It has been a busy couple of weeks! We celebrated JR's 4th birthday and took our annual vacation during that time. It all started the night before JR's b-day, when I stayed up quite late assembling Nana and Grandpa's birthday gift of a Black and Decker Workshop and tool table, complete with power tools and birdhouse-building project. When the kids got up in the morning, they were all smiles with the excitement of celebrating a birthday. JR walked in, saw the gift, and with a huge grin on his face, said, "What is it?" So much for that surprise! No fear though, Nana and Grandpa! As you can see in the following pic, it didn't take them both long to figure out it was designed for fun!
That was followed by a field trip with our homeschool group. Since S had to work, and we were leaving that afternoon for our vacation, there was no time for a party. However, it just happened that the field trip was to a do-it-yourself kid's bakery type place, so it worked out perfectly to have a little birthday recognition there.Flattening the pizza dough
Spreading the pizza sauce
Reaping the benefits of a well-earned, handmade, freshly-baked pepperoni pizza
The true fun began when they got to ice their cupcakes!
This pic says it all!
At one point, just as JR had finished icing and sprinkling his cupcakes, the "chef" came over and took one of his cupcakes. She returned with a candle in it and the whole homeschool group sang "Happy Birthday," much to JR's delight! He loved it!
Then came the big trip to the farm. We decided to make a road trip of it, which is what we have done in the past, however, this time, it meant a 25 hour drive ONE-WAY with 3 kids and a 95 pound dog. No doubt we put our little minivan to its first big test! It is so hard to believe that I haven't been in almost a year! We so look forward to our trips there, as it is so peaceful, relaxing, quaint, and generally just feels like we are stepping back in time. Of course, I must mention that "relaxing" is a relative term, as we work harder there than at home, and typically end our vacations more exhausted than we began them! But we enjoy every minute of it. We picked apples from the apple trees, did some real-life based schooling, mowed the extensive acreage, hiked in the woods, played on the tire horse swing, picked more apples, cleaned and washed the front porch, and back deck, scrubbed all the windows inside and out, went grocery shopping for a family gathering, watched some deer and turkey graze in the manger, weeded and mulched the garden, celebrated JR's 4th birthday.....and that was just the first day!
One of the apple trees
My 3 favorite guys!
JR's party at Grandma's
My little farm-girl
This was the first time I had a new appreciation for homeschooling and utilizing real-life experiences. Throughout our time there, we tried to really give the kids some experiences. We went hiking in the woods and looked at different types of trees, berries, and plants (including an emphasis on the overly abundant poison ivy!). We took the kids to visit a friend with cows and chickens where the kids were able to pet the chickens and collect warm, freshly laid eggs that we then took home and cooked up for lunch. It just happened that one of the cows was in labor, so JR got to learn a bit about where calves come from, and he watched our friends as they checked her udder for milk, and educated him on how the calves drink (in case you are wondering, don't worry, we didn't go into too many details! He is only 4!! LOL It was, however, an eye opener for him I think, as, since all 3 of my kids were c-section babies and he has seen pictures, I think he just assumed everything got cut out of the belly!) As the week progressed, we did some gardening, during which time, the kids found and learned about snakes, crickets, snails, spiders, and frogs. As a mom, let me tell you, this will be the part of homeschooling I do NOT enjoy!! With the intention of (hopefully) developing a healthy love for science, I must swallow my EEWWW factor, put on a brave face and actually get close to these things! S even showed the kids how to make homemade applesauce. As if that wasn't enough, we also spent one whole morning at a historic, 1800's era village, where we watched the blacksmiths work with metal, the coopers make buckets and wood products, women cook over an open fire, sew, spin wool, and make lace, and since the setting is as original as possible, the kids got to see first hand how small and simple houses once were, and how modest the dress used to be. They also got to play some games from that era. I learned something too....Did you know that the bright orange color of carrots today is not natural? Even many organic varieties legally use a special dye that is absorbed by the carrots. I am going to have to research that! Oh, I do digress....now, where was I......JR fell in love with the games, a coon-skin hat, and a harmonica. We went ahead and bought a game and a harmonica, but I will have to think about the hat! M was obviously a little to young to appreciate the village much, but it was fun nonetheless.
The results after a day on the farm:
As always, some of my favorite moments of the trip are laboring alongside my wonderful husband, getting to go on rare dates with the man of my dreams (also my husband!), watching the deer and turkey wander around the yard, and sitting on the front porch and just reading a book or doing something quiet as I enjoy the stillness of God's creation. This trip, however, my all time favorite moment occurred after JR had gotten his harmonica from the 1800's village. Being a music lover, he loved this particular toy, and later that afternoon, I glanced out the screen door to see him sitting alone on the front porch, quietly looking out over the front yard and pasture, and playing his harmonica. It was one of those beautiful moments that represents so many of the gifts God has given us (nature, stillness, and music being just a few) and the life he intended for us (humans) before sin came into the picture (hard but enjoyable work, tranquility in nature, the innocence of a child, etc.), and I wish I could experience more of those moments.