Thursday, January 31, 2013

Michigan Historical Museum

We visited this Michigan Historical Museum as well this month.  We go every couple of years.  When we first discovered this little "gem" it was free admission!  Now, they do charge for adults, children are optional.  It is a nominal fee and well worth it.  The museum is beautifully maintained and has some great exhibits.  The way the museum is laid out wonderfully and it is very interactive.

When we do go, we choose to go for Michigan's birthday weekend.  They have costumed interpreters and hands on activities for the kids.  The girls would tell you that they love the fact that they have free birthday cake as well!  This year there were very few people at the museum on the day we went.  It actually felt like they had opened the place just for us!

They maintain a rotating exhibit and I was THRILLED when I realized that the exhibit was about creative writing and book making.  It had artifacts from famous authors and detailed the writing process.  If you know anything about Peanut, she LOVES writing.  She will often say that when she grows up she is going to be an author and artist. 

The girls were most impressed that they had the actual pads that Laura Ingalls wrote The Long Winter on.  It was awesome to see her words in her own penciled handwriting.  I loved that the copies of the books they had in the display were the EXACT versions that I had as a girl, and we still have.  I should have taken some pictures of the original pencil sketches that Garth Williams did for the books.

The museum was focusing on the War of 1812 this particular weekend.  They had an interesting mapping exercise for the kids.  They gave them map of Michigan during the War.  On the top and the sides they had simple coordinates (capital letters along the top, numbers down the side).  They took a piece of yarn and tied it horizontally around the paper and then another that was tied vertically, so that the pieces intersected.  The yarn could slide up and down the paper.  So, they were told which "latitude" and "longitude" coordinates to find. The slid the pieces of yarn where they needed to be and then were able to find and mark an important battle during the War.

After the noted all the important battles, they had a large magnet board with a map and based on the information given, they were able to mark the battles on the magnet board with flags depending on who won the battle.  It was a very neat exercise and tied in so well with the Michigan History class the girls completed in December.  The teacher there spent considerable time talking about the War of 1812.

 The younger girls decided to make bonnets like a lady of the time period would have worn.  Such a simple craft, I wish I had seen it before we covered Felicity in our American Girl Book Club class at co-op, it would have been a fun craft for the girls to do.  It was nothing more than a large foam circle, some fake flowers and wide ribbon.

Peanut was excited to spend the morning at the museum.  She says it is one of her favorite museums to visit.  In addition, she was wanting to earn the Living in the USA badge for American Heritage Girls.  She had completed several badge requirements in her Michigan History class, but was able to finish all but 1 at the museum.

We spent alot of time talking with this interpreter about the life of the Native Americans.  Again, Peanut loved this because she just finished up the Native American badge, so many of the things she had seen in pictures, he had to show her there.  Things like glass wampum beads, fur pelts, Native American games, etc.

Sweet Baby is checking out a tortoise shell, used to play a game.  We are doing Apologia's Swimming Creatures for science and had recently learned about sea turtles, so she was really interested in checking out the shell.

Finally, in the one room schoolhouse, they had a piano.  They were not sure how old the piano is, the docent thought late 1700's or early 1800's.  They keep the keyboard locked, but he asked if any of the girls could play.  When Peanut said she could play, he opened it up for her and let her play.  It was really sweet of him. My heart just smiles when I hear Peanut play. 

We have really enjoyed our time visiting some museums lately.  I love seeing the girls excitement when they see something or hear something at a museum and it connects with something they have learned at home with me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Henry Ford

We have spent the last two Saturdays enjoying ourselves at a couple museums in our state.  First, we spent an day at Henry Ford Museum.  We have had a family pass for Henry Ford and Greenfield Village for several years.  My husband and I love history so we never tire of the Village.  We attend the Village at least 4 times a year.  We had not taken the time to visit the Museum in a couple years so we decided to spend some time there recently.

One of my favorite artifacts is the actual chair that Lincoln was shot in.  It is so worn, yet there it sits, right in front of you.

I had never noticed this one...a cot belonging to General George Washington.  If you look, it actually folds out of the trunk that supplies the head support.

They have a section of the museum where they look at different decades of home life.  This was a livingroom from the 30's with an old radio playing Orson Wells, War of the World.  I love that the radio is right out in the open and the kids are free to get up close to it.  I also love how comfortable they were just sit down.   Radio shows are not something new for our kids, they LOVE listening to Adventures in Odyssey, which is put on by Focus on the Family.  They have oodles of the cd sets, listen to pod casts while doing dishes, etc.  So, it was not a foreign idea to them to sit and listen.

One of the exhibits we never miss is the Rosa Parks bus.  This is the actual bus that Rosa Parks rode in in 1955.  I love that not only can you climb aboard, but they have a spotlight that shines on the actual seat she refused to give it.  They also run audio of Rosa speaking about the event.

We enjoyed our day at the Henry Ford - the perfect way to spend a cold Saturday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Day

 Christmas morning...Here is the main tree in our house.  I consider this the kids tree.  Every year the kids get a new ornament.  This tradition started when I was a child.  My parents would buy us a new ornament every year and then the year we were married, our box of ornaments were given to us for our tree.  So, with three children, you can imagine between the ornament we get them, the one my parents get them and any that are made by the girls, we have LOTS of ornaments.  I let them decorate the main tree and then there is a tree in our living room that mom decorates.

I wanted to share just a couple of my favorite pictures from Christmas morning.

Sissy, very happy with a t-shirt she received.

Sissy has liked the Ugg boots for a couple years now but we have not yet gotten her a pair.  Kohls had this cute pair of knock offs on sale the day after Thanksgiving, and since her feet aren't growing nearly as quickly as they used to, this was the year.  She loves them and wears them with all of her "jeans and t-shirt" outfits - which is every outfit she has. 

Peanut has loved owls even before they became popular.  It used to be that you could not find owls on anything, now...they are on everything...including the fabric for the pillowcase I made her (you can see that in the left hand corner).  Sissy bought her this hat and gloves set an she LOVED it.

I really love pictures like this one, where you are able to capture the excitement.  Sweet Baby received several gifts that she really wanted, including this, which was from Sissy - a Lego Girl car.

A picture of the girls in front of the fireplace.  I love this one.  They are all in their matching pj's and I just know that pictures like this will be favorites for many years to come.  These girls  are such an amazing blessing.

Finally, my parents, brother, niece and my brother's girlfriend came to share the day with us.  Here is a picture of my parents (Nanny and Papa) and the girls.  Notice that Sweet Baby and Peanut have on Disney character t-shirts?  Nanny and Papa had just returned from a trip at Disney World, so the girls Christmas gifts were t-shirts from Disney.

It was a wonderful holiday.  I'm sad to see the casual weeks end.  Yes, we packed alot in, but we took a much needed break from school and just enjoyed being together.  How thankful we are!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

More Holidays....

As I was looking through my pictures, in an attempt to finally end the "holiday" posts, I realized that I took alot of pictures of things that may not be exciting to the rest of the world, but that are memories for our family to cherish...traditions, time spent together, etc.  I also realize that there may not be alot to be said about the various pictures, so I'll make this post quick.

Every year we make small "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers.  I have pictures of this tradition from probably the last 5 years.  The pictures always show the same thing, but the girls enjoy it.

We just use graham crackers, store bought frosting and candy to make small houses.  They work better if you can get a small milk carton (half and half would be a good size) to use as your base, and just build your house around that, but we did not have any, so we just used ALOT of frosting to hold them together.    I have a set of Pampered Chef Decorator Bottles, they work great for kids and you deal with very little mess.

Peanut made a tent, her family is camping.  :)  Sweet Baby used the most candy and then asked to eat it all just after it was done!

We attended a wedding for some friends of ours.  We were able to get Sissy to dress up.  She hates dresses, skirts, anything that is not jeans and a t-shirt.  She looked beautiful in her borrowed dress.  What was the point to buy a dress we knew she would never wear again?

And..more gingerbread house decorating.  Grandpa came by on Christmas Eve for a visit.  I had made the girls matching pajama pants so they put them on, including their Santa hats and enjoyed making a gingerbread train that Grandpa brought for them.

I can't tell you how much I absolutely LOVE this picture.   Grandpa does not always find it easy to be plugged into family activities.  Connecting with the girls has been a struggle at different times, he is really trying right now and it feels so good to see my husband's father have fun with them.

Before bed we watched my all time favorite Christmas movie, The Nativity Story.  Sissy and Daisy snuggled, as they do so often.  Yes, Daisy was supposed to be my anniversary gift  a year and a half ago, but her heart belongs to Sissy.

We had this tradition where I would read "The Night Before Christmas" to the girls on Christmas Eve, however, about 4 years ago, they asked if they could all sleep in one bedroom and Sissy would be the one to read the story.  Although I hated giving it up, I LOVE that they are making their own memories.  Here they are, all snuggled in Peanut and Sweet Baby's room.   If you look REAL close, you can see that Sweet Baby now has to wear head gear to bed at night.  She has been a real trooper about it.

We'll finish up with the holidays tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Holiday Happenings Part II

Moving on with more about our holiday wanderings....

We spent a couple hours at the Food Bank for Eastern Michigan, volunteering and helping sort food.  Similar to the new way we were able to help with Operation Christmas Child this year, this day at the Food Bank was another way us to see a cycle of serving and giving.  Our church has run H.I.S. Ministry for years, even before we became members more than 11 years ago.  H.I.S. stands for "Helping Individuals Succeed" and is place the community around our church is able to get free food and clothing, every Tuesday.  My husband, myself and Sissy have all volunteered at H.I.S. over the years and were even serviced by them a couple times 6 years ago when my husband was laid off for a couple months. 

In addition to working at H.I.S. when we are able, each year at Christmas we are able to donate to H.I.S. so that they can purchase food to give away at a very reduced rate, from the Food Bank.  So....while we were sorting through pallets and pallets of food at the Food Bank, I was able to explain that our church would be purchasing the food we were sorting to give to needy people in our community.

Our homeschool co-op went to the Food Bank with well over 50 kids and parents to work through many pallets of food.  We were sorting and taping boxes that had developed holes or the packaging had ripped.

We were wearing coats and gloves because we were in a warehouse that did not have much heat.  The work itself was pretty fast paced so as long as you were moving, you were able to stay warm. 

Sissy has a heart for service like I do not see in young teenagers very often.  I love finding ways that she can help and feel fulfilled.  Thankfully the field trip coordinator for our co-op is planning a service day at the Food Bank at least once a month so we can take some time to help frequently.

We attended our American Heritage Girls Christmas party at the beginning of the month.  The girls made an ornament, decorated Christmas cookies, watched a movie and of course participated in Shoes for Orphan Souls.  This is the third year of our troop and at our first Christmas party one of our moms organized donations for Shoes for Orphan Souls.

 This ministry collects new shoes, socks and shoe laces for orphans  around the world.  The best part of the Christmas party is when the girls draw pictures for the children who will receive them and then we are able to pray with the girls for the child that will receive them.  This is the station I ALWAYS choose to work at.

Each and every time a girl brings me the shoes they have chosen, we fold up their note, stuff it in the toe of the shoes and sit to pray, my throat closes and I fight tears.  I fight tears for the children that at that moment are rummaging through garbage dumps for food, with nothing to protect their feet from cuts and dirt, I fight tears for the little girl in front of me who is learning how to love others and show it, and I fight tears as I wonder if I am doing enough to lead the little girl in front of me to a life of prayer and communion with God.  It is a very emotional time for me however, one that I would not miss if given the choice.

We were again blessed by our church, as they donated $500 to Shoes for Orphan Souls.  We were able to take the money and purchase more than 60 pairs of shoes to donate.  It was amazing to see the pile sit there!

I'm proud to say that this season we took as many opportunities to serve others as we could.   In addition to the Food Bank, Shoes for Orphan Souls, the older two girls serving at our church's Ladies Christmas Breakfast, our family went Christmas caroling for the 2nd year in a row with several other families.  These opportunities are a wonderful addition to our holiday season.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holiday Happenings - Part 1

It has been since September since I have written a blog post?  Shame on me!  It seems like life just gets going and before you know it weeks have passed.

I'll catch you up on our holiday happenings.  We typically only do school the first week of December and then week take the remainder of the month to do other things like card making, volunteering, baking, etc.  I LOVE, LOVE the month of December.  I love that we are able to step back from routine, wake up and decide to do something out of the ordinary and not worry about checking boxes off of a lesson plan grid.

I'll go back a bit and take us to November because that is when our "holiday"  mindset started.  A good friend of ours opened an Operation Christmas Child collection center just down the road from us.  We were THRILLED to be able to serve Operation Christmas Child in a new way.  For the last several years our family has packed shoe boxes full of necessities (and some fun stuff too) for children in third world countries.  We enjoy letting each girl fill a box and taking part in this family tradition.  Usually, you pack a box, drop it off at a collection point, and a few weeks later you receive an e-mail telling you what country your boxes went to.  This year we were able to do all of the above AND work at a collection center for a couple days helping pack the over 1,000 boxes we collected from our community and greet the people dropping the boxes off.  It was a fun experience.  Sissy specifically, who has a huge heart for serving, loved this next step in seeing these boxes reach children.

The last two years the girls enjoyed filling out the All About Me sheets that you can add to your boxes.  It is a sheet that allows your child to add a photo of themselves, their home, answer some questions about their favorite color, etc.  Sweet Baby really had fun filling that out.  We have friends who actually received a letter from a child in India who received their box!  The form includes a place for your address and the child was able to send a letter to them! 

On December 1, Sissy and Peanut were able to serve about 60 ladies at our church.  Our American Heritage Girls troop needed some older girls to serve at a Christmas breakfast, so the girls were helping set up, filling plates, re-filling water, clearing tables, etc.  They had fun being able to serve at our charter organization and work with a group of ladies who really appreciated them.
Peanut and I went to see The Nutcracker for the second year in a row.  The rest of the family did not enjoy it last year, so we made it a "date day" and went together.   This is the best self portrait I was able to get of the two of us.

It was a fun afternoon.  Peanut is such a creative girl and so she really likes things that are creative - art museums, theater, etc.  I love seeing her get excited for things like seeing The Nutcracker and watching her experience it.  Here she is just before we found our seats.

I'll share some more about our holiday happenings tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as we did!