Second Grade Bound …or something like that.

10686692_344383719102032_6325783304307401752_n‘Tis the season for homeschoolers to test or have evaluations, and parents start prepping for the year ahead.

We’re continuing our transition into a more structured homeschool as our oldest moves on to “second grade”. She’s at the age where a little structure would serve her well. A little less play, a little more time in the books. Just a little. Because play time with her little sister provides more than any book could. And yes, we’re still “schooling” year-round because learning is a life long process, not a September through May thing.

So, yeah, about that grade level. I suppose she averages out to being a second grader. We say she’s a rising second grader. She turns seven next month.

She’s at the first grade level for reading, but on the third grade level in math. She loves writing in cursive and is always asking for a science experiment. That is the beauty of homeschool – teaching to your child’s rate of growth and interests. My silly girl would rather do math problems, learn about horses, and build with Legos than sit down with a book.

So what will my Little Miss be doing for “second grade”?

For me, I’ll be ordering Erica’s lesson planner ($5.00) again. {I managed to delete it.} This one works best for my life. There are a ton of ’em out there and if you’re indecisive like me, for the love of God, DO NOT go to Etsy!

Once all of our curriculum arrives and I have my planner prepped, I’ll be working on a schedule. This calls for a massive overhaul of how we operate now, but it’ll be worth it. Really, it’ll be okay if I don’t check my mail until noon. This is why we do what we do. Serve our family = serve God.

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Stonewall Jackson and the General Lee

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Now that my mother has had the seal on her adoption records broken, we’re able to dig in and see what her family tree looks like. Being that they’re from Kentucky by way of Virginia, I knew that somewhere, one of these newly discovered ancestors would have fought in the War Between the States. I mean, it’s the 1860’s, if you’re not procreating or settling new territory, you’re fighting in the war. (Or at least that’s what my genealogical efforts have told me.)

I was quickly rewarded with one such character who was with the 21st Virginia Infantry. Reading up on where his regiment fought, including Appomattox and Gettysburg, I discovered there was one battlefield in particular not even an hour from our home. …ROAD TRIP!

We loaded up the girls and headed out to the Cedar Mountain Battlefield. Preserved by way of trust, this roadside stop is in beautiful condition – it even has deluxe port-a-potties. Be sure to check out the big mailbox to sign the guestbook inside. There are special forms in the binder for descendants of veterans of the battle to sign in.

I got to stand where my great-great-great grandfather sat and fired at the Union cavalry. The last time my ancestors stood on that ground, it was 150 years ago and they were defending their right to succeed.

The Battle of Cedar Mountain turned out to be much more interesting and larger than I had imagined. Little tidbits like it being the only time Stonewall Jackson pulled his sword is what makes it interesting. That’s right, my g-g-g grandfather and his g-g-g big beard fought alongside Jackson.

I highly recommend the driving tour. The battlefield area is massive. This takes you from marching down the same road as the soldiers to different battle sites to where it concluded.

We piddled around the area visiting various historical sites. In Sperryville we came across a very small park (it would fit in our living room) dedicated to the Union Army of Virginia. Did you know the UAV only lasted for three months in the summer 1862? That in itself is an interesting story.

There is one major benefit, a reward if you will for all the hard work, of working on one’s genealogy: a deeper understanding of history.

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…and if you’re in Sperryville, you visit Cooter’s in the Country. Cooter, of Dukes of Hazzard fame, lives in these parts. This is his shop in Sperryville and sadly, we had just missed him. When we got home from our little road trip, we turned on some Dukes which the girls were immediately glued to. Every once in a while a little slice of Americana soothes the soul.

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Father’s Day 2015 {+Recipe}

fathersday151This year I let the princess take charge of Father’s Day. She knew exactly what gift she wanted to give her daddy and the type of cake.

The day kicked off with church where her Sunday School class did a presentation in “big people’s church”. They performed to “We Believe” by the Newsboys. She had been practicing at home, twice before church that morning, and did a fantastic job!

That afternoon we had cake and gave daddy his gift. When we went to the store to pick something out for daddy’s gift she knew exactly what she wanted – water guns. How cool is this kid?! Being on ridiculous markdown, we picked up a couple more for vacation so she could share them with her uncle and cousin.

An ice cream cake was the next request – and it had to be chocolate chip. The princess knew, again, exactly what she wanted and that was one of those ice cream sandwich cakes. I have to say, it was an excellent choice! Easy to make and tasted much better than you’d expect a stack of ice cream sandwiches with some stuff thrown on it to taste. Find the recipe below.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

12 Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches
Caramel Sauce
Chocolate Syrup
Cool Whip

On a piece of parchment paper on a cake stand or platter, lay down four ice cream sandwiches gently nudging them together.

Pour about 2T of caramel sauce in the center and spread out with a spatula.

Place a second layer of four ice cream sandwiches down gently nudging them together, top off with caramel.

Place a third layer of four ice cream sandwiches down gently nudging them together.

If your cake is starting to warm and getting sticky at this point, place in freezer for 10-15 mins.

With a clean spatula, plop a dollop of Cool Whip on top and gently begin frosting the cake. I used about half a container and it was maybe too much.

Drizzle chocolate syrup across the top and sprinkle on some chocolate sprinkles if you like.

Place in freezer at least 30 minutes before serving to firm up.

Mountain Time

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Today was free day on Skyline Drive for residents who live in bordering counties. We loaded up the girls and some munchies, and spent the day in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. I expected some traffic, but it was no more busy than any other time we’ve visited.

We picked up a selfie stick on the way there to capture some fun family pix at the overlooks. I thought they were silly, but dang if it wasn’t a handy little gadget!

pennypinkingperkWalgreens has selfie sticks for $9.99 or two for $15.99. When I checked out, it was only $8 including tax, so they much be included in the summer isle sale where I found it. This is waaay cheaper than I’ve found elsewhere. Love that it has a hot pink handle.

The weather held out up in the mountains, though we watched dark clouds go by and pour into the Shenandoah valley below us.

We pit-stopped at Wayside for fresh drinks and to hang out in the picnic area for a while. Our oldest had to pour over all of the displays and signs – the little sponge that she is. Of course I had to pick up some postcards to send home. I’m a total sucker for tourist-y things like that.

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The girls thoroughly enjoyed their day. Big sis ran along rock wall and climbed boulders. Lil sis passed out before we even made it out of the mountains. That’s when you know it’s a good trip.

Here’s to getting out and enjoying the outdoors!

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Swim Lessons… the horrah!

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Swim lessons have officially kicked off! I can’t believe we’re just now getting around to this, but oh well, it’s just how it shook out.

Our eldest started “Intro to Swimming” today and you’d think she was being water boarded. She was sooo excited about starting classes and after the first class, she isn’t too keen on it. I love that her teacher won’t take any crap. She was jumping into the pool today come hell or high water.

“Moooom, there’s water on my faaace!!!” she cried about having to bob under water.

Oh, the horror… the horrah, the horrah. “Well, sweetie, you’re in the water. It’s going to get in your face. It’s called swimming.”

I’m seriously concerned for her safety in the water. We spend a lot of time at the pool on warm days and with little sister vying for a stunt woman career, I’m stressed to the max taking them both by myself. If it weren’t for a clerical error and their classes filling within hours of opening, we would have done this last year and been in part two this year.

At her age, I was a fish and had no qualms about diving. I just want her to have as much fun as I did. Here’s hoping in two weeks I’ll have a great little swimmer on my hands.

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Peach Pickin’ {+Recipe}

peachesWe love having so many picking options nearby. We went out to a local orchard, Chile’s Peach Orchard, to pick peaches today and came home with about ten pounds.

The girls had so much fun running around the orchard, picking their own peaches. We love their little red wagons. The staff is great, the grounds are easy to navigate, and the produce is delicious. Prices are very reasonable, too. Fantastic family time even in the sweltering heat! If you go, don’t forget to pick up a pack of their famous cider donuts and grab a bottle of peach cider donut (by the apple cider) to wash it down.

Oh yes, there is peach pie to be had! This recipe is simple and delicious – works well for blueberries as well. Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream! Summer perfection.

peaches2Basic Peach Pie Recipe
5c peeled/sliced peaches
1/2c sugar

3T corn starch
1T lemon juice
1t vanilla
1t cinnamon
1/2t salt
Mix all wet first, then add dry.
Put in a raw pie crust, top with crust and paint with egg wash (egg white with 1t water).
Bake at 425 for 20 mins, put pan under for drips, turn down to 375, then bake approx 30mins. When the filling bubbles, it’s done.
Let sit a couple of hours so it firms up.

My pie was pretty cute and tasty, even though I dropped it pulling it out of the oven… whoops! Nearly had a Rachel and Chandler cheescake-in-the-hallway moment.

As a kid of the 90’s, one can not simply go peach picking and not hum this tune…

Peach out,

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Back in the saddle?

10494659_10153328619630792_4688875034417118233_nIt’s been two years since I taught a clogging class. With all the hubub of moving halfway across country, having a baby, and starting anew, time has flown by.

I took a year off after closing my clogging studio and then went back with a much lighter schedule at a friend’s dance studio. It was nice. When we moved, I vowed to leave that behind, finally close that chapter, and be nothing more than a spectator.

I had to work out some choreography today for some of my old cloggers back in Arkansas. I pulled out all of my shoes, grabbed my favor pair (they’re like my second skin), then slid on my dance pants. I spent an hour in a studio working out the choreo, taping it, and freestyling a little for ole times’ sake.

God that felt good. I miss it. I want to teach again. I can’t help it – it’s in my blood. I would have competitors here, but my approach is so different than theirs, I’m not at all concerned. See, now I’m weighing options, checking out my competition, flipping through properties, dancing in my head when that song comes on the radio… Lord, help me!

So now I pray. I pray for knowledge and direction. Who knows, this fall I might go back. We’ll see if it’s in the cards.

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Morocco, Maybe

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Check out my GoFundMe page!

I have been given the opportunity to travel to Rabat, Morocco in March 2016 where I will spend a week immersed in their culture doing volunteer work within underserved communities. I am hoping to be placed in an orphanage to provide much needed one-on-one time with the children. I will be working during the day and have “free time” in the evenings to include lessons in Arabic, Islam, Moroccan cooking, and other cultural activities.

As this is a volunteer mission, all financial responsibility falls on me. The amount I’m raising is airfare plus the fee from CCS (Cross Cultural Solutions) which includes lodging, most meals, and security at “home base” as well as transportation. I am also pinching pennies to cover my visa and passport, baggage fees, some meals, and of course, touristy things.

If you’ve landed here and have no idea who I am, let me introduce myself! I am a stay at home, homeschooling mother of two who is very active within the community through various organizations. I was recently awarded the Junior League of Charlottesville’s Vounteer of the Year. This is my first trip outside of the United States and I am so pleased that not only will I be able to see a new landscape, but I will be a part of something bigger than myself.

Check out my GoFundMe page!

This is not something I can do on my own – every little bit helps! For those of you donating $25 or more, I’ll send you a “thank you” postcard from Morocco. Can’t give? I’d appreciate a “share” on your Facebook page to help get the word out. Thank you!

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Tiny Dancer: Another Year Comes to a Close

Up until this past fall, dance was a big part of our lives. I owned a dance studio until three years ago before closing and teaching at a friend’s studio, all the while my oldest had been in dance class since the age of two. Last year was spent on a dance company which turned out to be a horrible experience.

This year was brought down to a minimum on purpose. One ballet class per week at the local ballet academy. That’s it. While we were bored for lack of go-go-go, I am pleased with us for sticking to it. Leaving the recital was the best mood I’ve ever been in after such. The best part? The amazing growth I’ve seen in my daughter over the year. See, I’m a harsh critic being a dance teacher all, so where ever we go will have ridiculous expectations to live up to. This place not only met, but exceeded them. I think we’ve finally found our home for dance here.

It’s hard to believe tonight was her fifth recital. She was a flamingo in the “Carnival of Animals”. The highlight was, unexpectedly, not watching her dance as I have a thousand times before, but her face when her teacher came out in tutu and pointes during the staff dance. The entire class lit up and just sparkled watching their teacher dance. While she is truly a beautiful ballerina, I believe that speaks more about the teacher than her dancing.

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Running Home: Tball Season Wraps Up

Today wrapped up the 2015 tball season. I love how long it is – eight games, picture day, practices. It does seem to fly by too quickly, though. Each evening we would arrive with the little in her stroller, spread out a blanket, and get in some good old fashioned family time watching the big play ball. Even the weather cooperated.

We were blessed yet again this year with a fantastic team and caring coach. This was the last year our oldest is eligible for tball and it was by far the best. She made such an improvement over last year – the most notable would be running with her tongue in her mouth.

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Post-game ice pops. That’s childhood right there. Doesn’t that picture make you think of The Sandlot?

We’re already looking forward to signing up for softball next year. The parks and rec department here does an outstanding job from what we’ve experienced. Even their concession stand rocks.

Let summer begin!

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