Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Wrap Up

I can't believe it's the end of summer already!! How did that happen? In our house, we're gearing up for the beginning of Kindergarten! I'm a little terrified, but I think it will be good. 

Yesterday I received an email from Malachi's teacher to set up our "Kindergarten Interview".  Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from this year.... being homeschooled from 1st-12th grade doesn't give you a whole lot of practical experience for the public school system. To say I'm a little skeptical is a bit of an understatement. I think there are a lot of awesome teachers out there, but they can only do so much with a broken system. I'm willing to give it a try though, so hopefully it is a good experience.

We also went shopping for school supplies with grandma and make a trip down to the outlet stores for new school clothes - of course mommy and grandma got a few things also. =)

I've also been trying to figure out how to streamline our mornings. I'm not a morning person, so anything to help me out is great. I took this idea from Pinterest @TheGunnySack for organizing clothes for the week. I went to Target yesterday and purchased a six-cubbie haning shelf organizer. Malachi thinks its cool (??) and so hopefully that will get us going. This way he can get himself dressed in the mornings and I know he's actually match.

We've been trying to fit in all the stuff that I didn't get to earlier in the summer.... like swimming lessons! Last year I only got Malachi in for a week of lessons at the YMCA. This year I didn't think I was going to get him in at all, but then I got told about a local place that was a good price AND they had one last session for the summer. Hooray! Only 3 kids in his class and he's doing really well this year having gotten over his fear of putting his face in the water last year. 

We happened to see Zachary's physical therapist at the swimming place. It was exciting to show her how well his walking now!! Last time we saw her he had only taken a few steps between us. Hooray for finally walking!!

We're going to try to "quit sugar" in our house. I was offered this book to review by the publisher and didn't plan AT ALL to want to do it.

But after reading it I've discovered that I already agreed with a lot of what the author had to say, but had no idea how to go about implementing it. Sooo... I'm actually really interested in trying it. She has a 8-week sugar detox program, so we're ALL going to try it. Convincing my husband with the sweet-tooth ("does this mean you're not going to make cookies anymore?) took some doing... but he's on-board too. We'll see how it goes......

Lastly... found this precious picture today of Malachi holding his new baby brother in the hospital.... awwwww......

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Little House on the Prairie

Malachi and I are enjoying reading the Little House Books. We've finished Little House in the Big Woods and we just started Little House on the Prairie this afternoon. I loved these books as a kid and I'm hoping Malachi enjoys them as well..

One thing that he's been really intrigued by is that these books are about REAL people. So today as we were reading about the Ingalls family leaving their house in the Big Woods and driving across Lake Pepin on the ice, I remembered I had saved a Pinterest pin about a virtual field trip tour of the Little House sites. It is a little hard for a 5-year-old in our culture to picture what it was like to live in a little cabin the the woods.... or what it was like traveling in a covered wagon for that matter. This site had some great pictures of the actual site where Laura and her family lived in Wisconsin. Even I enjoyed the pictures! I don't think I quite realized how large Lake Pepin is and I cannot imagine crossing it on ice! Yikes!

This is also a great site to find information and pictures about Laura and the places she lived -

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: Captured By Love by Jody Hedlund

Book Details:
Title: Captured by Love
Author Jody Hedlund
2014, Bethany House
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
Michigan Territory, 1814
A voyageur and a young woman swept up in a time of upheaval and danger discover firsthand the high price of freedom.
The British Army has taken control of Michilimackinac Island and its fort, forcing the Americans to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a fur trader who returns after being away from the island for years, only to find the family farm a shambles and those he cares about starving and at the mercy of British invaders.

Torn between the adventurous life of fur trading and guilt over neglecting his defenseless mother, Pierre is drawn deeper into the fight against the British--and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a childhood friend who's grown into a beautiful woman. She now finds herself trapped by the circumstances of war and poverty, and the cruelty of her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley.

As tensions mount and the violence rages on, Pierre and Angelique must decide where their loyalties rest and how much they'll risk for love.

My Review:
I love, love, love Jody Hedlund's books. My favorite part of her novels is that she takes a period of time and delves into the historical facts and integrates them beautifully into her books. This book was no exception to that. 

The author really brings to life what it was like for not only the soldiers on the island of Michilimackinac Island, but also the islanders who called it home. During much of the time of this book, the whole island is starving for food with the soldiers taking more than their share. You also get a look at what island life was like during the early 1800's and soldiering - on both sides. Another thing I learned a lot about was the voyager- or fur traders during this time. The alliances they made with the Native American's or didn't and what that meant for their business.

Of course, then there was the story part of this novel. This book was told from the POV of Angelique MacKenzie, an orphaned girl who is being raised by her rather mean step-father and Pierre Durant, an islander who left his mother and brother behind to become a fur trader. He is working as a spy for the American side.

When Pierre comes back to the island he finds his mother blind and his brother gone - kicked off the island because he wouldn't renounce his American citizenship. Angelique is the one taking care of his mother - when she gets the chance. Pierre and Angelique are drawn together despite all the turmoil going on on the island. 

I mostly liked this story. It was well-written and interesting, but I had a bit of a problem with Angelique. She had been in love with Pierre her whole life, but when he left, she betrothed herself to his brother. When Pierre returns, so do all her feelings, but I have serious issue with the way she went about the whole love triangle business. I don't understand how she could be so caught up in herself that she would disregard another's feelings. I don't want to give too much away, but I felt that it was out of character for her. She turned a bit flaky and stupid in my opinion as the book went on. 

Overall a good book with a lot of history. I was a little disappointed in the story for the reason I mentioned, but if you like historical novels, this is probably a good bet.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Junior Ranger Programs

Something we discovered part way into our week at Yellowstone is the Junior Ranger program. I thought this was just a Yellowstone thing, but apparently it's a National Park thing. 

According to the National Park Foundation: 
Inviting the youngest park visitors to become a member of the National Park Service family, the Junior Ranger program gives kids and families the opportunity to uniquely explore and learn about their national parks, and how they can help protect them today and into the future.
There are currently over 200 Junior Ranger Programs in the National Park Service. In each of these parks, kids interview Rangers, complete games, and answer questions about the park and the National Park Service. At the end of their experience in the park, they are sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a special certificate and official Junior Ranger badge.
I would highly recommend this to anyone with kids 4-12! Malachi loved becoming a Junior Ranger. The booklet was $3 at Yellowstone and totally worth it!

First - go to any visitor center and pick up you Junior Ranger workbook. One of the REAL Park Rangers with go over the process with you and your child along with the rules of the park.

Second - Figure out how many activities your child has to complete in the workbook for their age level. Malachi was in the youngest age category, so he had to complete 6 pages. We actually ended up completing 8 and we might work on a few more - or maybe we'll just pick up a new one next time! 

Third - Attend a Ranger-led program. This was the hardest part for us. We kept planning on attending a certain program and then something would prevent us from getting there on time (brother with a blow-out diaper, cool animals on the side of the road, traffic, etc) We finally ended up hearing a talk on Grizzly Bears and their Habitat by Ranger Rick (not the raccoon =) at the Junior Ranger Station on our last day. We made a special trip into the park just to attend!!!

Fourth - Walk a trail or boardwalk

Fifth - Find the visitor center again and have a Park Ranger look over your booklet. After that they have your child hold up their right hand and "swear them in". Then they receive a patch!

They also have a bunco of Junior Ranger accessories you can buy, a vest, hat, binoculars, etc. Lots of it actually. Malachi ended up going home with a stainless steel collapsible cup, a whistle and some binos (just like Daddy's). I am seriously considering a vest, just so I have a place to keep the patches!

Craters of the Moon also had a Junior Ranger program. It was much simpler and the booklet was free because it's a smaller park, but we had a lot of fun with it. They actually become "Lunar Park Ranger's". Same process applied: walk a trail, do some activities from the workbook, attend a program and get sworn in. Malachi chose to wear an astronaut helmet for his swearing in and it was a little big!

All that to say - check out the Junior Ranger programs at the National Parks that you visit in the future. I heard several people say that they have a bunch of adults who ask to do the programs, just because they are informative! The Park Ranger who did our Ranger-led program at Craters of the Moon told me she always picks up a workbook and does it when she goes to a new park - and she's already a Ranger!

Go here to find a list of National Parks with Junior Ranger Programs and have fun exploring!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Camping @ Yellowstone

We just got back from a wonderful family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. I was a little nervous about how Zachary was going to do traveling, but he did great! Malachi has always been a trooper when it comes to vacationing, so I was pretty sure he'd be fine. 

We saw and did a lot of things while we were there for 5 days, so I'll probably break this up into a few different posts. I just don't have time to sit and write a super long post at once with two busy boys around.

I thought today I'd talk about where we stayed. I would totally recommend camping while visiting Yellowstone. It probably would have been easier to stay in the cute little town of West Yellowstone in a motel, but we all really enjoyed camping and enjoying the outdoors all week. 

We drove the 12 hour trip to Yellowstone from our home the first day. We left our house at about 3am and managed to arrive at our campground around 4 or 4:3pm I think. 

We stayed at a campground about 10 miles outside of the park. It was about half the price of staying inside the park for the week and much less crowded. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to go fishing on the lake by the campground and to be able to drive through town each day for gas and whatever other supplies we needed. Gas and supplies in West Yellowstone were expensive, but not as much as actually IN Yellowstone.

Since Zach is still not quite walking regularly on his own, we put down a tarp next to the tent for him to play with his cars and trucks. We brought some games to play with Malachi and fishing poles. They played a lot with their Hot Wheels vehicles in the dirt.

I don't have a picture of it set up here, but we have a Zodi Instant Hot Shower with it's own shower tent, so we all had showers a couple times (heaven!). We also have a screen tent to keep the bugs off (a MUST! there were horrible mosquitos everywhere the first day!) The only thing I think I would like to get for future trips is a better cooler. I think the one we have has gone on a few too many hunting trips where it's gotten rough treatment and it didn't keep things as cold as I would have liked.

We got up early two mornings and got into the park right as the sun was coming up. Awesome!

On our way home we went a different direction and stayed for one night at a campground in the Sawtooth National Forest. Another beautiful view.

Unfortunately I gave bad directions when we left the second campground and we got going to wrong directions THROUGH the Sawtooth National Forest and then down the Pondorosa Pine Scenic Byway - beautiful - but not exactly on our original plans.... a several hundred miles out of our way. Oh well... we got to see some lovely scenery!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pike Place Market

This past week some of my husband's out of town family came for a family reunion. I missed a couple days of it due to work and a child with heat exhaustion (it's been in the 90's here! For DAYS! Crazy), but I did make it for the last couple. The last full day they were here, we took them to Pike Place Market. It's one of the touristy location everyone who visits Seattle should see.

Malachi had a great time. My husband had a cousin with a couple kids Malachi's age, so they became fast friends! His cousin's who live here are all teenagers, so it was fun for him to have buddies his own age for once!

We also visited the Gum Wall near Pike Place. This was a new experience for me - honestly I didn't even know it existed. Apparently people go there just to stick their chewed gum on the alley walls... GROSS!

That red piece in the middle is Malachi's. Ewwww.....

The boys were troopers - they weren"t grumpy and listened really well. It was extremely packed at he market and I was terrified of losing one of them, but everything was fine.

Now I am in frantic planning mode for our camping trip coming up next week to Yellowstone! I am working almost everyday up until the day before we leave, so I'm getting a little panicked! Should be fun though. =)

Book Review: Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

Book Details
Title: Full Steam Ahead
Author: Karen Witemeyer
2014, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764209673
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary
When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead? 

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.
Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.
After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.
Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

My Review
This book was interesting in the fact that it talked a lot about Steamships. It really went into the dangers of the boats and how so many people were killed because of the unstable nature of the boilers.
This book was told from the POV of Nicole Renard and Darius Thornton. Nicole ends up running for her life (and her family's lives) to a tucked away estate in Texas. She means to just take a job for a short time to hide from those following her, but she gets engrossed in the work of the eccentric owner who works himself to the bone trying to find a way to make steamships more safe.
As I said, the book is interesting. I like the  characters alright except I felt they were not completely realistic. Nicole was a little too independent and I was pretty sure a single, rich girl would not be traipsing about the country by herself and have it not be super noticeable, but the rest of the story was interesting, so I decided to ignore that part of the story I didn't like. 
If you like stories that are very historically correct then this one is probably not for you. If you like a good story set in a different time and don't really care how accurate it is, then you'll probably like this one!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.