birthday girls

My girls turned 8 today. I'm not entirely sure when this happened, but it did.  All 4 of my kids have graduated out of their booster seats. This feels strange to us. The girls are 8 and the boys are 9 and 10. No one in our home is 'little' anymore.

At bedtime tonight, Gracie mentioned that I was hugging her this morning right as she turned 8 [at 10:48]. "You hugged me between 7 and 8 years old, Mommy. That's a special memory for me," she said.

And when I tucked Lily in, she asked, "Why can't we ask God to start our day over?"  I couldn't agree more. It was a perfect day!

Phil made them special pancakes for breakfast. We did our schoolwork, then we headed to the American Girl Store for a little birthday tea party.

We ended the day with cake, presents, skype calls, face time and phone calls from many of you who love these girls, too, and helped to make their day so special!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girls!


november already?

A beautiful day on Lake Superior in Duluth, MN

All I can say is that we have dear family and friends. Many of you have chimed in recently to ask, "Where in the world have you been?"  I figured I had better update the blog. :)

The fall has disappeared before my very eyes. I still have lots of pictures to post from our summer vacation! Maybe I'll get to that someday, but for now, here's a quick recap of what we've been up to:


After our stop in D.C., we drove up to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York to spend a few days on Keuka Lake with Phil's parents.

We stopped by Niagara Falls on the way home.


School, our weekly Friday homeschool group, AWANA and piano lessons began.


A trip to Iowa

A wonderful visit from 2 of my former second grade students (who just turned 20!)

A trip up to Duluth to see the North Shore, the Aerial Lift Bridge and the beautiful fall leaves. I must say, Duluth is now one of my favorite cities. It's up there with Seattle.

Both of my sisters flew out to visit from Alabama and California. We spent a few days exploring Minneapolis and spent the longest time walking around in the cold trying to locate the Mary Tyler Moore statue. Fun!

A surprise visit from friends from Oregon with lunch and a meet-up at the Mall of America

Phil's sister flew out from California to join our family on our road trip down to Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum. This place was amazing! Even more so--our kids were AWESOME, enduring 15 hour days in the car.

A fun day touring our State Capitol building and seeing the giant Lego display of the Capitol there in the lobby.

So that's what we've been up to! We look forward to celebrating a few birthdays this month. Half of us have November birthdays. The girls will turn 8 on the 18th (this I CANNOT believe!) and Phil will be 40 something on the 27th. :)


school days

We're gearing up for school at our house. This year we'll have two second graders, a fourth grader and a fifth grader! Where has the time gone?

I'm excited that we've joined a homeschool group here in the area. It's an a la carte program that allows me to pick and choose classes for my kids. This semester I chose Art, Writing (Institute for Excellence in Writing), Science, and Classical Memory Master. The classes are taught by former or retired teachers. The church where we meet allows parents to check out books and materials from their extensive church library.

Here's a list of what we're using this year in school; all textbook names are links:

Second Grade


Fourth Grade

Spelling--Spelling Workout

Fifth Grade

Math--Teaching Textbooks
Spelling--Spelling Workout

Combined Subjects

Bible--Children Desiring God Series: God's Names, God's Providence, God's Promises,
Grandpa's Box by Starr Meade

Science--Answers in Genesis: God's Design for Life,
My Nature Journal

History and Geography--Story of the World Volume 2

Character--Lessons in Responsibility for Girls, Lessons in Responsibility for Boys, Character Trails


last days of summer

Our family just got home from a wonderful trip to Washington, DC, and Upstate New York. Living here in the Midwest has made it so much easier to travel to all the places we've wanted to take our kids. Nine states in 10 days--awesome!!! My only complaint would have to be all the toll roads. I really, really do NOT like toll roads.

 Vietnam Memorial

We toured the Smithsonian Museums and Galleries, which are all FREE! We gasped when we saw this!!! My girls and I have always loved Degas' Dancer sculptures and his paintings of ballerinas.


We loved seeing Seurat's pointillism up-close!

This is the kitchen of Julia Child. Her real kitchen was moved into the Smithsonian!!!

There are so many other things I'd love to share that we weren't allowed to take pictures of like the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry in 1814--our Star Spangled Banner, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Magna Carta. So incredible.

 Lincoln Memorial
The kids noticed that we've lived in the 3 states carved right over the doorway.

WWII Memorial


walnut grove

On our way home from DeSmet, we drove through Walnut Grove, MN. We loved visiting Laura's beloved dugout from her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, the museum and visitor center, and eating at Nellie's Cafe.

I get choked up every time I think about this...here's the church bell Pa helped to buy at Christmas time with the money he had saved up to buy himself a new pair of boots. Sniff-sniff. Oh, Pa.

Here I am touching the mantel used in the Little House television series!

plum creek

The site of Laura's beloved dugout in her book On the Banks of Plum Creek
Laura's "Big Rock"

 The table land above the dugout

 Wading in Plum Creek, just down the hill from Laura's dugout. She would have followed this same path to play in the creek.

The dugout caved in years ago, but its depression remains. We loved standing here imagining the family's ox and how his foot went right though the grass roof into their home.

 In keeping with our literary theme, we played Pooh Sticks on the bridge

silver lake

 Sadly, but true, this is Silver Lake. It was drained years ago to provide more farmland in the area.

Originally, the Surveyors' House was out here, but then moved into town years later

pa's trees

And now I get to write about these trees that I obsess about. :) Pa's 5 cottonwood trees. He planted them on the homestead right away for a wind break--one for each member of the family. The reason I love them so much, is that this grove is the one thing man doesn't need to restore, or refurbish in order to preserve its legacy. As we toured many of the original buildings, much had to be done in order to make them safe and meet building codes. Furniture replicas were brought in so we could see things as they would have been. But these trees...these are the trees.

 The grove is now a memorial site with this plaque affixed to a rock at the top of the hill

the ingalls' homestead

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Ingalls' Homestead, just outside the town. There were many great activities for the kids, but I was taken by the landscape, its openness, and how the sky changed so many times throughout our day. I loved walking where Laura had once walked.

 pumping water from the well

 making corncob dolls

 making rope

 walking to church through the cornfield--this was Phil's favorite part of our day

Headed up a hill to an old church. While inside, the kids played church and I sat at the piano and played the hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." It seemed fitting.

 Tidying up a dugout

And cleaning the claim shanty

ingalls' gravesite

 Difficult to make out in this picture--the grave marker of Charles Ingalls

 Laura and Almanzo's baby boy

 "Baby Carrie"
I guess I never knew her name was Caroline