Frost.

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It’s close to one year ago we started getting permits for our house, which means spring is approaching. Temperatures are forecasted to 60 this weekend. We are planning on getting our chicken coop ready for new chickens. That doesn’t seem very far off now.

We did not get as much snow as we hoped for. I wanted to spend a day sledding with the boys. When it snowed, it melted off so quickly we never made it. Time marches on.

Now it feels like a 70 degree day when it’s 40 out. I laugh about that phenomenon every spring. Even Mack feels it. He wandered out into the middle of the farm field the other afternoon before we realized he was gone too long.

So, I’m slowly pulling myself out of the winter-cabin nesting into the spring garden feel. Today I’ll enjoy the frost and get ready for our first spring here.

Audiobooks.

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We follow Ambleside Online, which is a literature based curriculum. I read to the boys daily. I’ve found it’s helpful to get audiobooks to help me out at times. My throat can only do so much, and since a few of the books are classic literature, it’s pretty easy to get them from the library. Not only that, audiobooks have helped pass the time in the car, for long rides, but also just to the grocery store. When the kids start getting whiny, I press that play button as a saving grace.

Is it cheating? I don’t think so, in fact I appreciate it as a strong option in my arsenal of “how to keep them busy.” They are used to hearing and learning via being read to. Now I can join in and listen along or they can listen to someone else for a change.

Audiobooks conjure a special feeling for me, like being in the 1940’s and huddling around a radio for a beloved program or perhaps even longer ago, as someone on the prairie listening to stories around the campfire. Readers can add an extra element to the story, like an accent, that definitely enhances the experience. So, we are audiobook readers, too, and proud of it.

Here are some titles we’ve enjoyed in no specific order.

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti, read by Michael Page

Follow a wacky family’s daily adventures through the eyes of their butler who cannot wait for his term to expire. The reader’s voice is humorously uppity.

Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell, read by Tantoo Cardinal

Discover an island through a native girl who when tragedy comes she must brave each day alone. The reader’s Indian accent makes this story almost sound like a biography.

Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House title) by Laura Ingalls Wilder, read by Cherry Jones

Enjoy the not-so-mundane details of daily life in a log cabin like baking, syrup-making, and fetching water. Cherry Jone’s voice feels like she is your grandmother rocking in a chair recounting tales of old.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or any Harry Potter) by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale

Does Harry Potter need an introduction? The reader’s English accent adds life to the setting.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Branford, read by Megan Follows

Similar to the movie, with minor details changed, this story follows mighty brave animals through the Canadian wilderness.

The 39 Clues Series by multiple authors, read by David Pittu

Amy and Dan are good old friends over here. We read every 39 Clues title. To get through the books faster, because we just had to know what was going to happen!, we’d read at night and play audio during the day.

Pie by Sarah Weeks, read by Kate Rudd

We loved this mysterious adventure of a girl trying to figure out the absurdities of the town while the townspeople awkwardly try to snag a missing pie recipe for their own gain.

Zakka Buckets.

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We installed a pulley for the boys loft area, the hold up has been the basket. I didn’t know what to choose. I wanted something lightweight but strong. It needs to hold a lot, but not hurt someone if it falls. Flipping through the book Zakka Handmades by Amy Morinaka I found just the thing, a fabric bucket. Big, sturdy, super lightweight and soft.

With pattern requirements in hand, I made a Hobby Lobby stop and found some fab prints on clearance! Then I sewed. Then the boys joined in. Then I noticed I was walking away and they were sewing the bucket themselves! They would call once in a while for reassurance, but by golly that arrow print bucket they did a lot of work on. I’m so proud.

The thing is, it’s really too big. Not to worry, I had two more prints to go. I made them both into medium size buckets, about 12″ tall. I made two more needing only one of course, but anyhow, that size will be perfect. (The bonus is the boys will use them for Valentine mailbox swapping too.)

Now we can finish the rope and hook and get that project finished.

More Socks.

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My older son picked out the yarn for his first Mom-knit socks. (Ravelry notes here.) I was expecting him to go very dark and was pleasantly surprised when he grabbed this self-striping yarn. I got a ton knit on the road, but it stalled quickly when we were pushing to get the house done. Alas, all projects come to an end and this one did. He’s super happy with them. The bonus is his feet are exactly the same size as mine. So, when he outgrows them, guess who gets to keep these?

I’m working on a pair of gloves for him now and then I’m going to start the next pair of socks for Little Fella. I am starting to see the awesomeness of sock knitting! Easy to do, very portable, and the end result feels so great!

Projects.

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We’ve dived into a few different science experiments lately. We found a fun book called Labcraft Wizards, Magical Projects and Experiments by John Austin. It’s full of “normal” experiments presented with a magical twist. So the egg above has it’s shell getting dissolved by vinegar and is a “dragon egg.” We’ve also done “crystal courage” which was actually hard crack candy making – a sweet project. We had birthday balloons decorating the living room this week for Dear Husbands birthday. Those have all fallen prey to bamboo skewers, a noisy experiment to see if the skewer can go through the balloon without popping it. Little fella was successful once! Another “magical” experience.

Also, at Christmas the boys received a crystal geode making kit. It’s in its final stages, finally. That one has been a week-long affair.

Science is super easy to get the boys involved in. They love the hands on experimenting. It’s been a great way to motivate my older son to read as well. We listen to him dictate the steps (he’ll read recipes for us too). I used to be the one presenting the ideas, now I love that they can read through and pursue what THEY want.

Knitted Polar Bears.

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I’m in the middle of knitting socks for my older son and a blanket for my younger, so naturally when Christmas approached I thought, “I need to make something for the boys.” Yup, that makes no sense, but I absolutely thought it.

I saw an adorable polar bear come through an email from Red Heart Yarns. The pattern looked insanely easy and more importantly, seriously cute. I asked the boys in a very leading voice if they’d happen to want these fellas for Christmas. They gave the thumbs up. I dove in quickly.

The yarn is pretty interesting to work with, very bulky, but not like chunky yarn. Mostly I couldn’t see my stitches on the knitting needle because of the wispy loft. I made the smart decision to make two heads, then two bodies, and so on so I didn’t just finish one and declare they share. In other words, crazy yarn or not, I couldn’t give up.

The boys named them Billy and Wallace.

My sister says the boys are getting older and I won’t be able to make them stuffed animals much longer. That is probably a good thing because we have a large population of stuffed animal friends, but I’m going to keep churning knits out for them as long as they’ll oblige me. I mean, come on, they are my boys, I am compelled to make things for them. Perhaps even more so when it comes to holidays and birthdays. So now, it’s back to the original projects, I have to finish one heel and the socks are done and I’ll crank away at that blanket…. until the next birthday comes up.

Making It Official.

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On November 17th we had our final house inspection and jumped for joy as we received approval to move in. It did NOT mean we were ALL done, but the cold weather was pushing us to just go for it. We still had a list of things to complete, little things. Trim here, paint here. We actually STILL have a list, although it’s lots shorter. My greatest fear was we’d move in and feel settled and let the list just sort of dangle while we took a break. It’s so hard to get back to that list of projects. Not to worry, Dear Husband is on it. He’s been enthusiastically tying up those loose ends.

Anyhow, one of my ultimate favorite things about our house is the built-in shelving in our very long hallway. We designed the hallway wider than most to accommodate cubbies and ample movement for passersby. I’m just elated to have all of our stuff in one spot! I’ve dubbed it the “hall of everything.” In the above photo Dear Husband is finishing up the chalkboard trim install (will do one last layer of paint soon.)

I also like that our house has one large room that serves as our kitchen and living area. I’m close to getting it finished up. I have some more items to hang and so on, but for the most part it’s very exciting to see the clutter decreasing. Most things have found a home, which is making it feel like a real home.

Favorite Book: Modern Art Adventures by Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw.

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It seems I’m a bit out of the habit of posting, which I hate. We are still moving in, we are still sorting and doing holidays and working and it’s time-consuming. However, I love this little space to savor our fun times and I can’t let it go. I’ve decided to make myself do a weekly post on the books we are currently enjoying, which should lubricate the wheels and get me posting about our other nonsense soon enough. The local library system has books flowing in and out of here like tidal waves. Man alive, I love the library so why not post about our favorite books?

We have done three unique projects out of the lovely book Modern Art Adventures by Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw. I have a handful more selected the boys will create as well. This book is full of versatility, exploring art projects by movements. The book uses mostly items we have on hand, which makes diving in quite accessible. The boys have painted, collaged, and created a silhouette so far. Our next projects will involve tape and more paint.

I found the book by searching the author Maja Pitamic. She created a fabulous Montessori game book we adored when the kiddos were young. I’m thrilled she’s gone on to create this art book. I will continue to check out her wonderful titles.

Quickly, I just want to give a shout out the library. The fact that I can get my hands on such current and engaging materials is such a privilege I am especially thankful for as a homeschooling family. Now that we have a house with space to create and store materials it’s been my privilege to scour the library again.

(p.s. Post up some fabulous art books you love in the comments so we can check them out.)

 

 

Mount Rushmore, SD.

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Both boys have been to Mount Rushmore before, but Little Fella was still in diapers so he didn’t remember it. Fog kept us from visiting the first week, however, one lovely, clear day we did make the visit.

Rushmore is one of those places that I look at for a little time, ponder, and move on. It’s hard to linger and stare because it doesn’t really change. We did the hike, enjoyed the visitor’s center, earned another Junior Ranger badge, and looked a bit more. Rushmore is not a park to really dig into. I love the parks with hiking, camping, biking, etc. I understand why Rushmore cannot offer that and take it for what it is. Still, I’m happy to have it checked off the list.

So, finally, I’m wrapping of our last travel stint. We have finished up our house and are moving in and trying to settle. Our plans of traveling for a year morphed into travel to some great places and build our home in Wisconsin. Oddly. I’m not sure how that all worked into one year, but now we are on the other end of that. Soon I’ll post up photos of the home we created from the ground up and what we intend from here.

Wind Cave National Park, SD.

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As luck would have it, Dear Husband read that Wind Cave National Park was giving free tours the Saturday we were in town. He read to arrive early, be prepared for crowds, and other “there will be a lot of people so please be patient” commentary. The night prior, we showered and prepared our lunches. We arrived early hoping our boys could wait with the tiniest complaining possible. When the parking lot was not even half full we were a little surprised. Still, while Dear Husband was parking and sorting out coats for the boys, I headed in swiftly, trying to get our names on the list.

“Are you ready for a tour?” the ranger asked.

“Yes!”

“How many in your party?”

“Four,” I said.

“You can’t take that bag in, but you can take your camera.”

“Sounds good,” I replied as I was getting the lowdown.

“Okay, grab your party, you can go right away,” she pushed.

“Now?” I gasped. “Like, right now?”

I ran back to the car, stripped my camera bag off, jammed a few things into my pockets all while telling the family, “NOW, now, like, the tour is this exact second.”

We shuffled in, downstairs, along the path, and caught the tour at their very first stop. Dear Husband and I got some stink eye from other guests, like we didn’t really get permission for what we were doing. However, we just mashed into the edge of the group, pointed the ranger out to the boys, and looked at each other unable to determine how in the world we got into the tour the second we arrived!

We’ve done caves before. We lived near Mammoth Caves, but also have taken the boys to Jewel Cave, and a handful of others. Each has its own stories, history, and feel. This one has an interesting hole entrance where the air rushes in our out based on outdoor temperatures and humidity and other reasons I’m not privy to. The most interesting thing about this cave to me is the boxwork. In fact, I’m pretty sure the ranger stated 95% of the world’s boxwork is in that single cave.  Or, some really huge number close to that. She explained how the boxwork formed (acid eating away the minerals around that tough calcite) and stressed the importance of NOT touching it. We did not, however in the visitor’s center they have a piece you can touch. What looks like lace is indeed so strong and solid, the boys and I were surprised. (I absolutely recommend touching that!)

As always, the boys participated in the Junior Ranger program. I am sorry to say this was the worst experience we ever had with it. The booklet took way too long for a single visit. Both boys even cried. The worst was when the ranger grilled them for EVERY SINGLE question they answered. We love Junior Ranger. I do not want it to be too easy or cushy. Indeed I want the boys to learn about the surroundings of each wonderful park we visit. However, when we left, we talked about how awful we felt during that experience. We promised the boys ice cream, we all just needed a break.

At Dairy Queen in Custer, the boys ordered some infused blizzard concoction. The worker brought three blizzards to us (I ordered something else), flipped them over, where one promptly plopped out on to a stack of local tourist papers. The other two stayed in tact. I’m sorry that happened to that girl but it was truly just the laugh we needed!