Friday, November 30, 2018

Summer Memories at Voyageurs' National Park

It is a grey, wintery day here but I decided I am going to blog about a fun camping trip that we went on this summer. By the way, I do love winter too and today was a great day - I taught some music lessons this morning and this afternoon Mom and I went on our big buying trip of the year. We bought hundreds of pounds of wheat to grind up to make our bread and other baked goods this year and we also visited another bulk food country grocery where we stocked up on things like oatmeal, split peas, salt, almonds, canning lids, flax seeds, cocoa powder, brown rice, etc. My van was quite loaded down! I personally spent around $250 and got around 600 lbs of food. Mom got a similiar amount (though she was buying to also share with my siblings). 

I have been wanting to write a few more posts about decluttering stories and ideas but my brain is a little to tired for that tonight so I think I will just share some pictures and tid-bits from a trip from this summer.

   In July Ken's sister Beth and her family came out to visit Ken's parents and us. That was really fun. We have spent very little time with them since Beth got married. It is hard because they live way out in Oregon and we are in northern MN. But to be perfectly honest Ken and his siblings just haven't placed a high priority on getting together. Our whole family had gone to their wedding (Megan was quite little) and then we flew out west a couple of years later when their oldest was small and then Ken and I were out for a funeral and met their second child but that was 6 years ago and we hadn't seen them since and they had added another child. 

   So the cousins didn't really know each other at all. But thankfully that didn't stop them at all from having fun. Even with a large age difference and not knowing each other they had a blast together. It was such a blessing. We spent some time being around here at either our house or Ken's parents' house or the state park. We also took them to see the headwaters of the Mississippi. But our bigger adventure was going camping at Voyageurs. Ken's dad rented a pontoon boat for us to use up there. That was a fun experience - when our family had gone there before we had used our canoes and it was super windy and a challenge to traverse the lakes. The pontoon made it pretty easy - though not without it's own challenges. 😏
 Washing dishes while camping can be a fun way to work together.
 The kids found some glorious moss covered rocks and Ken, Mara and I went to check them out too. The place we stayed was truly beautiful - my pictures do not do it justice.

 The swimming was great!
 One morning we were planning on doing some exploring in the pontoon but were having some struggles with getting it started (one simple step was being forgotten) and then it drifted a bit and the guys had to jump out to get it out of the weeds and they got to do a little unplanned "swimming".
 Beth and Kelsey after we did get the boat going. Jonathan was getting a turn with the driving which he greatly enjoyed.
 We were having to be careful to stay out of Canadian waters as we didn't have passports. We did our best but with many of the lakes being split down the middle it was a little hard to tell at times.
 This really old building in an area that is not reachable by land very close to the canadian border. This old building had settled in weird ways leaving a very slanted floor. It was in the hotel that people only go to by boat.
 Coffee-pot falls.
 Islands abound. We had to pay close attention to the map so we didn't loose our way.
 Aaron got a turn with driving too much to his delight.
 It was a bit windy and chilly on the boat. We were thankful for rain coats and sweatshirts.
 One of the special treats of this trip was that we went during blueberry season and the campsite we were at had some of the best blueberry picking that I have ever seen. It was a great year for blueberries. Mara and I had such fun picking!! Some of the others picked some too but they weren't quite so dedicated. We were able to bring a bunch home to freeze and we have still been enjoying them!
 They tasted so good!!

 Campfires are fun!
 My beautiful Megan on one of her exploring ventures. The kids would go exploring and then want to show us all that they had found.
 We love the big rocks up in this area of Minnesota.
Aaron, Megan and Kaleb all tried out tubing behind the boat. They thought it was quite fun!

 All in all we had a very fun trip. It was a blessing to get to spend time with extended family and get to know them better and we had beautiful weather and we sure enjoyed seeing a little more of God's beautiful creation.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Grill Gloves Review

Do any of you like to grill or smoke your turkey for Thanksgiving? We don't do that at our house but My brother likes to do that sometimes and I know of others that like to do that as well. These gloves could come in pretty handy for something like that. These are Grilling Gloves. They are heat resistant up to 662 degrees so they can protect you very nicely while working with hot things. I think they would be perfect also for dealing with fires and cooking over a fire when camping.

  Cave Tools sent them to me at no cost if I would do a review about them. So this is my honest review.

   They seem like a quite high quality comfortable pair of gloves. As far as size I would certainly consider them a man's size. When I tried them on they are pretty big on me even though I have long hands. Jonathan was the one to use them while grilling (and he said they worked nicely) and he found them on the small size but he is my 6'3" boy and has pretty big hands as well. Ken tried them on and they fit fine. :-)

  The gloves are washable - the box says you can throw them in the machine but the label on them recommends hand washing. They have nice long cuffs to protect you a decent way up your arm.

   You can find these gloves on Amazon or the Cave Tools Website. If you buy them at Cave Tools you can use this code: GrillGlove15  to get 15% off.

   Whether you smoke, roast, deep fry or grill your turkey (or eat something else all together) on Thanksgiving I hope you have a wonderful day and that you will truly overflow with Thankfulness to our Creator who gave us all things to enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Table of the Elements Homeschool Co-op Day

 This month at our homeschool co-op we had a fun day of learning about the Elements and the Periodic table that is used to organize them. I had first thought of having this day a couple of years ago when our co-op had a science theme. We didn't end up doing it then but I had found such fun ideas that I proposed doing it this year. And it worked out. And I found out later that we did it as close as we could have (according to our monthly schedule) to National Chemistry Week. We were on top of things without even realizing it. :-)

  I remember pretty much nothing of the periodic table from my childhood and I have managed through life okay without a robust knowledge of it. But I think science is pretty cool in how over and over again it points to God our marvelous Creator and Designer. The elements are just another part of what glorifies God in our universe. And though I have no desire to be a chemist and I kind of doubt any child in our co-op will become on either I think there is value in all of us learning more about the elements and realizing that God created them all. And who knows, maybe this fun day will cause chemistry to be more fun and interesting for one of these students some day and they will appreciate this background that we gave them.

   As with all our co-op days we try to have a team of people working to prepare for the day and the same was true for this one. Elaine and Tamara made the cookies and frosting, Lyndi and I did the overall planning, teaching and organizing. Others helped out with bringing frosting bags and organizing and helping the children.

Here is what we did: This was with our children ages 3-12. The highschoolers are doing other things this year.
-Lyndi began the day with prayer and a scripture. She shared this verse: Hebrews 11:3 
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
-Lyndi also did an introduction to the elements. After that we had a few reports by children and a couple of them talked about the elements as well.
- Colored the Table of the Elements. We printed out the one we found at Layers of Learning. They also have a lot of information on their site about how the table works. My kids and I had colored a bunch of sample tables so that the kids could look at them while they colored. While they were coloring Lyndi talked about the way the groups in the table are divided up and a talked a little bit about each group.
- Then the 8-12 year olds played games of battleship using the table. I got the idea of that from Teach Beside Me. Since they needed 2 colored tables They used theirs on the bottom side (and I made little laminated "ships" to place there) and the tables that my kids and I had colored ahead of time were on top.
 -Meanwhile the younger kids were frosting cookies. We were making a periodic table out of cookies. They frosted them in the right colors/amounts for doing that. Tamara had found a neat frosting recipe that could be put on with paintbrushes. That worked quite nicely.

 -Then we had the younger kids get in a circle on the floor and I let them all open a package that was labeled with an element and the item inside was made using that element. We were able to talk a little more about the elements and God's amazing design. They all seem to really enjoy this activity. I found this pictorial table of the elements super helpful for planning this activity and it is just a really cool resource in many ways for learning about the table of the elements.
 -Meanwhile the older kids where use frosting to write the element symbol on each one. Then they started to organize them. That was taking a long time however so we left that to the adults while we went on to another game.
 -I divided the kids up into two groups. We were able to do boys and girls with about 20 in each group. The boys group ended up being a little bigger so a couple of moms had to help the girls. I gave each person a paper with either an element on it or a number. Both groups had the same papers. Then I had made a power point that had some items with simple chemical formulas and I would put one up and say "go" and the first team to get the correct people (with the correct elements and numbers) in line on stage would win that round. I did thinks like water, salt, aluminum foil, glass, sugar, vinegar, etc and then I ended with the formula for a human body which was a trick one because they didn't have all the high numbers that they need or the elements to accomplish that one.
 This game was my own creation and I wasn't sure how it would go but it ended up working very well and seemed to be enjoyed. The boys started out winning but the girls got the hang of it and ended up winning this one. Lyndi had brought candy as a prize.

-Then with those same groups we had a scavenger hunt. We had either hidden, or just known that they were there, various "elements" (many of them weren't pure elements but we tried as best we could). I gave each group this list:

Element Scavenger Hunt
1.   This element is often found in something round and shiny. Your dad may have given it to your mom after asking her a very important question.
2.   This element can make things go up, up and away or it may make your voice sound squeaky.
3.   This element is heavy. It can also poison you if you are around it too much. It might help you catch a fish.
4.   This element may be used in the morning so that you can eat fried eggs. It is a heavy transition metal.
5.   The element Lithium can be found in something that you might use to give energy to a toy or an alarm clock.
6.   This element is shiny and pretty and can be used to make all sorts of fancy objects.
7.   This element is also shiny and pretty but it is more often used to make practical things for the kitchen or used for campfire cooking.  It is a light, poor metal.
8.   This element is an easy to bend metal. You might find it in the plumbing in your house if it is old or you might use a bendable form to make something with beads.
9.   This element is a brown liquid. It can be used to treat some medical issues.
10.                     This element adds good flavor to our food.

    This activity went well too, they got it done in about 15 minutes. They pretty much tied on this one and we let all the boys have a prize (candy).

  This cookies were all arranged now:

 We took a group photo and then they got to eat them.

It was a fun day and I hope the kids will always think that the elements and their table are interesting and fun.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Toys - How do we deal with them????

This (past now - this took me a while to write) month as most of you know has been focused on decluttering and simplifying. I know this is an area that can be a challenge for many families with young children. It has been a challenge for us at times too. 

I had fun going back to my photo files from 2007 to find pictures for this post. I had fun looking through the pictures from the year (hundreds I would suppose) and these are basically all of the ones that I saw that had toys in them. That tells me something - toys weren't really that important for us to have fun together. There were a lot of outdoor pictures, pictures of us working together, riding bikes together, reading and much more but just not a lot of toys. We never have been truly minimalists when it comes to toys but I know that compared to many others that we are.
The picture above shows what we are hoping to avoid when dealing with toys. We don't want them to be so overwhelming and tiring to us that we fall asleep while picking them up. Okay, I am kind of being silly there. I doubt that any of you parents have actually fallen asleep on the job and it is actually rather cute when a small child does but still I am completely serious about trying to make toys more manageable and not overwhelming.
 I think it is wise to think through the type of toys that you would like for your children, maybe even make some specific guidelines. Then  you might honestly visit about your vision/ideas with grandparents or others that tend to get your children toys.

Here are some of the ideas that I have had about toys:

  • I don't like noisy battery powered ones. We have only had 1 or 2 beyond a few remote controlled cars that I can remember. I didn't get any of them for my children. The remote controlled cars tended to break and the other 1 or 2 I tried to move on out before long.
  • We tend to like building toys. But that doesn't mean that we need every type of building toy. Our kids were given wooden train sets that they enjoyed quite a bit and we have kept for when company comes over and for future generations. Legos/Technic have long been a big hit at our house but we didn't keep the duploos around very long at all when we were given them. We have had tinker-toys. My kids have very much enjoyed Lincoln Logs at other homes but we didn't get them for them as they didn't need those too and they were a special treat to play with elsewhere.
  • Other creative toys are nice too. Dolls have been much enjoyed by my girls. When they are little they simply play with them, as they get older they sew clothes for them. Dress-up clothes have been very enjoyed at our place as well.
  • I personally am not fond of a lot of plastic to I tend to move out plastic toys more quickly.
So, what sort of toys are enjoyed and loved at your place? What would you like to get rid of and not have as part of your lifestyle?

How can we stop the flow of toys that can easily take over your house. Honestly we have never had a huge issue with this but I have many friends that do. Here are a few ideas that I have but I would love to have feedback from others on this issue.
  • Don't buy toys for your kids. If they already get oodles of toys from others than you be the first one to stop the flow. We did buy some toys (mostly things like Legos) for our children but we didn't have a huge flow coming in and we knew what would work. We didn't do it very often.
  • Not every holiday and definitely not every trip to the store calls for a new toy. Also, do you really want the junky toy that comes in a happy meal?
  • Don't host traditional Birthday Parties where a bunch of small children come bearing gifts. When you do this you are just asking for an overload of toys. If you want to have a party maybe you could request no gifts, a book or a consumable gift - I don't know. We just chose never to have that sort of party.
  • Visit seriously with the grandparents about your desire to live with less (and thus in my opinion to create more grateful children). We have never had issues with our children's grandparents on the toy issue but I have so many friends that do. If you are a grandparent (or aunt or uncle) that is reading this blog please be super sensitive to the desires of the parents of the child that you are giving things too. An overabundance of toys can make life very overwhelming for children and parents - you don't want to make life harder for your children do you?
  • Don't participate in big gift exchanges at Christmas. I know that is easier said than done but I have been very thank-ful that we were able to work things out in that way for our family. We don't do gift exchanges with anybody past our immediate - living in the house- family. And that gift exchange is all required to fit in our stockings. That means you can give very many toys.

Here are just some other random ideas that have helped us in dealing with toys.

  • We didn't feel like our kids needing to be "playing" or being entertained all day long. From the time they were very little they were helping me around the house according to their ability. When they are little that is often what they really want to do. Encourage that love of work and it will be a blessing to you (and them) when they are older. My sister recently shared this article and it articulates in a neat way they joy of letting your children help you when they are little. When your children are helping you they don't need as many toys to try to keep them busy all day long.
  • Don't have all the toys in one spot. I have found it to be helpful to have a toy basket in the living room (quick and easy to pull out for little ones- whether my own in the past or visitors), then maybe a tub of legos and another for the train-set and cars in the boys room, Then some dolls and dress-up clothes in the girls room. In my opinion having them in different places like that can make it harder to get all dumped and spread out at the same time. And I would try to have them only empty one thing at a time and then pick it up before going to another.
  • If you do deal with toys scattered everywhere but are reluctant to actually get rid of items I think the rotating method is a great idea. Box some up for a while (maybe all the ones that didn't get picked up when you told them to pick up) and you can bring them out several months down the road and pack up some different ones.
  • Do have your kids pick up their toys after playing. That is just a really good life lesson that you don't want them to miss.
I think the questions "Do they love it, do they use it, do we have space for it and does it fit our lifestyle" are good ones for toys as well. It is easy to get sentimental over toys or feel guilty about getting rid of something that was given to them but I think it is good to just be honest with ourselves about whether it is really used or not and then proceed accordingly.

  I hope that possibly these thoughts can be helpful in some way. I started writing this days ago but life gets busy and I had some other deadlines (like preparing for homeschool co-op and sewing costumes for a play that starts next week) that had to be met so blogging took a bit of a back seat again. October is over but I still have some things that I want to share on Simplifying and decluttering so I will probably still be writing on it some. 


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