Monday, August 27, 2012

Hot Air Balloon Festival

I have always thought hot air balloons are so beautiful. That's why I was so excited to hear about the hot air balloon festival that is held annually in our town. The festivities began on Friday night where visitors had a chance to check out all of the balloons. On this night, the balloons stayed tethered to the ground with very expensive rides offered to those who wished to float up to the end of the tether. There was also a craft fair and a live band who tried their best to recapture some of the classic 80s rock I grew up on. The evening culminated with a fireworks show that rivaled, if not beat, any I have seen at Disney or elsewhere.

The special weekend continued the next day with a 6am launch of the balloons. Since we were up rather late the night before, I chose to sleep in on Saturday morning. However, the launch was repeated Sunday morning at 6am, and both girls wanted to join me for this special event. I tiptoed into each of their rooms and awakened them at 5:30, and we headed over. For such an early event, I did not expect the crowds that were there, but we were able to easily find a parking spot nonetheless.

When we first got there, the balloons were all still laying on the ground while their owners performed various checks and worked to hook up the baskets and other paraphernalia necessary to launch. It was still dark, so the ballooners had plenty of time. It was interesting to watch all of the preparations underway.

Finally, as dawn began to break, first one balloon and then another began to inflate.

And shortly after that the first balloon launched.

I was a bit disappointed because I had visions of a whole sky full of beautiful balloons, but this one had launched by itself with no others even close to launching. I thought perhaps there was a certain amount of space required between launch, both in time and space. However, that theory proved wrong, and I got my wish because soon many of the balloons began to launch one right after the other. It was indeed beautiful.

After most of the balloons had launched, and it was nearing time to get ready for church anyway, the girls and I left. Of course we had one more stop to make: Starbucks where I had promised the girls a special treat.

I don't ordinarily wake up before the sun does, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience and one I will encourage even the boys to do with us next year. And perhaps next year I might find a way to fulfill an item on my bucket list and go for an actual hot air balloon ride!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Birthday Week

I'm calendarly challenged. My "baby" boy's birthday was back in May. My "baby" girl's birthday was two days ago. Last night we had a birthday party for my boy. I know. Not great planning, but that's just how it worked out.

Jacob's birthday happened the fall the day after we moved into our new house, so it wasn't real good timing for a birthday party. And this year is the boys' year for parties, so we put it on hold. So far on hold that Audrey's birthday snuck up on us too. It wasn't her year to have a party, but we did let her choose a dinner location. I'm sure it's not hard to believe she chose Chuck E. Cheese.
Nothing like dinner with a creepy puppet, right? 

At least she got to meet the real Charles Edward Cheese.
(That's what I call him; we're pretty tight, you see.)
Turns out our friends ending up joining us. And they brought gifts too...something that is definitely NOT supposed to happen at a not-party. It really looked like a real party to me. Shhh....don't tell anyone!
But at home, Audrey did get a not-party birthday cake, so I guess that made up for the real party not-party. I don't think she was complaining about the not-party cake, though.
Jacob had his real party party two days later. He invited a couple of friends over for the night. They rough housed like boys are supposed to do, enjoyed an Angry Birds pizza courtesy of his dad,
wolfed down an Angry Birds cake (and, yes, I realize my cake decorating techniques have seen better days),

(and notice the redneck "birthday candle")
rough housed some more, watched a movie, rough housed some more, and then built a gigantic tent in the boys' room.
I think his party was worth waiting for.
It was a busy two-for-one birthday week, but I think the two birthday kids had a good time. As for me, it's time to refresh and try to more competently plan future birthdays.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Daughter on a Mission

A guest post from my daughter who went with her Middle School group last week on a church missions trip (with my questions to get her writing juices flowing):

Where did you go?
I went multiple places. First we moved some things in our church. Then, we went to a nearby nursing home. The next destination was Camp Womposet, a camp for innercity kids. Next was a waterpark, then an outdoor soup kitchen. Lastly, we went to a hotel.

What was the purpose of the trip?
To serve people other than ourselves. This was a chance to get out and show God's love to others.

What are some things you did?
I first went to a nursing home and painted a birdhouse with an elderly lady named Mary.
Then I went to a camp, there we did jobs like painting and clearing wreckage of an old building. While there, we did various activites like swimming, and hiking as well.
On Saturday, we went to an old water quarry converted into a waterpark. Afterwards, we went to Isaih 58, and outdoor soup kitchen and served people there water and pudding. We also set up a little carnival. Later, we enjoyed a Chinese buffet.
The next day we went home.

What is the best thing that happened to you on this trip?
Well, there were a few different things. The worship was great, as well as the chapel services. I really felt close to God.
A moment I will probably always remember took place at the soup kitchen. I asked an eldery lady how her day was going. She responded by saying 'it was amazing, I got everything I need.' She was carrying a plastic bag full of apples. I asked her if I could pray for her and she agreed. So I did, and I noticed that she had tears in her eyes after.
Also, we stayed in a hotel on the last night, and I took two showers. There were no showers at the camp and after three days of work in the eighty degree weather it was great.

The worst?
I'm going to have to be honest and say the sleeping conditions and the bathrooms at the camp. I slept with the other 7th grade girls (there are around twelve of us plus three leaders) in a room that reminded me of an attic. There were bugs everywhere, and dirt. It was also severly hot. I don't think I need to go into the bathrooms.

What is one thing you learned on this trip?
To step out of your comfort zone and live your life for God. That's your life purpose! A life not wasted is a life lived exalting God (I will probably always remember that, as I wrote it on a dozen water bottles for the soup kitchen).

What are some of the fun things you did?
This list could probably go on and on.
I found painting the buidlings fun even though I got it all over my hands, hair, clothes, and shoes.
On Saturday, the water park that we went to was tons of fun. They had ziplines, a water slide, and all other types of inflatables. Me and two of my friends raced on one of the ziplines. I lost everytime, and kept demanding re-matches.
There were some tetherball poles at the camp. My friends and I enjoyed playing during our free time. I was pretty good at it actually.
We went to a Christian camp across the lake. There we used the actual  bathrooms and played in their game room.
On Saturday night, in the hotel, there was an indoor pool. Even though it was crowded (I was waiting for the hotel manager to come in and bust us for ignoring the maximum occupancy) we played water volley ball. It really wasn't my week for winning things, as my team got crushed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where all the book learnin' takes place...

It has been a sad, tragic, lonely, boring summer, and I've never been happier to see the end of a season in sight. I'm anxious to begin a new school year, but because we have several things going on next week, I have declared First Day of School to be August 20.

As I anticipate that day, I have had fun planning and setting up the schoolroom. Let me show it to you.

My schoolroom is in the basement. The room also doubles as a guest room. See the bed to the left?

What's nice is that it is a daybed, so throw a few cushions on it, and it's the perfect reading spot. Other important features: my huge whiteboard which I love, the table, the bookcase (always a favorite thing in any room), and oh yes - that blasted treadmill which mocks me everytime I go down there (but I usually just ignore it).

That bookcase there that I love? That's just a small number of my books. I won't tell you how the movers complained about the number of boxes of books they had to drag down to the basement. Here are the rest:

And there is also the game closet, though it is not quite as jam-packed as the bookcases are:

It's been fun organizing.

I bet I'm the only person in the world who is excitedly counting down the days 'til school starts.

Monday, August 6, 2012


The kids - Jacob in particular - have been begging for a backyard trampoline, but our yard is a bit small for such things (plus, I don't think our HOA even allows it). So I was very excited to hear a news story the other night about The Trampoline Place here in CT. Unfortunately, it is on the other side of CT. Obviously, CT is not a very big state, but hour and a half commute to jump on some trampolines is a bit excessive. I just had to give it a try anyway.

I called this morning just to gain more information on the place and was informed there was a one-time afternoon open gym today, so we canceled all other plans and made the trip.

I was most excited for Jacob to get to experience this. Unfortunately, I was right in my warning to him in the car that they would likely NOT allow them to do flips. Doing flips is the main reason Jacob wants a trampoline AND the main reason his bed sags in the middle. He was a bit pouty off and on throughout the afternoon because of the rule against flips. Poor guy doesn't yet understand the litigious society in which he lives. (As an aside, while his negative, complaining attitude bothered me, I reminded myself that God must get aggravated with me when I complain about my circumstances or fail to be appreciative for the many blessings He has given me.)

I have a feeling Jacob had some fun in spite of himself.

I know our other monkey had a lot of fun.

Alex surprised me in her endurance. I thought she wouldn't enjoy this activity much since it didn't involve a basketball. She did complain that every time she did a "seat jump" her head hurt, but she kept at it and said she just couldn't stop.

She did eventually run out of jumping energy as did the boys.

But Audrey? I had brought activities for her to do in the event that she tired out before the others and got bored. But she just kept jumping...

...and jumping.

I told the other three they were getting their butts whooped by their little sister. The coach said, "Well, she is a six-year-old." Audrey's siblings said, "Well, she is in gymnastics. This is what she DOES!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Castle Craig

I am completely accustomed to Mark being gone during the week, but when he is gone on a weekend day, it is - psychologically anyway - much harder. So I always try to find something - anything - to do to pass the weekend away, however much of it is left once he leaves.

Today he left after church, so as soon as we got home, I immediately googled "things to do in CT". One of the first things that popped up was a blurb about Castle Craig in Meriden. We have passed this castle tower - which sits high atop the rock face of a high hill - several times and have always mentioned that it would be fun to visit.

The castle is part of Hubbard Park down in the valley, a park named after Walter Hubbard who donated Castle Craig to the town of Meriden.

It is possible to hike on one of several trails up to the tower; however, it is quite a distance and perhaps not a hike for a 6-year-old princess. Besides that, a storm was brewing on the horizon, so we opted to drive up on the narrow, winding road.

By the time we reached the top, the storm was indeed brewing, and it was an awesome sight to see it advancing.

We enjoyed the view from the top,

and the boys continued to marvel at the sight of an advancing downpour.

The wind kicked up as the storm drew closer, and the kids embraced it.

As the rain began to fall, we made our way back down the narrow, curvy road.

Following our castle adventure, we ended our outing by visiting Big Dipper in Prospect. We have several favorite ice cream spots now in Connecticut, and after our first visit today, this place will be added to that list of favorites. They hand make their ice cream daily and offer so many flavors, it's difficult to make a choice. But choices were made, and ice cream was enjoyed.

We had a fun outing, the afternoon passed quite quickly; and as the storm continues to thunder outside, the weekend will soon become the week.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

DOZ Camp

Psalm 150:4a ~ Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing.

Audrey went to camp last week. Tambourine camp. It's not as weird as it sounds. She went to a camp for Daughters of Zion, a group to which she was introduced last year at homeschool guilds. She loved it so much and couldn't wait for camp. The focus of camp was on worship, and the kids learned different ways to worship: with tambourines, dance, streamers.

On the evening of the last day, the kids did a recital to show off all that they had learned. It was a fun hour of worship.

To keep the boys busy during the girls' camp, a PE teacher from a local Christian school volunteered his time to supervise a week of sports. The boys had a wonderful time playing soccer, capture the flag, street hockey, and ultimate frisbee. Because the camp took place quite a distance from our house, I whittled away the 2 1/2 hours of camp acquainting myself with a new part of town, running errands, walking a mall, and chatting with Facebook friends on my phone. It was always a welcome part of the day to stop wandering and return to pick up two tired, sweaty boys and one happy girl.