Apple picking day

On a lovely warm day back in October, the girls and I took a field trip to a farm about an hour’s drive from where we live to go apple and pumpkin picking. The weather was fantastic — it was nice and sunny and not too hot or cold, a real Goldilocks kind of day. We took the drive out, and when we got there figured out which of the many activities on offer we wanted to do. We checked out the farm animals first and fed the donkey and goats a bag of carrots which I thought would last a long time and actually only took about a minute for them to munch!

After a little morning snack we went and did the corn maze. The kids were so excited, and it was good for their map-reading skills too. The older two would probably have been able to do the adult corn maze without too much trouble, but Laurelin needed carrying even through the kiddy one, and I didn’t really want to be carrying her for an hour while getting claustrophobic in a big corn maze!

After the corn maze, we went on a hayride to the orchards to go pick apples.

We got two whole boxes full of apples, and I was glad when someone offered us their little wagon. Then we could load some kids and apples on there and get around a little easier! Marica was pretty keen to pull them and she did a good job… until it got a little hard. :-)

Then it was on to the pumpkin patch where they make it very easy for you to pick your pumpkins — no prickly vines! They’re all just lying there, easy to choose which ones to take home. We got a whole bunch of them with the intention to carve them… right now they’re still sitting in our dining room, slowly going rotten. Oops.

It was a pretty tiring walk back to the main area, but we did eventually make it and had lunch before heading home again. What fun!

And then at home, these beauties

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turned into this kind of beauty.

Now that’s what I call the fruit of one’s labors!

Esther’s 6th birthday

Esther turned 6 in November. Hard to believe, isn’t it?! Her birthday celebrations were spread out over two days — on Friday at co-op the kids sang Happy Birthday to her and she and Marica handed out cupcakes that Marica had baked (no, Mum, you’re not allowed to help me!), and then after co-op we had a little party here. I gave Esther the option to have a lot of friends, but she just wanted something quiet with her friends Elijah and Sophia. So cute. The party had yummy food and games and dress-ups and cupcakes with candles. Esther thought it was a hit.

The next day we had present-giving in the morning. Esther’s favorite gift were the fairy wings by far!

Afterwards the kids went to Elijah and Sophie’s house for a play date while Ben and I did a little sight-seeing with cousin Greg who was visiting that weekend too.  It was a fun visit, but so fast!

That evening we had a special meal with things Esther had asked for, as well as a ladybug ice cream cake. By the time everything was ready the cake was already starting to melt out of itself, hence the moat around it. :-)

Esther is really turning into a big girl. She loves to read, do crafts, paint, draw and be creative in all sorts of ways. This often results in a fair bit of mess, but I don’t mind (too much)! She’s sensitive, kind, and doing much better at being a good big sister to Laurelin and not to not be quite such a pest to Marica. She loves to do school and is doing very well at it. She loves to dress up and you’ll usually find her in ballet clothes and fairy wings these days. Because her interest in all things ballet has not diminished for many months now, we’ve signed her up to start ballet classes in the new year. She’s super excited. We love you, Esther!

Beautiful autumn

I have a love-hate relationship with autumn. I love all the beautiful colors, the  cooler weather and the fun things the season brings like apples, cinnamon, pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. But… autumn is the start of a long cold spell that only keeps getting worse for about 5 months before it starts getting better!

But let’s focus on the positive instead and let me show off the pretty colors in our neighborhood and some cute pictures of the kids!

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Ben enjoying our rope swing (it’s great for kids AND adults!)

We took a field trip to a pick-your-own farm about an hour’s drive from our home where we had loads of fun (blog post to come), and picked some apples. Some of them turned into yummy apple pie. Can’t really go wrong there!

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One afternoon after church, the light on the porch was just so pretty, and when Laurelin sat down on a pumpkin and started playing with the little pumpkins, I just ran to grab my camera and snapped a few shots. This was before the squirrels started attacking our pumpkins, making them look like the apples my kids start eating and then leave lying around the house: a bunch of bite marks, but no real attempt at finishing what’s been started.

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What we’re doing in homeschooling this year

We’ve been back in the full swing of the regular school year for a few months now, and I must admit that I find it hard to make the time to blog. It’s great to have the routines of school, but it does leave very little time for extra things, like blogging and other fun stuff.

This post will probably not interest most of you, but for those of you who homeschool, or are interested in doing it, or have an interest in education in general might find it interesting!

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* Bible — We use Leading Little Ones to God,  and we memorize Scripture passages and hymns. I hope to soon add in some of these character building topics too.
* Math — Singapore Math. Marica is doing Grade 3, and Esther is doing Grade 1. To enforce what they learn, they play NumberShark on the computer.
* Grammar/Writing — Esther is doing the Sing, Spell, Read and Write program which also includes spelling and comprehension; and Marica is doing Shurley English, supplemented with some writing from the Logos curriculum. They also write in their Thankfulness  Journals every day.
* Reading and comprehension from the Logos curriculum (for Marica).
* Stories and an appreciation for literature is important to us, so I read to the kids from a wide range of books: I pick books from the Sonlight Read-Aloud lists;  and every time we drive somewhere we listen to audio books (so far since the summer we’ve covered Ralph Mouse, The BFG, Little House on the Prairie, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and a couple other ones I can’t remember!)
* Spelling from the Logos curriculum.
* Handwriting — Zaner-Bloser. Marica is doing Grade 4 cursive, and Esther is doing Grade 1.
* Typing — The kids do a touch-typing program called English Type, but we haven’t done that for a while.
* History — Story of the World. We all love it. I’ve learned more history doing this with the kids than ever before!
* Science — Noeo Science, Biology 1
* Spanish — Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition
* Art — Lessons from Deep Space Sparkle
* Music — Weekly piano lessons and daily practice. Marica is quite likely going to start on violin next year too.
* P.E. —  Running outside, jumping on the trampoline, and weekly homeschool gymnastics classes (in which all three girls are progressing very well! I keep being impressed with their various jumps and contortions.) Esther will be adding ballet to the mix after Christmas.
* Socialization (the ever-present worry of outsiders!): Our bi-weekly co-op where they are in classes with peers, and a weekly lunch date with friends after gymnastics class, plus playdates. On top of that we host a lot of people for meals and through that and church the kids get to interact with people of all ages. No, they’re not in a group with peers for 6 hours a day, and that is one of the big reasons why we homeschool! :-)

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Of course, we don’t do all of these things every single day! We generally do school from about 8.30/9am till about 1.30/2pm, with a short break for morning tea. By lunchtime I’m DONE and need a break! During the afternoon we take an hour of quiet time for reading or playing or crafts and after that the kids have free time to play, create, put on shows (Ben and I are regularly invited to shows of their creation, and they’re usually hilarious), etc.

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Marica making her own flashcards now that she knows all of her times tables

Some days we get a lot done, sometimes not so much — largely dependent on how Laurelin is doing and whether she’s entertaining herself or making a nuisance of herself!

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For someone who said that she’d NEVER homeschool, I’m grateful for the journey God has brought me on. I’m loving it (most days!), and so are the kids. Of course, there are days we all just want to quit, but that happens with kids who go to school too! For us, this is a year-by-year thing that we’ll keep evaluating, but for as long as this suits us and our kids, we will keep doing it. :-)

Marica’s newest yummy dish

Marica recently got a cookbook out of the library and was looking through it one afternoon. She came to me and said, “I’m going to make Stromboli, and I don’t want you to help me.” Sure! I told her to go ahead and call me if she needed any help, but she didn’t need any help. Look at the awesome results! Both beautiful and tasty.

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Marica’s recipe repertoire is growing and there are now a few dishes she can make without any help. I love that this is something she wants to do all of her own volition. She enjoys it, she’s good at it, and I get a night off! Win-win, in my book!

A summary of summer, part 3

August was filled to the brim with activity. We said goodbye to our Chinese exchange students, and celebrated Ben’s birthday.

We swam a few times in our friend’s nearby pool, but also did a fun day trip out to go swim at a water hole our friend Sarah knows about. We joined Sarah and 3 of her kids and our friends the Wassermans and enjoyed a beautiful day out in nature under the trees. The water was very cold, but it didn’t seem to stop the kids!

One day, I took the three girls to all get their hair cut. It was Laurelin’s first time at a hairdresser, and she did remarkably well and sat surprisingly still. This was serious business! Esther was adamant that she didn’t want a haircut, but she needed a trim, so the hairdresser cut off only a little bit. Marica, however, was sick of having long hair again and had been begging me for months to get a haircut. So off it all came again, much to my dismay… seeing those beautiful blonde curls scattered on the floor! But I have to admit that her new haircut suits her well and looks pretty, so I can’t really complain.

One evening we went and used some vouchers for fast food that the girls earned through the reading program at the library, and ate it in a park across the street. The food was awful (from WhiteCastle), but there was this butterfly that kept landing on Esther, and she loved it!

Summer also saw Laurelin getting potty trained. All I can say is that I’m glad we have hardwood floors! The beginning was slow, but then she got the idea. Poopooth (as she calls them) took a little longer to master. One time she got them *on* the toilet — the toilet seat! (I’ll spare you the photo!) But now, a month or so later, she’s doing really well and going everywhere in undies (mostly without accidents) except to bed at night. :-)

Our friends the Wassermans invited us to spend a weekend with them up in Vermont at their family’s holiday house. In New Zealand we would call this kind of house a bach, but I don’t know what they call it here. Other than awesome. :-) It was wonderful to wake up and look out the window and see the sunlight filtering through all the green. It was quiet and restful and altogether wonderful!

We also had a fun day at the zoo with our friends the Rodriguezes,

and a beach day with our friends the Murphys and my friend Kristen and her kids. I added that last photo simply for those who like to people-watch (it’s a double whammy). New York beaches will just never disappoint when it comes to people watching!

Ben has dreamed of putting up a rope swing in the big tree in our front yard almost since we moved in, and it finally happened in August! Since these photos were taken, he’s put a better seat on it. Let me just say that this swing is even fun for adults!

However, the biggest event in August was probably our roadtrip out to Indiana for cousin Sharon’s wedding. I have quite a lot of photos from that, so I’ll share them in next week’s post.

A summary of summer, part 2

A summary of summer, continued.

In July, we hosted the Holtslags, our pastor from NZ and his family, as well as James and Laura (James is Phillipa’s son, Laura is the Holtslags’ daughter). This time we sent them off to do sight-seeing by themselves, but we still got to have some good conversations over the weekend.

Incidentally, we also had another cousin of Ben’s (Derek’s sister, Sharon) and her fiance Vijo here, but they were in and out a fair bit, so we didn’t see too much of them. Maybe next time. :-)

They were followed closely by 3 Chinese exchange students that we hosted for 3 weeks. It was a fun experience, despite the big language barrier. They spent the day at a school and we got to spend the evenings and weekends with them. If there’s one thing I learnt it is this: teenage boys are strange creatures, no matter what culture they’re from! Their last night here also happened to be Ben’s birthday, so we had a birthday/goodbye dinner out and dessert and presents back at home. One of the boys gave Ben an almost-life-sized stuffed tiger!

We had a very lovely surprise when our next door neighbors moved away and offered us their trampoline. And the neighbors on the other side of us were getting rid of a bunch of ride-on toys and offered them to us. We’ve also acquired a grill! Wow, going from a place with no yard to now having a place with a yard that has grass, where we can grill, roast marshmallows, play with water and sand (the “cookies” in the photos are gourmet mud pies by Marica), jump on a trampoline and play for hours — our cup overfloweth!

The last weekend of July, Marica and I took the bus down to Philly to spend some time helping Jeremy and Lillian who had just welcomed their second baby into the world.  We cooked up a storm and stocked their freezer and got lots of lovely baby cuddles too.

The girls also did a week of VBS for a week (Vacation Bible School) at a church about 20 minutes from our house that they thoroughly enjoyed. That gave Laurelin and me a week of mornings to just hang out as the two of us, which was quite fun for a change! The rest of the month was so full of activity, it was nice to sometimes just slow down and let them play, and to have cups of tea and cake. :-)

The summary of summer, to be continued.