Monday, November 30, 2009


I have very fond memories of spending holidays at my Grandma Epp's house--the best being when my cousins were there. And we had a crazy fun reunion one year at our house with my Nikkel cousins--kids piled everywhere on mattresses in our unfinished basement. So, it was with loads of excitement that we welcomed my brother and sister-in-law, but especially our niece for a week. We even had a 'kids piled everywhere' night or two where all of them slept together in the same room. There were unique bonds between Clara and Mary Beth and Clara and Lucy. Here are the pictures...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Plymouth Rocks

I think most of us can't help but think of Pilgrims and American Indians (and who can forget the little black construction paper hats and vests made out of paper bags?) when we think of Thanksgiving. This year we spent our Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Wampanoags at Plimoth Plantation just outside of Plymouth, MA. We went there with Brad, Amanda and Clara to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner and visit the Plantation. We weren't the only ones--there were a LOT of people there.

We first visited the Wampanoag Homesite, watching some of the interpreters demonstrate various traditional tasks. The most disgusting, by far was the discussion of how they would soften the deer hide, once she had cleaned off all the membrane--with the deer's brain.

We proceeded to the room for our dinner where we made our way to table #20.
After all were seated, the hosts announced that each table would draw a number which would then determine the order we would go to the buffet. Ours was the second table to pick a number. We gave Mary Beth the honors--she drew #1!!! Rock on, Mary Beth.
So, we headed up to the table and were served turkey, roast sirloin, vegetable soup, salad, dressing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls, cranberry was all very delightful.
The apple cider was delicious. The apple pie was not as good as my friend Katharine's.

After lunch, we followed the trail to the English Village. There we saw the animals--top on the list for Clara and Lucy. We also watched the English men demonstrate their musket shooting to the Wampanoags, who had come to "visit,"
and peeked into several of the homes. I completely failed to get a photo of our family while we were there...what a tragedy.

Finally, we drove into Plymouth to see Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II. We were 15 minutes too late to board the ship for a looksie.

It was a fun way to spend Thanksgiving. Next year I would like to try the "Harvest Dinner with the Pilgrims" option...but I won't count on that actually feeding us. With a menu including Fricassee of Fish and Stewed Pompion, among other original Thanksgiving foods, I'm not sure my kids will actually eat anything. I guess that wouldn't be much different from this Thanksgiving, though.


Thanksgiving begins for us with our family's traditional turkey trot. This was our third year to run/bike the course. It was Mary Beth's first year to run and not bike it...all those soccer practices and games had her well conditioned to run the 2.5 miles with us. Here we are ready to head out in the fog.

You can see Brad, Amanda and Clara were willing to join us for the run. I must give lots of credit to Amanda--I gave up running while I was pregnant, but she keeps on going strong.
Group photo after the event...

Now it's time to eat!!! Bring on the pies--we headed to Plymouth to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and visit the Wampanoags and Pilgrims. Post to follow tonight or tomorrow on the rest of our day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chocolate Really Does Rot Your Teeth

Cory was having breakfast at the Jensen's (after spending the night) and a funny thing happened. He was eating Chocolate Cocoa Puffs when he claimed something was crunchy. Then said, "Part of my tooth fell off." A front lower tooth had been loose for him for some time, but we had been unsuccessful in pulling the tooth out. Apparently it finally came out while he was feasting on one of the best sugar cereals around. It was a funny story for the Jensen's. The best part is that now I have proof for the rest of the kids...chocolate really does make your teeth fall out! His smile has character these days thanks to all that sugar.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Soup from a Stone

When Mary Beth was in kindergarten her class had an adorable event just before Thanksgiving. We all enjoyed Stone Soup with her class and thought it was a lot of fun. The event is based on an old French folktale in which 3 soldiers come into a village asking for food. When none of the townspeople have any food to give, the soldiers said they'd have to just make stone soup. Once the stone was boiling in the water, the soldiers would suggest something that would make it so much better, and lo and behold the townspeople would run off to their homes to add to the pot. Now that Cory is in kindergarten, but at home, I thought it would be fun to plan something similar. So, we sent out invitations asking everyone in our school group to bring a small amount of something for our soup and to dress up as their favorite Thanksgiving characters. Meanwhile, the kids and I set about to planning some fun activities and arranging the necessary supplies.

We set up tables for our lunch and crafts at a facility available on base and got all dressed up in our costumes. Surprisingly, out of the 20ish kids there, only 2 were Pilgrims--we brought 3 Indians and 1 Pilgrim.
We read the tale of Stone Soup (notice I'm dressed as my favorite T-giving character, the turkey)

prepared our soup with three stones and all the ingredients everyone brought

played some games while the soup cooked

ate our soup--delicious!

Indian girls and the lone Pilgrim girl crafted

Indian boys and their mother crafted

The whole group gathered for our photo op with the sacrificial turkey pinata

And finally we came back in for dessert--which just so happened to also be Lucy's birthday cupcakes since it was her 3rd birthday (Ted, in his favorite T-giving character--the football player).

We also had these cute little Pilgrim hats for dessert. How adorable is that?

And after we got home Riley wanted to make an Indian costume for herself...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Men's Challenge: Shooting

I recently held my November Men's Challenge Event. We went shooting at the Westford Sportsmen's Club. I asked guys who had guns to come out and share with those who have either never fired a gun or just don't get the chance very often. I had over 20 guys respond and show up for the event. The pistol and rifle ranges were both reserved for our group. One of the guys who helped me set up the Kayak event is a certified range/safety officer for the club. He helped me get permission from the club and get things set up.

We had all types of handguns, shotguns, hunting rifles, a few show pieces, and even an AR-15 (semi-auto) military style rifle. I made sure we had safety gear - ear and eye protection - for everybody. We set up some paper targets plus some clays, milk jugs, cans, and pumpkins.

We had fun making loud noises and destroying some stuff.

If you remember my challenge events, the focus is for guys to grow together with a "manly" activity and then have a few minutes of discussion. The lesson for the day - WORDS. The Bible tells us in many places that words and how we use them are very important. So much so that a verse tells us Jesus is the WORD. The link to shooting? Well just like a bullet with the power to destroy or defend, words have power. You must be careful with your words. Like the bullet, after you pull the trigger you cannot call words back. The impact is real and lasting. We shared how sometimes we don't use our words as well as we could. I received plenty of positive feedback from the guys and from the church.

I had a great time. I was able to shoot many different weapons, hang out with some guys and build some new friendships. It rocked!

Next up - Remote Control Palooza.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are we a bad influence?

don't forget to stop the music at the bottom of this page to enjoy the video

Not only is our 2 year old demanding Dr. Pepper, but apparently Dr. Pepper is an official color in our house--why it's not in the crayola box I'm not sure. Certain Lego bricks are Dr. Pepper bricks. Can you tell which ones are red and which are Dr. Pepper?

Today I was helping Mary Beth sort some of the clean laundry. I mentioned to her that the blue, pink and white cloths were washcloths and that the yellow and green ones were kitchen rags. She then informed me that we also had Dr. Pepper wash cloths. Not remembering any cloths with Dr. Pepper on them, I wondered what she was referring to, but then I remembered these.

And if that wasn't proof enough of the influence Dr. Pepper has on our family, we renamed the mud room in our home. Instead, we call it the Dr. Pepper room. If our kids grow up liking any other drink it will be a disgrace.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So, What's It Like?

Many of you are wondering what the homeschooling thing is like for us and how it is going. Here's a glimpse into our lives in photos.

Although we can be seen doing our work in any number of places, we are often in the playroom/schoolroom/guestroom--it's cozy to say the least, but we're doing our best to make it work.

We especially enjoy a great group of other homeschoolers right on our Circle. This affords us a unique opportunity to do "class projects" like these
The papier-mache pumpkins


You've no doubt seen in past posts some of the planned field trips we've taken, but we also get to take some impromptu field trips like this one to watch a house get demolished just down the street from us.

One morning the kids worked together to make ice cream according to the directions in Mary Beth's reading assignment

By far, though, some of the sweetest moments are these:
Riley reading to Cory and Lucy

Cory reading to the ladies--Lucy and her friends

Lucy, still in her pj's, reading

The journey is just beginning.