Fall ~ Homeschool & Outdoor Beauty

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Last week was our first week of the 2019-2020 school year!!!!!!  I tried to wait until September so that maybe, just maybe, the crazy-intense nausea would relent, but it just. kept. on.  Still!  We had a wonderful week, I’m so excited about this year’s curriculum.

Last year was our first year doing this, so not being very confident, I picked a curriculum to use that had everything already planned and built into it for us.  It was nice and well-planned, but this year I wanted to go deeper into the different studies.  I’ll post the books I’ve put together from good recommendations from other homeschoolers at the end.

First… every morning we’ve been doing an outside exploration time from about 8am-9:15.  It gets their energy out so that by 9:30am, they’re ready to sit down and do some school work.

The first day of school, my husband was able to go because it was his off day, and we saw an entire herd of deer and little elderly woman feeding them from her hand!!!  It must have been a whole family, because there were several bucks altogether, and even the bucks were coming up to her.  She let our kids feed them, too, and it was just SUCH a cool experience!  Too bad I didn’t have my camera (LOL this is why I’m practically paranoid to leave the house without it)!

Here’s some where I did remember to take the camera –

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My mom always wanted us to love and seek out beauty in nature or art, etc. it’s something I know I owe to her for giving me during my childhood, the gift of experiencing beauty – learning how to seek out beauty.  I’m excited that one day every week, she’s able to come with us on these adventure-outings where we specifically go to someplace beautiful and kind of take the morning off from school activities (it’s just one morning where we spend that long outside, and it’s like a mini field trip)!

They end up doing so much active learning anyway, I expected it to all be play, but some of their, “play,” actually reminded me of science experiments! :O  They floated giant leaves down a stream over and over again just to see which way they’d go.  Then our oldest decided to alter the path by setting rocks in the way… seeing if it sped up the leaves or slowed them down in certain areas.  Just so nice to be able to do things like this, whereas if they were in school, we’d have to wait until weekends where it’d be super crowded (and to be honest, we probably just wouldn’t then).

My oldest found this mockingbird watching us from the arch of butterfly vines and took this beautiful picture!  I’m so proud of his photography interest and practice!

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I loved seeing all the kids play on this hill!  They rolled down it countless times and had so much wild fun!

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The grass was soft, no rocks, and perfect for rolling.  They call it, “Tumble Hill,” 😀

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The sky was like a painting that morning!  The clouds just looked so beautiful!

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Then we all played in the water (me and the Grandma, too!!!)… it’s still hot here, so the cool water was refreshing to play in.

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There’s nothing like morning light.  It even helps trigger the hormone serotonin to be released in your brain – the hormone that keeps depression and anxiety away!  Just so good for them to be out in the mornings soaking up that happiness sunlight ❤

It definitely makes me happier!

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They found a little waterfall in the rocks.

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After a few hours, we changed and relaxed before lunch.

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The picture below is of one of my favorite places that is still the same as when I was little.  It’s a man-made pond with dozens of waterlilies and a cute population of frogs in all their stages of development.  I used to catch tad-poles there in a cup!

I was always mesmerized with it’s beauty.  This picture reminded me of that, as all our children seemed captivated for a moment.

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Now on to the coursework….  For our 4 year old, it’s pretty straight forward learning letters, numbers, the basics of writing and reading, and simple math addition and subtraction.  I already had tons of books for that from when the oldest was his age, so I didn’t need to buy anything new!

But for our fourth grader, putting together a curriculum by myself was intense!  I pulled from sources we know, and some from online, and was happy in the end with what he’s doing.  We had the option to do a Christian co-op where I could have paid for other teachers to teach him the different subjects once a week a, “day academy,” and then do the rest on my own with him the rest of the week.  We decided it was overall too expensive ($1,500 for the year :O ), but I was able to pull from their curriculum as well, as to what was being used book-wise.  We may actually do the day academy next year, the teachers there, and families that go are that great.

For now though, I was able to find our entire curriculum for about $150 total!  Such a better price and to be honest, I find it fun to teach the different subjects to them!  Sure there are hard days when their attitudes are off, but 98% of the time, it’s really really fun and interesting.

For Language Arts

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I found these books MUCH better than the standard curriculum language books I was looking at.  They were recommended from this fascinating blogger, SaucysandPiper, from Days of Sunshine blog, here.  Her blog (and photography) is definitely worth checking out, please!!!

The Building Language is just introducing the concepts of Latin stems, and the way much of our language (and different languages) are built from those.  These books are just beautifully written, and incorporate the unique architecture, roads and aqueducts the Romans built!  Caesar’s English 1 is a more advanced (all of these books are done by the Royal Fireworks Press for Gifted and Talented children – they really are very good!) form of learning writing, essays, and more on using Latin stems.  The Music of the Hemispheres introduces children to poetry, both reading and composing their own works!  It’s been so much fun, and nothing like last year’s language curriculum!

Not pictured is the All About Spelling packet we’re using.  Recommended from several places, and just an all-around very helpful way to study the words broken down into steps.

For History –

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I decided to use this series called, The Story of the World.  It comes in four hefty volumes, each one designed for lessons for an entire year.  The day academy we were looking into was using it, and several other people I found online.  The author, Susan Wise Bauer, does a wonderful job of explaining history in such a fascinating, simple way – like the telling of a story, which for children, I think how it should be.  Hence, “the story of the world.”  He’s been loving the first chapter, learning about how historians believe life began in the fertile crescent, where the Bible plainly states between the Tigris and Euphrates.  We found a documentary online that followed the chapter almost topic by topic, which was fun.

Also pictured is the activity book, complete with pictures, maps to color, reviews for studying, review cards, and then the Test/Answer booklet for administering tests for each lesson (week).  I like that he’s going to be taking tests and will probably come up with some for his science curriculum, too.  Developing test-taking skills are always helpful.

Bible –

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We do Bible classes usually right before Language, and only do it intensely one day a week.  These books are both good, and have some overlap, but overall I can tell our son loves, “Cold-Case Christianity for Kids,” more than the study book.  I found this recommendation from The Wintery Knight’s website, and it has not disappointed!  Written by a former detective who discovered Jesus’ authenticity by treating him as a cold-case, he teaches kids how to do the same!  Just So. Cool.

Science –

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I’m using an online course and textbook for his science this year, but this is the paperback that goes with the text, full of worksheets, diagrams to fill-in, etc.  We like paper so much here that I’m finding myself wanting to print his textbook off just so he can have it to go back to in order to study easier.  So next year I’ll probably just find something already ready to go.  My degree was in Biology, and I loved science, so it’s one of the classes I feel most comfortable teaching.  Even last year we ventured off the curriculum a lot to do experiments, read books, and watch documentaries on the topics.  Science can either be extremely dry and boring, or edge of your seat exciting!

I also having our son do a Computer Class (basic typing, then moving on to actually writing a book or short story), and Spanish, which he’s loving!  Both of these courses are online and therefore I don’t have to do too much, as it pretty much teaches him for me.

For literature and books for writing essays, I came up with a collection that was more tailored to his likes than the other curriculum I saw out there.  The one we went with last year, that I was planning on possibly doing again (total would have been $500) had a lot of girlish books for some reason for this year that just didn’t sound interesting for him.

Instead we got Oliver Twist, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Huckleberry Finn, The Three Musketeers (not pictured because he was literally reading it at the time lol!), The Trumpet of the Swan (a classic 4th grade book), Stuart Little, and the only girlish book, Rachel’s Journal which is the diary of a pioneer girl (we did a study on the American pioneers last year, and he really liked it).

And James Herriot’s Treasury of Stories for Children – just a beautiful book about his sweet and sometimes hilarious experiences as a vet in Yorkshire.  I read his books growing up and so it’s wonderful to get to read them to our kids.

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The illustrations in his book are inspiring, and perfectly capture the culture of Yorkshire when retelling his stories.  Here are some examples –

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Our son also wanted to do a Viking study this year, so to honor that I found these books, plus a book not pictured that is the fictional story to the Fact Tracker (Magic Tree House) book.  The Norse Myths by D’Aulaire, suggested again by SaucysandPiper, has been his favorite overall so far, his dad is reading it with him, but from what I’ve seen, the illustrations are detailed and, “Awesome!” he says.

“I also like to read it on my own when Dad is asleep,” he says 😀 .  The Eyewitness Book on the Vikings is a factual one to balance out the myths.  And he loves the Magic Tree House books, so the fictional and fact tracker were perfect for this!

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For Math –

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I went with the Singapore Math this year, because the day academy co-op we thought about does all their math with this curriculum, and if we join them next year, I thought it’d be better to be on the same page already.  It’s supposed to be good and is a method used in Southeast Asia for developing the nation’s children’s mathematical abilities.  According to Wiki, the method became more popular when test scores were released and showed their method to be at the top pretty consistently.  We may switch to Saxon if it doesn’t prove as great, though, have lots of friends who use that one.

Some pictures of the Norse Myths book (much better in person though) –

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I’m super excited about this year!  Just so many fun things to learn and do!  Hope you readers have a good, “year,” too!

May you always be a learner, and discover adventure every day!

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Lego Movie 2 – Teaching Boys to be a Beta Emmet & Not a Rex-Dangervest

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So during our summer vacations we usually make time to go to the movies each week during the, “Kids’ Free Movie,” day.  This past week was the first free movie of the season, and my husband took all of us to go see the Lego 2 movie that was showing (they typically show already released movies since they’re free).  It was like an all-boy day, as we had our two sons and one of our oldest’s good friends (baby girl got to hangout with Grandma 😉 ). ❤  I love being able to take their friends to fun things, get tons of candy at the Dollar Store, and splurge on Icee’s when we get there!  As we were driving my husband and I listened to the cute things boys talk about to each other… it’s just so sweet to me, their boy stuff.

The Lego Movie 2 was mostly centered on a analogous plot of the difficulty in managing playing with a younger sister, while trying to prevent the ever-looming, catastrophic event of Armamageddon (Are Mama Gets In(volved)!.  The general plot is funny, the jokes, sarcasm, and real life/other movie references are always interesting, and almost every kid (and parent) can relate perfectly to the delicate balance of siblings playing together nicely, or else their mama really does have to get in.  When mama gets in, “Armamageddon,” all the lego worlds they’ve created are banished into the, “Bin of Stor-Age!”  A lot of it is simply hilarious, and the music is so kid-perfect there were kids dancing in the theater (ours, too).

It’s a popular movie, apparently grossing over $191 million worldwide.

Yet the Lego Movie 2 is also pretty painful to watch, especially when you think about what it’s trying to teach boys about their worth, what women want, and what women respond to.

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Emmet, the un-hero

The first Lego Movie already introduced us to the main male character, and supposed hero, Emmit Brickowski.  He’s the typical depiction of a beta male, who tries too hard to please everyone, builds his life around everyone else’s happiness, and truly believes his life is, “AWESOME,” even though his emotions and results of his actions prove to him everyday, that it isn’t.

He is the butt of every joke, no one believes in him, and even though he kind of gets the girl in the end, it’s clear she’s not really attracted to him much less truly in love with him.  He’s the reason why both movies are painful to watch, and yet, in the second movie, it’s taken too far.

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it’s clear the writers try to present his pitiful character as being the kind of man all boys should try to be,

the kind of man women truly want.

I’m not trying to review that first movie, it annoyed me enough back then, but at least I could see it showed some glimmer of truth in that men like this aren’t respected and aren’t something boys should try to model themselves after.

Why on earth would they want to, with how horrible Emmet is treated (in both movies)??  What boy wants to grow up being constantly disrespected by all the women in his life and not valuable to his friends (or boss, or anyone)?  In short, what male child would see this movie, and think it was a good, Life Plan, to end up miserable?  It was a good teaching tool to our oldest, a cartoon-life example to use to show him how women (and most other people) treat men who act like Emmet.  This second movie, however, with it’s outright teaching boys that this is what women want, was too much.  Coming from the point of view of a mom with two sons (who have friends we also care about), yes, it was painful to watch this movie, “teach,” these boys we brought that women want weak, immature, naive men for romantic partners.  That is, undeniably, the opposite of what women actually want.  So let’s be honest here, the Lego Movie 2 lies to children, and most devastatingly, to boys.

Red Pill Matrix References in Lego Movie 2

After the movie, my husband and I couldn’t help but compare notes to how many blue pill and red pill truisms we found and referred to.  At one point, the only red pill aware character (who is of course, also made to be the male villain who tries to “ruin everything) even makes a reference to Emmet wanting to, “go back to the Matrix.”  He was referencing the red pill lingo of when men prefer to go back to being, “blue pill,” where they don’t see that the entire society is trying to get them to build their lives around what women want, as opposed to what’s truly beneficial or good for men.  Blue pill is a reference to being plugged in to the Matrix, whereas Red Pill references having your eyes opening, unplugging, and understanding the real nature of the world.

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The red pill aware character who made this Matrix reference, is called Rex Dangervest, and is a knock-off of the real hero in Jurassic World, and voiced by the same actor, Christ Pratt.

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In Lego 2, Rex and his army of velociraptors are the bad guys, the guys trying to teach Emmet to stand up for himself, be tougher, be more… *gasp* masculine.

Let’s all take 5 minutes to remember right now how Emmet was treated when he wasn’t masculine.

Yea…

right…

his life was miserable.

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In reality, Chris Pratt’s character in Jurassic World, the same man villain-Rex is modeled after, was the tough, but kind and gentle, hero who saved everyone he possibly could, even going so far as to sacrifice himself for the benefit of others. He’s also the velociraptors’ “alpha male,” leader, and is therefore able to somewhat control these dangerous dinosaurs and their killer instincts.

 

The fact that the Lego 2 movie rewrites this classic, good, alpha-male hero, into a villain to represent, “toxic masculinity,” should tell you everything you need to know about the mindset of the creators.  

The message to boys is, “Don’t be like Rex, don’t be tough and capable.  Don’t show, ‘toxic masculinity.’  Be like Loser-Emmet instead!”  However, Chris Pratt’s character was the hero who the two boys in the movie admired, respected, and chose to be with over their female relative who couldn’t save them!  We can trust that Emmet’s beta-male character, all sweet and naive and emotional, would not have been able to save as many lives as Pratt’s character if Emmet was likewise transferred into Jurassic World.

But why did Lego 2 pick Chris Pratt’s male hero to make a mockery and villain of?  Aside from having ample opportunities to make hilarious references to the raptors and his communication style, I think it may go a bit deeper than that.  The main female character in Jurassic World was the typical strong, I-don’t-need-a-man, type who seemed successful at her job of running the dinosaur park.  But over the course of the movie, we watch our heroine leader make a series of devastatingly wrong leadership decisions that end in many people dying for her lack of perception of how dangerous the situation was all along.  Pratt’s heroic male character is the only one pragmatic enough to see the situation for what it was (much like Rex in Lego 2), and has to constantly fix her mistakes, usually too late to save the many men who die because of her decisions.  His and her characters have a strong sexual chemistry, of course, that is made even more obvious by how annoyed she is at his personality.  In the end, she realizes how much she needed him to save everyone and she succumbs to their romance for, as they joke, “survival.”  The subliminal message of the Jurassic World movie was,

“Toxic Masculinity may be annoying to women,

but boy it sure does save their asses (and their children)

when everything goes south!”

I loved this character, and our kids did, too.  He looks and acts very much like my own brother (who is a Chris Pratt doppelganger!!), so for our kids, it was like watching their Uncle on the screen… well, if their Uncle was a raptor trainer in a dinosaur world.  How cool is that?!?!

In Lego Movie 2, not only do we find Rex is a villain, the movie makes a plot twist by revealing he’s actually Emmet – the man he turns into after being hardened by women’s, and in general, people’s true nature.  After spending years under the dryer, forgotten completely, he refashioned himself into a man who could take care of himself and didn’t need saving from the female hero any longer.  He transformed into a real man who could not only save himself, but as Chris Pratt showed in his Jurassic World character, a man who could also save the masses in a crisis.

The movie, instead of admitting that yes, men are most beneficial to society when they are capable and masculine, takes it too far with Rex’s character, revealing him as the villain who tries to destroy love and everything good found in two worlds (the masculine represented by the brother’s lego world and the feminine represented by the sister’s “Systar System” of girlie legos) working together.  

Red pill Rex Wouldn’t Exist without a Hardening of Blue pill Emmet’s character

The honesty in this movie is interesting at times when contrasted to the overall goal of hiding the truth.  The writers admit to the audience that our tough and desirable Rex (knock off of Chris Pratt’s Jurassic World hero) would not even exist if Lucy hadn’t hurt Emmet (along with all his other friends) as bad as they initially did by leaving him under the dryer for years alone, and never coming back for him.  When Lucy does come back for him, he remains in his blue pill state and rejects everything good and masculine Rex was trying to teach him (that Lucy said she wanted).  As a result, Rex starts to vanish ala Back to the Future style, because now that Lucy came back for him, his alter-ego never gets to exist.  It’s almost as if Feminist Females like Lucy realize, “Oh no!  Look at the red pill response we’ve created!” and want to bring their betas back (and old article of Rollo’s).

And you know what? It’s true that most men would never become red pill aware (Rex-Dangerous) if they weren’t brutally forced to face the truth of female nature, either due to divorce or the series of heartbreaks we watch Emmet go through.  Most men are not naturally that self-aware due to the Matrix-like programming they go through in childhood and adolescence.  Some men are, but I think most just aren’t.

We have to painfully watch Emmet go through the slow realizations that Lucy not only doesn’t share his dream, she doesn’t even appreciate what he’s offering.  Lucy looks down on his, “naive,” dream of owning a cute little house together and starting a life as a couple.  Let’s not even mention that even when they weren’t in a war he wasn’t able to get her to settle down.  Is he naive for trying to start a life together in the midst of war?  At first glance, yes, but then we see Lucy’s pessimistic and destructive attitude is the entire reason the war started in the first place, and it all starts to become more clear.

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A Cringe-worthy Romance… Bleh!

The movie shows a clip from the past where Emmet’s ability to make peace with the Sister Aliens could have avoided the war in its entirety, if Lucy and the others only listened to him.  But as the movie keeps on teaching us, no one respects or listens to men like Emmet.  This isn’t unfortunately just female nature, it’s human nature in a nutshell.  His miserable life is unavoidable because of the way he behaves and allows himself to be treated.  He dreams of Lucy being in love with him, wanting to marry him and settle down, but the audience can painfully feel zero attraction or chemistry between them.  And yet Emmet still tries to bring her in on his dreams of building a picture-perfect life together, which realistically, would be anything but perfect!  It is the classic, “blue pill,” form of male-reasoning and living in denial that leads to so many men being unhappily married to women who treat them like Lucy does, and never understanding what’s wrong or what she really wants from him.

The physical struggle between Emmet and Rex was also interesting to watch and listen to, as they literally fought to the, “Lego death,” close to the end of the movie.  It seemed to represent the internal struggle most men have with admitting the truth to themselves (with their blue pill self fighting against it, because the truth is painful).  Emmet (blue pill male) doesn’t want to have to become Rex (red pill male), even though it would drastically make a lot of the problems in his life disappear (the main one being holding on to a woman like Lucy, who doesn’t appreciate or admire him, and doesn’t feel any chemistry for him).

Emmet can’t become Rex, the more masculine version of himself, though, because the writers made sure Rex had all the exaggerated villain-esque and anti-social characteristics of male, “toxicity.”  Instead of giving boys a good, balanced, masculine role model like Chris Pratt’s initial character in Jurassic World, they give us (as the supposed hero) plain old Emmet the way he always was… all positive or masculine changes discarded.  The result of only seeing these two extremes presented as viable options for Emmet to become, fell flat, and didn’t provide a positive ending for our tragic, “hero.”

In the end, Lucy does say she preferred him the way he was before, “naive, sweet, and innocent.”  She wasn’t happy when he grew up and became tougher like she said she wanted initially.  And it’s true, it didn’t make her happy to see he didn’t need her anymore to control and dictate his life.  Women like this routinely pick men they can control, because they don’t want to look up to, respect, or God-forbid submit to a male figure (for all kinds of possible psychological reasons behind it).  But without the chemistry and actual love between them, Lucy’s admission of love comes across as preferring Emmet to be “beta,” or blue pill because back then he was more controllable.  When he was the old Emmet, and not tough and grown up and capable, he followed Lucy’s lead, even though it would regularly lead to bad decisions like war occurring when it didn’t have to.  Her exaggerated hostility toward everyone and anything is actually a kind of good example of toxic femininity that I don’t think the Lego 2 creators bargained for us realizing.  Feminist movie, meet Irony. 😉

Lucy’s Create Their Own Unhappiness

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I had a friend who reminds me of Lucy, and who for years dated a man she would regularly complain about and stress herself out about, almost as though it was a new hobby she was taking up, which obviously, wasn’t healthy for her.  Her boyfriend wasn’t sexually attractive in her mind, she wanted him to lose weight (for his own health benefits so she said).  He was messy, and she expressed to me that she didn’t think she could live with him being that way after marriage.  He played with Legos, and she viewed it as him being, “immature.”  It just went on and on what an imperfect match they were.  Against all my advice to leave him alone, and find a man she already accepted and loved the way he was, she married him anyway, and we lost contact because I didn’t want to see how the drama would play out in marriage.

Women like Lucy are already unhappy.  For whatever underlying psychological reasons, they don’t want to come under the leadership of a masculine male, so they pick and hold on to men like Emmet, even though it tends to make them miserable.  And in truth, men like Emmet often don’t want to lead in the relationship, it’s much more comfortable for them to let the wife lead, or just be a passive, “partner.” 

Women crave a man who will lead her, and lead her well.  And in a balanced marriage, masculinity and femininity work together.  But like Lucy finds out, women like this are in a Catch 22 – wanting their men to, “man-up,” but then despising them when they do.  Psychologically, I believe women like this pick men like Emmet, for a reason – and that’s important to remember when they’re complaining about him.

Well, Lucy, you picked him!

All in all, at least we’re able to use the movie as another teaching tool or manifestation of the way our culture wants to view men.  Even handsome heroes that save children (in movies) aren’t immune to having their (good) virtues twisted to become, “toxic masculinity.”

We should be thanking God for those male virtues, not shaming boys into rejecting them.

Life Updates & Homeschooling… Again

I have many posts in draft, including one that has been asked several times here or via emails on what I think about women in ministry… it is coming, it’s just so complicated and long I’ve been trying to pare it down to a more easy-to-read post.

We’ve going through lots of things this past school year!  Homeschool has been amazing, even though sometimes it can be harder some days than others.  For the most part, it has been wonderful getting to really focus on teaching our older son (and to some degree our younger son) things that we feel the school system was deliberately leaving out or twisting to be seen from a false narrative.  And we’re able to focus so much more on Christian ethics and morals in our lessons, and involve the Christian aspects behind historical stories and even in science.

And going through Pilgrim’s Progress has just been AMAZING for our son.  Again, I cannot reccommend this book enough to families with children!  It is a MUST read for the strengthening of their faith (and for yours!).  Just read it, and honor it in your house.  I’m sure the sweet author John Bunyan may have gotten some things wrong, but overall it is very on point and a good tool for building a child’s faith.

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In other news, some of you may remember we’ve been trying to have another child.

It’s just been taking longer than we expected, which isn’t really “bad,” but every month when I find out I’m not pregnant, I feel this emptiness and longing… and tell my husband how I just simply want to have another of his babies.  It’s a very strange and sad kind of emptiness.  And I’m so so sorry to sound so selfish to any women out there who have dealt with never having a child.  I’m not in any way trying to minimize your pain – I’m sure I should be happy that we have 3 already (and I am!), but it IS just a strange kind of thing that I’m going through each month that I’m not able to conceive.  I knew it would probably take longer… I’m far older than I was when we had our first (almost a decade!) and I’m accepting that maybe it’s not possible.

I definitely am not trying to make it a big deal, and some people in our circle think I’m ridiculous for even wanting more children 😦 , but to be honest, it has just been a little depressing and hard.  And I never thought I’d feel those feelings when needing to wait or having to accept that … maybe 3 kids is “it?”  It’s ok, and I still love and trust God so much, but I’ve been surprised at these feelings inside.

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That and we’ve been through an intense few months of my husband studying for a work thing… something that took him away almost every second of him being off, but thankfully that season is over and we’re more into a, “let’s finish school strong,” mode 🙂 .

We’ve actually become busier as I’ve started to teach another sweet little boy (5 yr old) who is the grandson of our neighbor.  His father and mother had him out of wedlock in high school (she was only 16), and have both abandoned him to other life choices (her drugs and he’s off at college very far away).  He’s practically an orphan and it is just so hard to see up close and personal what that does to a child.

We’ve watched ALL of this play out over the years we’ve lived next to his grandmother.  And now she’s called upon me to kind of repair what they’ve broken and neglected.  He can’t even read or write well, and I’ve been gently teaching him just the basics, and thankfully it’s been working and hopefully in a small way, it will help him.  It’s so tragic.  He is so sweet, and my husband even wants to adopt him.  He’s basically become almost a part of our family as he’s over every day, and just kind of folded into the fabric of our life.

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Something that’s been such a blessing in this busy season has been the mom’s group I’ve talked about before.  It’s a group that’s mostly made up of very large, home-schooling families… think 4+ kids per mom who attends!  It is incredible the stuff I’m learning in this group ❤ and SO fulfilling to be around other like-minded women and children it’s hard to describe how nice it is.

….

So with all that above, we’ve just been so. incredibly. busy.  And I’m exhausted, but it’s a good exhausted. 🙂

For the Love of Blue

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For a few years now, my husband’s former Lieutenant has invited us to his church every January for a special service where ALL the members honor and thank the law enforcement officers who go, and pray over them and their families and just surround them with support.  It. Is. Powerful.

This time, like every other time, the Pastor gave such a clear-minded sermon and hit a plethora of topics (not really police related, but speaking on cultural and religion decline) where churches are now failing in addressing; it blew our minds again to finally hear such sound, wonderfully True, preaching. He even several times, mentioned the word “defiled,” talking about men and women (yes, he made it a point to call out women) who are defiling people, and how much the churches have declined over the years.  ❤  This is a mostly all black church, the services last 3 hours long, and the love and presence of the Holy Spirit you feel when you’re there makes people cry.

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I remember the first time we came, it was shortly after we had lost one of the sweetest detectives that worked with my husband (pictured above).  He had just been sitting in his patrol car on a fill-in shift, when he was shot in the head for no reason by a black man.  The funeral was so devastating, and even though I was serving at it, for awhile I just couldn’t stop crying.  Hearing his family speak… it broke something inside me.  Feeling this kind of welcome and love and honesty about police deaths coming from black men and women was so needed for me at that time.  Back then our officers were 18% more likely to be murdered by a black male, now the percentage is higher I believe.  2016 was the deadliest year for police officers, but each year over 100 die on duty from a variety of job-related incidents.  I watch my husband put a black mourning band over his badge when these deaths happen, and sometimes in the past, the deaths kept coming to where he couldn’t take it off for days and days.  It was so difficult to keep hearing who the perpetrators were, the life-threatening messages they were sending to our officers and their spouses (and kids!).  Hearing how they were attacking them even in their homes, sometimes threatening their wives and children.  The Pastor spoke about all these things, and remarked on how amazing it is that no other churches talk about this (and yes, this has bothered me before in the past how even our own church would never touch the subject).

The Pastor spoke directly to us law enforcement families.  Reminded us of how they are God’s ministers, God’s Avengers who bring wrath on those who do wrong (Romans 13).  He reminded us spouses of what our calling in this marriage is as well.  He spoke of the burden we carry in being this support system, and I had a glimpse into how I’m not really letting God give me the strength I need for this particular burden as much as I thought I was.  I love being an officer’s wife, but many elements of it are hard, even when one deliberately separates themselves from the deaths and funerals.

But we are so blessed to know my husband’s former (now retired) Lieutenant ❤ and we SO blessed to know this congregation of strong, faith-filled believers.  My husband even suggested we start tentatively going to this new church (<3 !!).

Hope everyone is doing well, posting has been slow as child-raising has fully taken over 😀 ❤ !!  We are also making it a point to go to the gym most days, and I love this season of getting back in shape (we do on and off seasons to fluctuate with life and the holidays).

Stephanie

Merry Christmas Readers!

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Phew!!!!  I’m typing this as I’m making 2 tarts at the moment.  One traditional chocolate (very simplistic, with just a few ingredients that create the most decadent, yet simple taste), and a white chocolate swirled with butterscotch sauce for my husband.

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I guess it’s a let’s write between stirring the chocolate kind of night.  I am tired. 🙂  December flew by for us, and to be honest, it was a little too fast and crazy for our normal style.  Lots of things we went to, formal Christmas stuff, family outings, a few birthday parties, two that celebrated our Christmas baby.  And lots and lots of baking.

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When we needed to go to a Christmas formal, I thought it’d be fun to set up the kids and my mom (who was going to watch them that night) with a table ready for decorating Christmas cookies if they wanted to.

So the night before the formal, while doing some home-primping girly things, I was also cutting out and baking sugar cookies.  It was so much fun to do this and set up all the sprinkles (we have quite a collection!) and frostings for them to do the next day.

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I have such fond memories of doing these kinds of things with my mom, and how wonderful that she gets to repeat it with my children.  And with the exact same cookie cutters she always used with us!

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We also set the kids up like this another time when we went out to do some Christmas shopping together.  If any readers have any other ideas for what kids can do when you’re out at parties or dances and such, I’d love to hear them.  Hopefully next year’s December will calm down some, and we intend to make more so, for good measure.

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Seeing reindeer was one of the highlights!  And camels, although we didn’t get a picture of the camels 😀

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Fascinated faces… lol

Lots of fun things…

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And mesmerizing sights…

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I think we all drank our weight in hot chocolate 😉

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Our mornings have often been spent cuddling together, and squished, as all our children just have to all sit on the same couch at the same time with me LOL 🙂 it’s just one of those things where you have to take a moment.  We may go to fancy things sometimes… but on the whole, this is our reality.  And we are very, very full.

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And don’t worry, if you feel overwhelmed or stressed out this season, always remember… you’re not alone 😉

Somewhere, there is a baby being forced to see Santa…

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Merry Christmas!!!!

Stephanie

Letting Children Have a Vision of Marriage

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“The parent who loves his children and takes pleasure in training them in right conduct gives the best possible testimonial to marriage.

On the other hand, the parent who constantly complains about his physical, financial or emotional burdens breaks down his youngster’s vision of marriage as a worthy state in life.”

– Rev. George A. Kelly 

~ ❤ ~

I stumbled upon this passage above a month ago when reading, and it felt like getting hit with a two-by-four upside the head!  LOL  While I do strive to be the best mom I can be to our kids, enjoying teaching them and doing life with them, the overall quote felt convicting!  The worst thing I think in my journey as a mother would be to rob my children of the hope and joy they should have at this age – by making them fear growing up and feeling like they won’t be able to handle whatever burdens or trials they’re supposed to carry later on.

But I never linked breaking a youngster’s vision of marriage as a worthy state in life, with complaining – it makes so much sense!

And of course it’s true, a complaining mother is a drain on everyone in the family, she  sucks the joy and happiness out of life.  Sure, life may be hard, but I can see how crucial it is to choose our attitudesomething my husband taught me I think in our 2nd year of marriage from a book he had read in college.

Ironically, it was a book about work-ethic mentality, meant for people in the corporate world!  But it was a great book for how to live one’s life in general, echoing sound biblical advice of doing one’s work with a cheerful attitude, putting other’s above yourself in “making their day” (making them elated!), and finding fulfillment in enjoying your work.  It was interesting… to think one can change their whole experience of even their dire circumstances, by simply changing their attitude.

***

How Does a Mom Exhibit a Worthy Vision of Marriage?

Make it a point to have fun, and have fun with your children and husband often!!!

This is something that should be a given, however, I think our natural default as humans is to fall into complaining.  Therefore we have to choose our attitude, no matter what is going on.  And to tell you the truth, even if everything is going well, our sin nature masked in the temptation to complain can come out even then unfortunately.

With how busy life gets, or bogged down with various day-to-day tasks, hardships or even trials families go through, I am seeing how setting aside time for making joyous and happy memories together is a necessary engagement.

This means even if we’ve had a long week, and we had something fun scheduled at the end of it, we make sure to still do it, in lieu of staying at home and calling it an early night.  We’ve found it’s so much more fun to go out together and experience our “fun” things, rather than just giving in the passivity of tiredness or even the kids’ moods.

Love your husband well… and openly… and at every opportunity!!!

It is sad to me that this still needs to be said, but nothing makes children happier and more at peace than seeing and knowing how in love their parents are, and how much fun they have together and with them.  

I think it is the secret recipe for a blissful family life overall.  Not that hard things don’t come, or heartbreaking tragedies, but even in the midst of these in our life together, we’ve found that the love and joy between us, carries us through those times much easier than it would be if we didn’t have that in our marriage.

Complaining or bad attitudes in general just makes everything harder, less fun, and definitely less loving.  This is true whether at work, school, in friendships, but probably especially within a marriage and around one’s children, who see them as they are all the time.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Philippians, because it is the book on how to have joy in one’s life.  This passage comes to mind whenever I find myself tempted to complain:

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life, in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” 

Philippians 2:14-16

I want my children to have a good vision of what a worthy marriage looks like, however human we may be.

Stephanie

Leaf-ing a Legacy

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This start to the new school year has been so nice and calm, and very welcomed!  Even though I have moments of missing the relaxing summer days – and moments where I can’t believe it went so fast!! – it’s still nice to be able to get back into a stricter routine and learning and everything that comes with Fall ❤  I love all the seasons, but each year I still feel like this one is my favorite.

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Baby in a Cupboard

I love all the school supplies, too 😀  The new pencils, the erasers, the notebooks, the binders – it all actually gets me excited… as nerdy as that sounds!

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She thinks this is her “house!”

I also love this time of year, because it means I organize the early school preparation for our kids, and our second boy is old enough now to really get into practicing letters, numbers, counting, hand-writing, and learning about the world – for 3 years olds 😛  I have no idea why this makes me so happy – I didn’t train to be a teacher or anything, but somehow helping him learn and do his “classwork” is SO fulfilling and fun for me.  It was the same with our oldest, too.

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I like starting early with our kids, at age 3, which I know sounds super early, but I found it really helped our oldest be prepared for the scholastic environment of sitting for certain periods of time, doing work at a desk, and focusing for that long.  Especially for boys, it’s important they’re able to handle the environment to do well in school and beyond.  It was good that he was able to go into kindergarten already knowing how to write, spell some words, read 3-letter words, and do basic addition and subtraction.

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Our second son does his work while listening to classical piano music.  We’re musical eclectics in this house 😉 and depending on the time and mood, we listen to many different kinds of music 😀 .  With the timeless music flowing through the house, it feels so peaceful and just transcendental.  Both my parents played piano ❤ so there’s probably that element that makes me feel at home with it on as well.

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Homeschooling for toddlers is pretty easy.  I usually copy pages from 3-4 different books for kindergartners on writing the alphabet, numbers, shapes, matching exercises, and sometimes easy word “problems.”  I copy them so that our other children will be able to use those same books 🙂 .  Saves money, and allows for each child to have their own personal “notebook” of the work they did from 3-5 years old ❤ .

 

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Hopefully he’ll learn all his numbers and be able to write or recognize them by Christmas, that’s the plan for Fall.  And then in the Spring semester he’ll probably start on sounding out 3-letter words, copying short sentences for his writing class, and adding and subtracting as a primer for mathematics.

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We do art classes sometimes, too, nothing too big, but today we made things out of molding clay that my parents brought this past weekend.  He made a bowl with a textured design inside.  I’m actually really excited to see how it turns out once it dries and he can paint it!!  And our little one made a beautiful hand impression ❤  Love doing things like this!

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He’s using a real bowl lined with plastic to allow his pottery to dry in the bowl-like shape.

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Sometimes it feels like the days are endless streams of Groundhog Day 😀 but I try to trust the process that the little things we’re doing now will hopefully sink into their hearts forever.  They’re my legacy ❤ and I hope they’ll know they’re treasured.

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I’m in a book club this year for moms and we’re going through “The Mission of Motherhood,” by Sally Clarkson.  The book’s focus is on how to make our children feel cherished and loved, with a call to go back to biblical and traditional motherhood.  I haven’t read past the first chapter, but it sounds good so far, and encourages women to stay home to raise their children, at least when they’re young.

Seeing how fast our oldest has grown (**major tears**) makes me treasure the baby stages even more so!  I cannot believe how fast time flies by – it’s almost not fair in way, but of course they have to grow up and grow into adults.  I want them to know that home is ALWAYS here, and that they can always come back and feel loved and cherished and encouraged in their futures.

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It’s harder to find time to read online or write these days, but I love how the days are filled with SO much to do, and maybe the school year makes me feel more productive in that way.

Hope all you readers are having a wonderful start to the fall season!  Eat lots of seasonal foods and drink some delicious fall drinks, please!

Stephanie

 

Not Quite Ready to Be Back Yet!

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We’ve been back for a little while, getting ready for the new school year.  I’m a little sad to be back in a way!!  Being out at the lake was so relaxing and just a dramatic break away from city life and noise and stress-stuff around us.

The beauty was breathtaking, and it was nice being surrounded by it day and night.

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We were camping in an RV though, so take that as you may 😀  Camping with toddlers and babies is a lot of work, even with the ease of living in an RV!  But it was a great experience and everyone had a lot of fun.  Lots of campout foods and s’mores every single night around a glowing campfire!!  What’s not to love about stuff like that?!?

One of the things I appreciated the most was getting to see the sunsets with our kids!  This may sound nuts, but as a mom with little ones who go to bed at a decent bedtime, we rarely ever get to see a sunset!!  LOL  So we were mesmerized by them… each night!

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This picture below has no filter!  The sky actually looked like this as the sun was setting!

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There’s just something about water and being next to it that gets to me.  I loved watching our kids play out there and soaked up every moment of it.

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It always strengthens my faith, too, when seeing beauty like this.  It was like living inside a painting… just surreal at times.

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Love!

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I usually would wake up super early before everyone else so I could get coffee going and try to spend some alone time reading the Bible.  The early mornings felt so fresh and glorious, it’s hard to describe just how “alive” everything all felt out there in the wilderness.

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We also explored the surrounding little country towns, we adventured through their libraries and playgrounds and parks.

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I could almost picture hobbits sitting here!

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The higher up views of the lake from on top of a hill were just incredible!  Our oldest son helped me take these pictures.

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One thing I absolutely loved was getting to indulge in “vacation foods” like lots of bacon and fluffy pancakes for breakfasts. I liked cooking things like that every morning in the RV and eating together before we headed out for the day at the lake.

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We had a couple of adventures that were pre-planned like going to a ranch for rescued or retired horses, and then seeing a history museum in a near-by country town.  Things like that are either really cheap, or even free (like the horse ranch).

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Our kids unfortunately haven’t ever been around horses, this fact actually surprised me since I grew up around cows and horses that our neighbors had.  So it was great getting to see them take in how magnificent and strong these beautiful animals are.  And since many of them were older and retired (some military horses and even one race horse!) they were calmer and seemed easy-going.

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We brought cut up carrots to feed them as treats.

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It was sweet ❤

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I think this picture was cute the way they were all poking their heads out to greet us 😀

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And then we saw dinosaurs!!!

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I wore a light cotton sundress, and thank goodness because it was SUPER hot out there!

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But with the life-sized dinosaurs on the loose in the park, these two decided to stay inside the wagon LOL

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They also got to dig for dinosaur bones.  Just really awesome stuff!

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It was hot, but well worth it!  I mean to be a kid and play like you’re really digging out dinosaur bones 😀 they really enjoyed this place!

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And little sister (kind of) tried to help 😉 LOL

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And the museum was really cool, too!

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I think my favorite part was the campfires at night and making the s’mores!

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And…. we celebrated our 11 YEAR ANNIVERSARY out there!!!!!!  We put lights up around the picnic table and eating area, it was all so very romantic, although probably not in the conventional way of thinking lol, but we had fun!

In the day, this was part of our view…

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But at night, the lights sparkled different colors!

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The fire itself was just so beautiful.  And nothing beats tasty campfire s’mores!

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I am very excited for fall, and to start up the school year, but it IS sad how fast the summer flew by.  I’m ready for the change of the seasons, but I wish time would just slow. down. at least a little!

Thank you for reading & I hope everyone else had a good end to their summer.

Stephanie

Adventure into Beauty

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We went on an adventure yesterday… and found a beautiful place to fall in love with.  The beauty and serenity of this place was breathtaking.

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We’re big nature lovers.  Even when we were just dating 12 years ago, my husband and I loved going for hikes and seeking out new outdoorsey adventures to embark on together.

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And now these little ones get to do that!  I have to add… this wagon is a GREAT investment for little ones who can’t walk yet or just get tired and need to sit awhile.  We’ve been having so much fun taking it everywhere.

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It’s like a little baby bus or something… just too cute!

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More baby bus… 😀

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She knows she’s emptying out that bottle upside down!!! LOL

We got to see lots of wildlife yesterday.

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We even got our ducks in a row.

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1… 2… 3…   ❤

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But again, it was just so breathtakingly beautiful.

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I think I’m going to have some of these photographs blown up and printed out for our oldest’s room.  He really loved taking it all in.

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A family of ducks learning to fish.

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So serene.

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We packed our lunches and snacks so we were actually able to picnic there.

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Well… this one picnic’d right inside her baby bus!  LOL

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Pretty little lady. ❤

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Overall it was a great adventure.

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I’m sure we’ll be back again.

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Stephanie

Look Who Just Turned 1 Year Old!!!

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This past weekend was definitely a crazy one.  With Father’s Day and celebrating our little one’s first birthday, there was just A LOT to be happy and joyful about!!!  ❤

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I went to our local grocery bakery and found her the perfect little cake.  It was white cake with fresh strawberry creamed icing (soooo delicious since it was naturally flavored!).

My mom did the honor of creating this little spread for photographing it.

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She really upped the elegance with her table settings ❤

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Le sigh… will they let me eat it? ❤

And in other news… Baby Girl is pulling up and starting to walk a little when assisted!

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That concentrating face though 😀 ❤  Aww sweet little one!!!

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We also had the incredible opportunity to dedicate our daughter to God on Father’s Day (how cool is that?!?!)!

Ugh just so much love here!

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My husband took these pics before church started Sunday… it was a sweet, tender moment

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There were more than a few tears shed this past Sunday when I heard our pastor praying over my husband and blessing him as the good, godly father he is.

I know I’ve posted before how we’ve dedicated each of our children to the Lord, but this one happening to fall on Father’s Day was just extra sweet and special.  Again… I had tears!

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Can’t resist ONE more picture of this delicious cake!!

Hope your weekend was just as beautiful and splendid!

We’re over the moon with love ❤

Stephanie