life on earth.  though i'm not saddened when i recall the loss, it's hard for me as a mama to forget.  and i don't want to forget.  i want to remember.  not so that i can have my little cry-fest or wallow in self-pity.  but because that baby was just that.  a baby.  despite the fact that he (or she) never made it full-term does not mean that (s)he doesn't count as one of the family.  and most importantly, it serves as a beautiful reminder of God's love, mercy and faithfulness.  constant. never-ending. always good. i don't think i can describe to you how amazing it has been to reflect and see God working through this whole experience.

for me, it's rather ironic that october 15 has been the designated remembrance day.  october 15 was the scheduled due date for our little baby.  but, what we lost in a son/daughter we gained in a nephew, who was born 2 years ago today.  sam is such a physical reminder of our little bean (and that's not a bad thing!), and God's goodness working through our family.

so, to the mamas out there who have had to endure a pregnancy or infant loss, may you find comfort and peace as you remember your sweet baby (or babies) today.

to our sweet little one, i am thankful for the short time we had together.  i am grateful that we have an awesome and loving God that had a plan in place for you and for me long before we ever existed.  and while you may not be here with us you will always be in my heart.

do something: weekend october 15-17

it's officially fall, and there's still plenty going on.  here's just a few highlights...


2nd annual cleveland beer week starts today!  i wish i could partake in the fun, but maybe you can enjoy a cold one on my behalf.  what is it all about? 
A celebration of craft and import beers, CLEVELAND BEER WEEK features plenty of tastings, dinners, activities and more at more than 100 venues throughout Cuyahoga County and beyond.
you can check here to see which fantastic craft beers are being offered around town through out the week.  yum!

and at the beachland tavern, you can hang out and see my man perform on drums with scoliosis jones.  $15 will get you in the door.

our favorite polka dj (and best cleveland dj by the scene) will be at the happy dog tonight from 6-9 p.m. for polka happy hour. there will be lederhosen.


lakewood's annual spooky pooch parade will start at 12:30 p.m. on saturday.  come watch with your pooch or register your pooch for the parade (if you can get him to stay in a costume...i know our dog would probably have a whack attack).

don't forget that fall hay rides through the cleveland metroparks are still going on.  they'll run through october, so if you can't imagine fall without a hay ride then you best get out there!

wolf awareness day will be going on at the zoo saturday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.  i remember when ty used to be really interested in wolves.  but now he's over it.  still, the zoo will be having special activities focusing specifically on this animal.  if you or your kids have a special interest in these creatures make sure to stop by!


wordless wednesday::big muskie

it's not big...it's gigantic!  head over here if you want to know what this enormous thing is all about.
 more wordless wednesday here and here.


bob evans farm festival

if you are an ohioan, you would know that bob evans is a fairly well known chain around here, serving country-style american fare and comfort-type foods.  now, aaron and i are not big supporters of major chain restaurants, preferring local eateries if we do dine out.  in fact, we don't really go to bob evans much...probably only once or twice a year.  BUT bob evans does hold a special place in our hearts, especially when it used to not be so easily accessible for us.

i was first introduced to bob evans when we were still living in seattle.  any time we would take a trip to ohio, eating at a bob evans was a must, and aaron raved about their biscuits and sausage gravy (it is quite tasty).  of course, now that we can go to one at any time, we actually don't go there very often.  isn't that always the case?

so last week i mentioned that we got invited to check out bob evans' annual farm festival down at the bob evans farm.  not only would it be a fun learning opportunity for the kids, but the possibility of having full access to their biscuits and sausage gravy sealed the deal.
we packed everyone (sans dog) into the car and began the 4-hour-drive-that-turned-into-5 last friday.  i will say that the drive with 3 kids in the car (one being a teenager) can get a little hairy, but we all survived.  on a side note, we made a lunch stop at a wendy's on the way down (it was either that or a mcdonalds...lots of options when you're in the middle of nowhere) and got the "you must not be from around here" look.  especially aaron...the gal at the wendy's counter could not pry her eyes away from his tattoos.  too bad i wasn't able to capture that look.  ha, ha!  we definitely stuck out like a sore thumb!

we spent the last half of friday and the first half of saturday checking out the farm activities.  it was surprisingly hot for this time of year, but i'll take that over cold and rainy any day.  the property is huge, and the event attracted a lot of people.  

we saw mr. hank (who had the most awesome mustache ever) shear a very squirmy sheep.  trying to shear all that fleece in one piece was no easy task.

He has been doing this since the first farm festival 40 years ago.
serious mustache awesomeness.
emma had the opportunity to milk a cow during the cow milking demonstration by laurel valley creamery.  i highly encourage you to take some time to go through their site and watch this video...great information!  i think aaron would have liked to milk the cow too, but he lovingly sacrificed the chance for his daugther (how sweet). 

"pull and twist"
gibson was extremely fascinated with the horses and couldn't get enough of them.  we walked through the rio valley stables (he really liked being picked up and getting close to the horses), and had to stop and watch when the drill team put on their show.

when we arrived saturday morning, we were greeted with some lively music accompanying a bunch of square dancing tractors.  yes.  square dancing tractors, performed by the delaware county tractor square dancers.  it was a sight to see.

we stopped by the soap making station, smelling and touching the lye soap samples and observing some of the tools and ingredients used to make it.


we were originally supposed to participate in a soap making demonstration, but maybe the demonstrator was on a lunch break?  so instead of making soap, emma got to try her hand at washing clothes the old-fashioned way.  it seemed like a long process just to get clothes clean and it made me VERY thankful for my washer and dryer!

crank it
there were plenty of other highlights during our time at the farm festival, but i will let the pictures tell you the rest of our adventure (and for the complete photo experience make sure to go here).

an exciting discovery by your 216 coffee snobs: superb coffee by this ohio micro-roaster!
super biscuit cutter at the homestead museum...how do i get one of these?
sausage making contraptions
family covered-wagon ride...an emma favorite.
simple entertainment (and physics).  take THAT nintendo DSi!
mr. beanie boy: "are you one of those bloggers?" me: "umm...yes." 
mr. bb: "i've heard of loggers, but i've never heard of bloggers." ha.

despite the drive, a rather nasty melt down saturday by our drama queen, and the occasional nagging from a certain teenage boy it was quite an enjoyable time.  this was our first real road-trip with the whole family in quite a long time (the last time was the drive from seattle to cleveland when we only had ty).  i think the whole experience will surely make for some wonderful (and amusing) family memories.

**a HUGE thank you to blake at brunner and bob evans for inviting us to the event and for coordinating the food, lodging and activities for the weekend!  we had so much fun!  and you don't have to wait until next year to visit the farm...they're open year round.  take a little road trip, eat some biscuits and sausage gravy and enjoy some time down on the farm.**
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