Tuesday, May 8, 2018

San Antonio Botanical Garden

It was beautiful!! 

The kids said it was just like a zoo but for flowers instead of animals. 

The Botanical Garden was a treat that I may not have decided to go to on my own. Alisa wanted to take the kids; it's a school field trip and a good excuse to get together; winners all around.

Now that I'm looking at the pictures I took, I didn't get many of the flowers and plants. 

We were there 3 hours and didn't make it to everything before they closed. We missed the rose garden. They were working on the Japanese garden, so there will be even more to see when that's finished. We did get to do the new Family Adventure area. It has a water feature and a growing hedge maze (too short to get lost in right now) and sand pits and lots of fun activities. 

Jonathan, Phoebe, Harrison, Wyatt, and William hula-hooping.

Jonathan and Wyatt playing chess while William watches. 
I believe Wyatt won.

They built a hill specifically for rolling down!  

These were cute little play cottages. 

Some of the crew were probably a little too short to enter. Others of the crew (ahem: Liz) were perfectly suited for entering. 
(She loves it when we make short jokes about her.)

There were beautiful greenhouses or conservatories, each with a different climate and plant-life family. 

The Piney Woods area was probably mine and my kids' favorite. It reminded them of Florida. 

There were also these tiny example houses, each with a different front yard landscaping. It would be a great way to figure out what style you would like and what plants would work here in Texas. 

A fun time ~ highly recommended! 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Our Cajun Friends Visit Us in Texas

Teressa and I grew up together in Louisiana the 6 years I lived there. She was my best friend. We didn't get to spend as much time together once my family moved to Washington, but we wrote many letters and talked on the phone when we'd save enough money for a long-distance call and saw each other about once a year when my family would go back to Louisiana for a visit. 

We grew up. She had a girl and a year or so later, I had a baby girl, therefore our girls are friends by best-friend-moms fiat -- a.k.a. they spend time together because Teressa and I spend time together. It's fun to watch their relationship develop over these years we've lived in the south and have been able to go to Louisiana so often.

Well this time they came to see us! 

We'd been trying to work out a way for the girls to go to a concert. Teressa found a group that the girls knew and would be close by (in Austin). Teressa and Jayda both have beautiful voices and love music and singing. Elizabeth is much more into music than I've ever been; I mostly listen to whatever other people put on or suggest to me and do not have a hankering for going to concerts. However, for the girls' sake (they couldn't go by themselves) and to spend time with my friend, I would attend a concert.

Since they've never been to San Antonio, we took them to the River Walk and to see the Alamo. We went to Oak Hills Church Sunday morning (Max Lucado preached ~ yay! I was hoping they'd get to hear him). 

After church and lunch, we went to the Pearl. Teressa was in love! She loves the antique industrial look, and Hotel Emma, which was renovated from the Pearl Brewery, is full of that love. 

We went to the Cow Lick ice cream parlor to try out new ice cream flavors. Teressa's pick was the favorite: Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey. 

The top-off of the weekend was Echosmith in concert. 

So I've been to several free-will offering Christian concerts (Carmen, anyone?). I saw a band (cannot remember which!) play after the San Antonio Rodeo one year. But I can't say I've been to a concert such as the one we attended last night. Teressa and Jayda have never been to any kind of concert and Elizabeth has seen one band in concert after the SA Rodeo. This was new for all of us.

We arrived at Emo's in Austin to stand in line. We made three trips back to the van as they kept finding things in our possession that were not allowed in (finger nail file, water, camera, knife). It was very dark inside. Standing only. There were these sort of side box benches that the not-wanting-to-stand-for-4-hours could sit on. That's where T and I planted ourselves. 

When they say the concert starts at 7, they don't actually mean it starts at 7. They mean the doors open at 7. And someone will finally sing in 45 minutes. And that someone is not the person you came to see. That person is an opener. I did not know this opener. She shall rename nameless because the drummer was the best part of her act and I think a better band should snatch him up. These poor girls who think they need to be something that they aren't in order to "make it." She actually sang well accidentally at one point. She has a good voice. She was altering it to make a certain sound that was..... more entertaining? I'm not sure. I wasn't entertained.

Once the opener is done, you must wait for that band to take down their equipment and the next band to set up their equipment. In this case, it also was not Echosmith. It was another opener. This was a guy band and they were actually really good. Just about all the songs of the night were bubble gum songs. There wasn't a lot of substance to any of them, but they were catchy and fun. Speaking of bubble gum, a lot of the people on stage were chewing gum. Can you sing while chewing gum? Does it help you stay hyped up? Are you nervous? 

So this band was The Score. Very talented. The lead had some trouble with language when he spoke, but his singing was very good. I noticed a pattern in the sets of each band. There's the opening song: fun and upbeat. There's the song with a costume change (a jacket comes off as in each of the two openers, or an actual change of clothing for the lead band). There's the slow song that connects with the crowd ("If any of you have ever felt lonely.... This song is for you....." Actual spoken words from last night). And there's the song that involves the crowd ("We're going to have a little friendly competition! You all on the right are going to shout out the words ___......!"). Finally, there's the real exciting finisher song that gets everyone wound up and involves direction to put your arms in the air, etc. Since it was so loud I couldn't really understand the lyrics of anyone, I had a lot of time to observe and think about these things.

Echosmith was a lot of fun. The girls really enjoyed it. I knew one of their songs ("I wish that I could be like the cool kids...."). I looked up lyrics to several others while they sang. They are a family band from California: a sister and two brothers; their dad manages them. Someone said they were homeschooled. (Those weird homeschoolers.) It was pretty late by the time it was all over, but it was fun. Liz wants to go to more concerts.

Teressa and Jayda left earlier today. It was a joy to have them here. Teressa always keeps us when we go to Louisiana to see my family, so I was so happy to be able to have her over to our place. So thankful for her friendship!

Friday, April 27, 2018

My Birthday

So these might be weird pictures to describe a birthday, but it's what I got. 

Elizabeth bought an ice cream cake (my request), and Harrison picked out flowers for me.

My older brother says turning 39 is easier the second or third time you do it. I really don't mind. I'd rather be mature than a bumbling 20-year-old idiot. Not that you have to be an idiot at 20. Seems to me like the chances are just higher.

But would I rather be a mature, non-bumbling 20 year-old? Now there's a question to ponder. I've been reading a book about philosophy by Josef Pieper. Maybe he can help me in my pondering.

Phillip took me to visit a little antique/book store near Cibolo and then we went out for BBQ at Harmon's: Pulled pork, cream corn and coleslaw. I get a piece of bread, put onion and pickles and pork on it, slather it with bbq sauce and fold it over for a half sandwich.  Harmon's is good food in a neat little downtown area of an old town that's growing. They haven't modernized the downtown area ~ new stores are moving in, but they're keeping the old buildings. We love the ambience. 

And I had to get pictures of my boys reading on my birthday. Jonathan is reading for school. Harrison actually read through his Pathways First Reader that he just finished. He took a year to finish reading it for school (we did short sections at a time and started it last year in 1st grade). But once he was done, he wanted to read through the thing on his own. He did it in an evening and the next day. He was very proud of himself for reading it on my birthday. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Phoebe is 12!

Phoebe wanted to go to a spa with her mom for her birthday. I was down with that! We got our nails done and got a facial at Terra Spa. The ladies there did a great job. We had good conversation and great service. 

Liz made her pound cake. Phoebe's really into plain pound cake right now. She likes to toast it. 

Speaking of birthdays ~  Elizabeth has had Cream and Sugar Bakery for two years now! Congratulations, Liz! 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Egg Hunt in the Neighborhood

Harrison asked me last week, "Mom, am I going to get to do an Easter egg hunt?" 

I admit to having shrunk my "holiday kid celebration" activities since the older kids have gotten older and I've relaxed my own expectations. So I hadn't planned anything for Easter. But since Harrison brought it up, I bought some eggs and prizes when I went grocery shopping. Phoebe filled up the eggs. Jonathan was our egg-hider.

Since there are almost always a few neighborhood kids out on Saturday, they participated in the egg hunt too. And since we had to do something while we waited for the eggs to be hidden, I told the kids the Easter story.

We looked at the pictures in the illustrated Bibles that we own, and I told the story from the pictures.  I don't know that these kids have had much exposure to Bible stories. But their reaction was stunning. Not because they had an emotional reaction to the story that Jesus loves them and would suffer for them. More because their reaction was very human. Very I Corinthians 1:23 "We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." 

We went through the story and I answered lots of questions as we went. It wasn't familiar to them. When we got toward the end, one five year old quipped as he looked at pictures, "Why is this book so violent?" A seven year old said, "I don't think I believe this."

A stumbling block to Jews 

And foolishness to Gentiles.

They are young, so I'm not thinking that these questions and statements mean they reject Christ. It's just so human to have those first reactions, especially if you haven't grown up used to Bible stories. It was eye-opening to me to hear new, innocent reactions to the Easter story.  

The Bible is violent! Christ's death was violent. We should think of our sins every time we encounter that violence. Our sins are that ugly and dehumanizing and gory. 

"I don't think I believe this." That came after telling about the Resurrection. How true! How unbelievable! That someone would come back to life after being dead for three days?! That's what makes it so powerful. God can do that. God raised Him from the dead. And we have to take a step of faith to believe it. 

I told her that I hope she will believe it one day and trust in Jesus to save her from her sins. It was maybe a little deep for a 12 minute moment while we're waiting to search for eggs, but I do pray for these little neighbor friends that they will put faith in Jesus. 

I recommend all of these illustrated children's Bibles. 

I love the soft illustrations of the red one. The Bible stories are short and perfect for a younger child. 

Egermeier's Bible Story Book (1969 edition) was a great step up from the red one. It was each kid's Bible reading for school in 1st grade and up (seems like it took a year or two to get through it). 

And The Action Bible is Jonathan's. Harrison has been using it lately while we read the Bible during school morning time. That is the Bible that the five year old was looking at when he said, "Why is this book so violent?" So maybe it was a bit graphic for an introduction to the crucifixion. I didn't think of that because everyone in this family has grown up hearing graphic descriptions of the crucifixion. It's interesting that the Bible story itself isn't graphic. 
"They beat him. They put a crown of thorns on his brow. They crucified him." 
But it doesn't linger on the violence. It's more matter of fact. Perhaps I should take that into account next time.

The Bibles are on the table in our garage for now. I just stepped out to check an edition date and had a good lengthy conversation with the seven year old. She's very smart. She wanted to go back and look at the pictures, and she gave a few declarative statements, telling back the story, "That's where he rose from the tomb!" 

There's always hope in the Easter story.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Flexible School Schedule Goes to Texas Convention... and Other Family Stuff

The Bluebonnets are here! 
They show up after the Texas Mountain Laurel. I feel like it all came a little late this year, but I might be wrong. It was a cold year. 

Phillip has been developing Flexible School Schedule (a homeschool scheduling app), so we headed to a homeschool convention in Ft. Worth to promote it. Phillip's parents were able to stay with the kids while we were gone, so we had a little "vacation" with just the two of us. 

 Five or six hours on the road to drive to Ft. Worth. We found a new podcast called "Presidential" and learned about the first three or four presidents while we pick-upped down I-35 (not a fun drive if you've ever tried it). 

Setting up our booth. 
One or both of us was behind this table for 25 hours over the weekend. We talked to quite a few people and collected email addresses and generally had a good time. This is only the second homeschool convention I've been to; it was fun to be there.

Tapestry of Grace was the booth across the way. They're talking to Andrew Pudewa who is the main man for The Institute for Excellence in Writing. And I met quite a few of the people whose podcasts I listen to: Close Reads from Circe Institute  and BiblioFiles from Center for Lit. And then there were quite a few Charlotte Mason-ers; we had Modern Charlotte Mason behind us. I really enjoy meeting these people who I've seen all over the internet, Facebook and such. 

Phillip attended a few of the workshops and enjoyed them. I visited every booth in the convention hall and bought a couple of items I needed and scoped out several others. And met lots of people! Some of them even recognized my name from the curriculum Simply Charlotte Mason sells. That was pretty fun. 

Anyway, I got sick toward the end and was only too glad that Phillip drove the whole way. We're figuring out advertising for FSS right now. I'm not sure we'll do a ton of convention advertising, but we may visit one per year or something. I feel like that physical connection and presence could be good for an online product. Or maybe I just want a way to go to a homeschool convention each year. :-) 

The Grady's came to visit! 
They were wonderful support people in Florida who would take our kids for the day and babysit them anytime we asked. It was very good to see them. The kids are much bigger than they were when we lived in Florida. 

Phoebe and I at Walmart.

And Phoebe and I in curlers. 
Sunday morning in front of the mirror!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Death Star Piñata ~ Handicraft Project

Homemade piñatas are not one of my better ideas. We made one for Elizabeth's birthday party way back when. It was a good experience, but I decided then that it was too much work and next time I'd just buy one.

Well, fast forward 10 years and I decide to try another one. This time with Harrison for a school handicraft project. I figured he and I could work on it together, and he wanted a Death Star from Star Wars, so it was going to be loads of fun. (See instructions below.)

This sphere took a good six weeks to look like this. 

We used this blogger's "How to Make a Death Star Piñata" as the basis of our plan. And Piñata Boy's description of how to make the hanging hook. 

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men, our problems were many. 

We hung the balloon in the garage to keep the paper mâché mess to a minimum. The neighbor kids got in on the action this way (which did not keep the mess to a minimum, but it was fun to watch them mess with goop). Harrison did not appreciate goop and did as little as possible with the paper mâché. 

But since it was out near the elements and we had warm days and cold nights, the balloon would expand and contract. This messed with the newspaper covering and broke it in several places and gave us an oblong shape instead of the nice round shape of a Death Star.

I decided to bring it in the house and keep it in a bucket like the blogger lady showed, and it ended up bending into the rim of the bucket on one side and so had a hard crater-like dent the next morning. 

After that I put in the nicely made (if I do say so myself) hanging hook before we decided that wasn't the best place to have it, so I took it back out and made a hole elsewhere for the hook. 

There were many repairs to be made with the flour/water/newspaper mixture throughout all this process, but we finally had a finished product. 

Then Harrison painted it. I let him do all of that himself over many days. He and I had also picked up from Walmart all the candy and toys to put inside.

And then big brother Jon took the lead on a sunny weekend (so that the majority of neighbor kids would be around to share in the spoils) to hang it up (with my exercise band, no less) and direct the kids in whacking it. It kind of happened so fast I didn't get many pictures or lay down rules or make sure the kids had a bandana tied around their eyes. 

But the kids got to have a little "just because" piñata fun.

Harrison's Death Star Piñata 

Strips of Newspaper (1/2 to 3/4 inch strips)
Basting Brush (optional)
Large Punch Balloon (preferably without the little knob at the bottom)
Cardboard, Duct Tape, Exacto Knife
Wire Hanger (and wire cutters or scissors)
Paint and/or Tissue Paper
Toys and Treats to go inside (not chocolate if you are doing the piñata outside on a warm day)
Bandana; Stick or PVC pipe or broom or whatever's handy for hitting with
String, Rope, Raffia or what-have-you to hang the piñata from a tree

1. Make a paste with the flour and water. I didn't do exact proportions for this; I just mixed in enough water till the consistency was like cake batter. Hang the balloon (put newspaper below to catch drips) and put one layer of pasty newspaper strips all over the balloon. Or you can put the balloon in a bucket or bowl and layer the top half. Once that dries, turn it over and layer the bottom half. Then the balloon won't turn into a tear-drop shape (the heaviness of the pasty strips will drag it down if it's hanging from a ceiling).

We sometimes used the pastry brush to brush on the gluey mix, but it was almost easier to dip the strips in the flour glue and then wipe off excess with fingers. 

2. Do several layers waiting for each layer to dry before adding a new one.  I believe we did at least three.

3. Make the Hanging Hook according to this guy. I did the heart-shaped one, only I curved it to follow the curve of the sphere.

4. Determine which part should be the top of the Death Star, make a hole and insert the Hook. Layer up the hole with pasty strips and let dry.

5. Determine where the  Death Star's concave dish will be (Northern Hemisphere), find or make a circle about the size you want, and trace around the circle with a pencil. Use an Exacto Knife to cut out the circle, and save it.

6. Through the dish hole, fill the piñata with goodies (glitter pens, mini figures, notepads, mini flashlights, punch balloons, non-melting pre-wrapped candies, beads, stickers....).

7. Place the saved circle upside down so that it is concave and tape it down (our tape did not stick well, you might want to try duct tape or glue). Then add several layers of pasty newspaper strips all around the Death Star dish to make sure it is good and glued in and is not a weak spot (remember to let it dry between layers ~ see why it takes so long?).

8. Once all the paper mâché-ing is done and dry, you can then decorate it. The blog I read used silver tissue paper to cover the whole thing, then made lines using masking tape, and painted the gaps with silver glitter paint. Harrison used silver spray paint to cover the whole thing. Then he painted lines on with a darker gray paint and paint brush. 

9. With all the hanging we did in the prepping of our piñata, we used a long strip of raffia that I found, the rubber band that came with the balloon, and our exercise band. All of it worked. 

10. Kids should wear a bandana to cover their eyes when swinging at the piñata. An adult could also use a rope to pull the piñata out of reach as the children try to swing at it; makes the fun last a little longer. Younger kids should go before older kids. We had a piece of PVC pipe that we used for swinging. Maybe a short broom handle could work? A stick from your yard?