This year in History we are studying American History from the explorers to the war on 1812.  I love history.  It is my favorite part of home schooling.  And I am so grateful that we live within driving distance of so many great historical sites. 

I really wanted to take the kids to Philadelphia  for a day trip over spring break.    Scott graciously rearranged his work schedule so that he could join us.  (because he is the best ever)…. I love day trips with the family.  It was such a relaxing, low key day.  We left the house a little before 9 am and were home just before 9:30.  We saw all that I wanted us to see and had an enjoyable dinner in historic Philadelphia. IMG_1827

I know I mentioned it this summer, but I gotta say it again.  The Junior Ranger programs that the US National Parks do is just fabulous.  Especially for elementary age kids.  It gives them something to do while waiting in line.  It teaches them a thing or two and keeps them engaged.  I love it.  This year the Historical Parks also added trading cards.   Anytime a kid sees a park ranger they can ask for a trading card.  The rangers will give them a card after answering a trivia question.   They made the questions age appropriate… for my 3 year old they would pretty much accept the answer “Philadelphia” to almost any question.  Smile  The older ones had to work a little harder for it… but what they didn’t know is they were learning more information in the process.  (sneaky rangers)  My kids LOVED this!

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We visited the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the US Mint.  It was really interesting to learn the history of our currency and to watch money being made right before our eyes.  (sadly we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside of the US Mint).  We saw several historical paintings, saw the actual chair George Washington sat in at the Continental Congress and stood in the room where the founding fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  We even ate dinner in the building where our forefathers ate and met years ago.  We learned about Ben Franklin’s printing shop, and watched how the printing press worked.  Then we visited the original Post Office and mailed ourselves an envelope so we could have it hand stamped with Ben Franklin’s post office stamp. IMG_1787

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I was more than a little awestruck by the history.  History makes me so reflective and contemplative.  Would I be able to do what they did?  Would I be able to risk my life, my family’s life and our well being for the good of our country?  After watching a movie at the visitor center we asked the kids which side they think they would have sided with.  My 9 year old very wisely answered, “I really don’t know because I haven’t been through what they had been through.”  If I am honest, I don’t know either, but I do know that I am grateful for the wisdom, bravery, and sacrifices made by our founding fathers. 

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Finishing Strong

April 18, 2014

in gymnastics,sisters

This weekend marked the end of the gymnastics season for my girls.  They both finished the season strong scoring personal bests on more than one event.  After the meet I ran into the grocery store to buy some brownie mix to celebrate and I was literally beaming from ear to ear.  I felt like I wanted to tell everyone I saw about my girls success. 

I restrained myself though.

However, I do want to record my emotions and thoughts on here to look back on later.  Because I don’t want to forget. 

I don’t want to forget the way my 6 year old literally counted down the days to states.  She was so excited.  The morning of states she was up on her own at 6 am bouncing into our room saying, “It’s states!  It’s states!” You would have thought it was Christmas morning.  Every time I looked at her at the meet, she was smiling.  Ear to Ear.  During every warm up, every run down to the vault… she was having the time of her life and I was so grateful.  I am so grateful she has found something she loves so much and she has the opportunity to participate in it.  I love watching her do gymnastics. 

I learned so much about her this year.  This was her first season competing and when the season began I actually wondered if she would enjoy it.  That seems funny to me now, given how much she obviously loves it.  So many things come easy for her, I wondered if she would still enjoy gymnastics when she had to work hard for it.  What I learned about her blew me away.  Beneath her bouncy, smiling personality is an incredibly driven little girl.  She sets goals for herself.  And she’s not afraid to set big goals and work for them.  She’s also not afraid to say those goals out loud.  When you set a big goal and you say it out loud, it means that you leave room for failure.  She is not afraid of failure. Before her first meet she declared she wanted to get an All Around Trophy at States.  That is quite a lofty goal.   She worked hard for that goal.  The first meet came and she didn’t get a single medal.  I wondered how she’d take that.  She took it like a champ.  Her sister walked away with a few medals and she came home with none.  She didn’t whine and cry about it.  Though I did see a few quiet tears welling in her eyes, she told me that her eyes were just watery.  And I let it go, giving her a big hug and telling her how proud of her I was.  As the season progressed, so did she.  She had many successes and medals.  She got better and better.  She still had her eyes on an All Around Trophy though. 

At the trophy meet in March, both girls had HUGE successes.  My 8 year old had the best meet of her life, scoring 4 9’s and several personal bests.  She even placed second in the All Around.  My 6 year old finally got an all around trophy, also placing second All Around.  It was a banner day for them both.   Though she still had yet to place first on anything and still yearned for an All Around trophy at states. 

States came and my 6 year old was a smiling, bouncing bundle of joy.  She started on floor and scored her highest ever score on floor, a 9.425!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  From there she went to vault and did respectably… it wasn’t a personal best, but it was a good score.  Then she went to bar where she did a solid bar routine… not a personal best, but one of her highest scores.  She was putting together a solid meet but had to finished on beam.  Beam is a tough one.  I feel like so much of it is mental as well as physical.  All year long she has sold out on every beam leap and jump resulting in beautiful elements but, with the risk came occasional falls.  I was soooo nervous.  She sold out yet again… and she did beautifully!!  When she finished, I was so proud and so happy.  When awards came, we learned she had earned 1st place on beam!!!  She finally got her first place medal… She got to stand at the top of the podium for the first time at the Maryland state championship!  Tears filled my eyes as I knew how badly she wanted it and how hard she had worked for it.  She ended up with 4th place on floor (with her personal best score), 7th place on bar and 5th place all around with her personal best AA score!!  It was a fabulous end to her first season.  I have little doubt the all-around state trophy goal will live on to drive her next year.

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I was emotionally drained after that meet… only to take a breath and get ready to watch my 8 year old in her meet.  My 8 year old also loves gymnastics.  She is more reserved than her sister… you aren’t going to see her grinning ear to ear.  You have to watch her carefully.  I can tell she’s enjoying it by that twinkle in her eye.  Her smile though not as broad is still there.   She loves the team aspect of the sport, which I was surprised by this year.   She cares very much how her team as a whole does.  She is also an incredibly hard worker.  She doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve.  She has grown tremendously this year.  This season marked her first taste of victory in the sport. This season she scored her first ever 9.  Then she had her first meet with more than one 9.  Followed by one meet where she scored a 9 in every event.  She had her first time on the medal stand, multiple times.  She came home with an all around trophy three times this year.  She enjoyed that greatly, but one thing I learned about her as I watched her these past two years is that she loves gymnastics for gymnastics sake.  Win or lose.  Medal or not… she just loves doing it.  I honestly feel she had just as much fun this year when she came home with medals and trophies as she did last year, when she didn’t always come home with one.   She is a crazy hard worker. And I truthfully think she is stronger than me both physically and mentally.  She can compartmentalize in a way that amazes me for an 8 year old.  At states she started on bars and it wasn’t an awesome start.  She messed up and scored lower than what she has been getting recently.  (One cool thing about this is that her current low is so much higher than her personal bests of last year).  After a disappointing start she went on to beam… Like I said before I feel like beam is such a mental challenge.  She was focused and driven.  She did a beautiful beam routine… she tied her best beam routine of the season and ended up placing 3rd.  I was so happy for her.  She then went to floor and did her second highest floor routine of the season!  She finished strong on vault with her personal best score of a 9.425!! She ended up placing second on vault, 3rd on beam, 5th on floor and 7th all around.  It was  a wonderfully strong finish to a season in which I saw so much growth in her.

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I am proud of my girls win or lose.  Succeed or fail.  Truthfully, sometimes I am more proud of how they handle their failures than I am when they succeed.  You learn a lot about yourself when you don’t get what you want.  And I learned a lot about my girls as I watched them grow  this season.   One of the toughest things for me this season was trying to balance both girls successes and failures on the same day.  I felt like sometimes our celebrations for one girl were slightly muted as we wanted to not rub one’s success in the face of the other.    That was hard to do.  While there were some difficult times and some growing experiences, overall I think they balanced the challenge of competing together on the same level quite well.  Thankfully there was only 1 meet in which they competed actually against each other.  IMG_0683

I am so grateful that the girls have found something they love so much.  It is so fun to watch them practice and compete.  I am grateful they have something they both love and they love doing together.  Every day they are out flipping on the trampoline, twirling on the bar, walking across the living room on their hands or vaulting on the couch…. together…. I am grateful for that.  I am so very proud of how much they grew over the season…. not just in skills but in character.  They are stronger now than they were at the beginning of the season…physically, mentally, and emotionally.   And I have learned so much about each of them just by watching them practice, compete, succeed, and fail.  They are stronger than I ever realized.

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Look at that goofy smile on my face… I was ridiculously giddy.

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Spring weather arrived this weekend.  We literally spent the entire day outside on Sunday (other than the time we were in Sunday School and church).  It was wonderfully refreshing.   A friend from church passed down  a toddler bike with training wheels.  My littlest guy was so excited to ride a big kid bike.  IMG_1292

I was impressed with how quickly he caught on to peddling.  After two trips around the court, he could start himself, steer, and even ring his bell while peddling.

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By the end of the evening, he could ride the whole way to the end of the court by himself with his siblings and we were able to pass his tricycle down to the neighbor girl down the street.  He’s a big kid now with a new set of wheels. IMG_1299

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Every year when the circus comes to Baltimore, they do a special lunch with the elephants at the nearby Lexington Market.    It’s a Baltimore tradition.  And according to what I’ve read, Baltimore is the only city that hosts such an event annually.  When I told the kids this, they said, “Well, at least Baltimore has one good thing about it.”  Hahaha… these kids may have been born and raised in Maryland, but their blood runs black and gold…. 

I have been wanting to go for years, but it hasn’t yet worked out with our schedule.   It’s in the middle of the day in the middle of a work/school week and it isn’t super easy to find out the day and time. 

This year we were able to go.  I was so excited!  I packed us a lunch so we wouldn’t have to spend any money other than parking.  We picked Scott up from work and drove to Baltimore.  We got there in plenty of time to secure a spot and wait for the elephants to march in.  While we waited, we got to be entertained by some Chick-Fil-A cows and some circus clowns.  The three year old particularly enjoyed these acts.

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At noon, the elephants march right down the streets of Baltimore to a parking lot outside Lexington Market where they get to feast on 1100 oranges, 1000 apples, 500 heads of lettuce, 700 bananas, 400 pears and 500 carrots.  After that ginormous buffet, they gave the elephants watermelon.  It was really neat to watch them stomp on the watermelon to break them open and then use their trunks to load them into their mouths.

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IMG_1272They passed out these silly clown noses at the beginning of the show  My 8 year old was the only one to wear hers faithfully the hour before it started, through the show, while we ate our lunch, and in the car on the ride home.   She even put one on her doll on our ride home. 

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Happy Birthday to Wendy!

March 27, 2014

in Wendy

Yesterday the family celebrated our beloved pup’s 1st birthday.  We gave her a giant bone at lunch and after dinner we all enjoyed some Wendy’s Jr Frosties…. seemed fitting.  We even presented her with a new squeak toy.

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I have never been a dog person, though I have appreciated the canine members of our house.  There is something about watching a pup patiently accept the rough love of a toddler that warms a Momma’s heart. 

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Wendy has snuggled her way into my heart in a way I never expected though.  I don’t love her simply b/c she is good to my kids.  Though she is.

I just love her.

She’s become my shadow.  Quite literally.  Where ever I go, she goes.  Down to the basement to switch a load of laundry she’s there…. Back to the kitchen to prep dinner, she’s laying on my feet while I am using the mixer.  Teaching school, she’s snuggled under the table sleeping.  She even scratches at the door to the bathroom if I forget to let her in with me.  She sits beside the tub, every day when I take my shower.  Reading a book on the couch or watching a movie in the basement, she’s by side. And she sleeps on our bed every night.  And while she has developed a few rather annoying habits (like barking every time a noise startles her, viciously attacking the vacuum every time I use it, and peeing whenever Scott greets her when he comes in the door…) even with all of those less admirable qualities… I realize I love her.  I truly love her.  I can’t imagine going through the day without her by my side.    Though it’s safe to say I don’t really like dogs in general, I genuinely adore and love Wendy.  I am grateful to have her as part of our family.

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Happy Birthday Wendy!  Here’s to many more years with you as my shadow.

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This week I took my girls on a field trip with their classmates from our tutorial.  We visited a Science Center run by the local school system.   The kids learned how to observe the world around them and record those observations.  They studied bugs and wild life found in our area as well as learned about camouflage and even played a game to reinforce the concept.

They got to use almost all of their senses.  It was such a nice treat for them to skip book work for a day.

But, truthfully, my most favorite part happened today. 

Today I sent them all outside for recess.    And the girls decided they were going to be scientists.  They backed their bags with clipboards and paper, got some binoculars and hopped on their bikes to observe the world around them. IMG_1051

When they came in for lunch, I asked them what they founds.  “3 birds, a squirrel, and 2 earthworm habitats.”

I loved watching them practice in play what they did on their field trip the other day.  I loved that they found science so entertaining they would choose to spend their playtime engaging in it.  And I love that they are scientists.  Check out what they wrote on the driveway in sidewalk chalk.

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