Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Big Accomplishment

Have I mentioned that I love my husband? He is such a hard worker and he daily sacrifices his own desires for the sake of others. I am often impressed by his determination, like a few years ago when he decided to take off some weight, so he dropped 130 pounds in 9 months. Or a year later when he decided to take up running and he did, completing both a half and a full marathon.
This year, he decided it was time to finish the college degree that he had started in 1992. He looked at a variety of options and finally decided his best option would be to complete it online using Liberty courses. So, he set his mind to it and completed 36 hours of school work in 7 months. Amazing! We are so proud of him. Since he had finished all of his classes online, we decided that we should go see the place that is now his Alma Mater. So, one day of our camping trip, we drove the 25 minutes to Lynchburg and walked the campus of Liberty University.

I insisted on taking a photo of Ryan with a Liberty sign before we left, but rain was coming, so this is the first one we found. So, no, his degree isn't in Law, but it was the best we could do.

Visiting the prayer garden
We had lunch at Doc's Diner. Let me just say, my college meal plan offered nothing so nice as this. What happened to the cafeteria?
Before we know it, she'll be the one on campus. Maybe Liberty will be in her future?

This LU emblem can be seen from all over Lynchburg. It definitely struck us as a true "college town."

By the time we got back to the campsite, the rain was clearing up, so we decided to take a hike. The trees were beautiful and the kiddos had a great time picking up leaves and acorns.

Of course, no camping trip is complete without some hot dogs and s'mores. So, after hiking up an appetite, we indulged in moderate amounts of nitrates and marshmallows. YUM!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Very Cool Concept

One of my dreams is to be able to travel internationally with my children. The cost is a bit prohibitive, so we settle for camping trips to state parks instead. But, as you can see from our camping trip pictures last weekend, we got a taste of what it might be like to take a trip around the world.

West Africa




Betcha' can't guess where we were, can you? Okay, I know the suspense is killing you, so I'll tell you. We were at the Staunton American Frontier Culture Museum. This place was so cool and it is such a novel concept. Basically, they exist to educate people on the frontier history of the Virginia Valley. However, it's not your average living history joint. The "museum" consists of over 200 acres of land divided into the "Old World" and the "New World." They have taken actual homes from the time period and location, and put them all in one place. There are 300 year old homes and farm buildings transported from villages in England, Ireland, and Germany. As we walked through the Old Country and visited with the "inhabitants" they shared their stories and communicated their interest in immigrating to the New World.

Playing with Bridget, a hen in Ireland.

The Irish canisters, consisting of Oatmeal, Ground Oats, and Oat flour. Got oats?
Inside the German home.
Abe, playing in the German farm wagon.

After exploring the Old World, we moved to the New World section where we explored three farms and a school house that were transported from other spots in the Virginia Valley.

Abe's view of an 1820's farmhouse
An 1850's farmhouse
Ryan and I ready to sit down after an afternoon of world travel.

After traveling back in time for the afternoon, we decided to finish our day in Staunton with a quick dinner at a fun joint called Wright's Dairy Rite, which apparently has been serving the fine people of Staunton since 1952. I'm not sure about that, but I know I thoroughly enjoyed my grilled cheese and chocolate milkshake!

Fun times!

I love to travel, I have 5 children, therefore... I love to camp. Especially in the fall. This past weekend, we did what has become our annual fall camping trip and we had a great time. It was a good blend of fun stuff and doing nothing, which was exactly what we needed. The only problem was, it was too short. Of course, the first night when it POURED rain, with lightning and thunder for 4 hours, I wasn't so sure it would ever end. But, after that little adventure, it proved to be a blast.
Day one, we traveled about 2 1/2 hours from home, to Appomattox, VA where our campground was. We had studied the Civil War this spring, so we were looking forward to going to the site of Appomattox Court House and seeing the "place where our nation reunited." I really thought we'd just be there for a couple of hours. But, the kids had a great time doing the Jr. Ranger program books, so we stayed longer than we'd planned to. If you live in our area, I highly recommend a visit up there. It's $5 for the whole family and it's an amazing piece of US history.

Beautiful; both the Virginia countryside and the boy.

The McLean House, where Grant and Lee met and signed the surrender terms.

Everywhere we went, Abe prided himself with following the big kids by walking on any elevated surface he could find. And trust me, they seemed to be everywhere!

Working hard on their Jr. Ranger books.
Happy to be together.

And I thought they'd never get along. Just this morning, we left Abe at home with Daddy so that we could go to co-op. Lily says from the backseat, while waving to Abe as we're pulling away, "You just can't understand how much I love that boy." Music. to. my. ears.

I'm back (at least today I am)

Wow, three months since I've blogged. Where to start? So much has happened in our home and in my heart over the last few months. We've celebrated 2 birthdays, had the roughest school year start ever, we've made more doctor's visits than we normally make in a year, and we've revamped our pantry and diet (well, it's a work in progress), not to mention I've just stepped away from the part time job I've held for the last 21 months, because, well, it was time. My family needs my heart at home for a while, and so here I am! It's been crazy and I look forward to catching up on all of it in the blog world, just because it's my favorite way to chronicle our world. My kids find it very frustrating when we do something "memorable" and it doesn't make the blog. So, I suppose I'll start from here and work backwards.
So, for this week's memorable event... let me just say, I am a fair girl. I grew up going to the fair and in the area where I was raised, county fairs were a big deal. My parents always looked forward to going to their hometowns for the fair every year. In fact, my mom has only missed the county fair in her home county a few times in her entire life and she and my dad just made the 9 hour pilgrimage again a few weeks ago.
I'm not sure what I love best, the humungous pumpkins, the baby animals, the cakes and quilts, or the fried dough. Not to mention the lights, the rides, the 57 booths giving away free pencils, and the cotton candy. It's just such a festive atmosphere and it celebrates so much of what I love about the good ole' USA.
Now here in NC, the county fair isn't quite the event that it was in my hometown. In fact, our county doesn't even have a "county fair." I know... it's terrible! But, we do live only 40 minutes from the state fairgrounds, so annual opportunities for candy apples still abound. However, let's be realistic. We have 5 children, and taking 5 children to the fair is expensive. Even when you do it frugally, it can still add up fast. So, we haven't been the last 2 years. It just hasn't made the budget priority list.
This year, I was determined we were going. So, we planned ahead, used every discount we could find, and made it happen. We spent our day Tuesday exploring the wonders of the North Carolina State Fair, and it was a hit. Everyone had fun, but Lily and Abe had no idea what to expect, so they were especially thrilled by all of it. Here are a few highlights from the day:

Lizzy and Isaac with Rock-it Robot who thrilled Isaac and absolutely terrified Abe!

The whole crew in one HUMUNGOUS chair.

The thrills of the fun house!

Abe experiencing the full thrill of the "monster trucks."
Isaac posing with one of the many barnyard animals made of recycled materials which was scattered across the fairgrounds. He picked the turkey in honor of his Pap, the hunter.
That's what I'm talking about, who doesn't like a little artificial color every now and then?

The one in the middle... 800+ pounds. Wow, could I make some pumpkin bread with that bad boy!
Goofing off on those poor innocent punkins.

Now that's how you carve a pumpkin.

So big, so fast, sigh.