Enjoying the free ferry services in Eastern Washington.

Our Ferry Adventure: Free Fun in Eastern WA

We love going on drives! The bus ensures there’s room for everyone and everything without fighting. Bryan brings his camera, the kids each pack a bag with a couple of books and toys, and we bring along a bag of snacks. Our latest drive took us on a ferry adventure.

Eastern Washington Ferry Services

The ferries in eastern Washington aren’t as grand as the ones over on the coast. In fact, there’s really not much to them. But, they’re still a large boat that gets you from point a to point b.

There’s something thrilling about sitting in your vehicle while going across the might Columbia River. Everyone loved it!

We were planning on just hitting the closest ferry and then driving north to a bridge and coming home. Except, we missed the turnoff for the ferry.

Where Our Drive Took Us

So we kept driving. We ended up near Wilbur, Washington. And guess what? There’s another free ferry there! So we waited in the short line and boarded.

Of course our school bus got several looks, but we’re sort of used to that now. I must applaud the ferry workers. They were quick to move a car over to the side lane so we could drive straight on into the middle one. That made it much easier!

The ride didn’t take long at all–just a few minutes. But, it was so much fun. The kids could stand at the emergency door in the back and they had a great time watching the water. They waved to the ferry employees. They waved to other passengers.

Once we got off the ferry, we took off driving again. We made our way back to the first ferry we were planning on taking and recrossed the river. The kids weren’t expecting two ferry trips on the same day, so they were thrilled!

When we landed back on our side of the river, we headed home. The whole trip took about five hours, including all of the picture stops we made along the way. One of the roads we ended up on was like a roller coaster, and had beautiful views.

If you’re ever over in Eastern Washington and are looking for a free adventure, I highly recommend taking the ferries. You can find the boarding points near Wilbur and Inchelium.

Wherever you’re heading in the car, playing games makes it more fun! Here are some of our favorites:

Math Car Games
ELA Car Games
Musical Car Games

Here's a look at how I save money on groceries when the shopping options are limited.

7 Ways to Save Money on Groceries in the Boonies

It’s no secret that I live in the middle of nowhere! The nearest grocery store is 15 miles away. Since it’s the only grocery store within a fairly large radius, their prices are pretty high. So what’s a rural gal to do? How do you save money on groceries in the boonies?

Here’s seven of my best tips for cutting the grocery budget.

1. Once a Month, Head to the City

The big city for me is Spokane. As one of the largest cities in the state, you can imagine the grocery shopping options are plentiful. Much more abundant than in the nearby local town.

But, because of the gas and effort involved in getting there, I don’t like to shop frequently. So I do one major shopping trip each month.

To save even more, I try to time my trip to coincide with a dentist or doctor appointment. That way I don’t have to make a special trip.

I want to make this trip count, so the kids and I hit several stores. We always go to:

Costco
Winco
Wal-Mart
Cash & Carry

and we hit any other stores that we may need.

Yes, it’s a long day! We’re usually tired by the time we get home. But, every month our house is full of food that I know we’ll eat and I get to stay out of the grocery store!

2. Buy Local Produce

Whenever possible, I try to buy local produce. It’s a lot cheaper and I can get it in bulk easily. If you live in the middle of nowhere, chances are someone around you grows a lot of food.

Your mission? Find out who that person (or people) are, and buy from them. Are there any orchards, pick your own patches, or farmers?

How about a farmer’s market? Is there one nearby?

3. Grow & Raise Your Own Food

Do you know how expensive meat is? Ouch! Cut costs by raising your own.

It doesn’t take much space to raise rabbits for meat. Or to have a few chickens for eggs.

If you’re in the boonies and have more space, consider getting a milk cow. (Here’s my Busy Mom’s Guide to Owning a Milk Cow.)

Grow a few tomatoes or plant some fruit trees. Turn your raw milk into buttermilk.

Do a little bit more each year, and before you know it, you’ll be cutting your grocery costs simply by raising your own food. And this food tastes so much better than anything you can buy!

4. Order Specialty Items Online

A small town isn’t the best place to purchase specialty items. Even if they carry them, you might discover the price is astronomical.

So do what I do and order those items online. If you set up with Subscribe and Save on Amazon, you can even have them conveniently delivered every month or two. Sort of like shopping on auto-pilot! Just be sure to check prices occasionally, because Amazon isn’t always the cheapest.

5. Be Creative

When a trip to the store takes at least 30 minutes of driving round trip, you really start to evaluate what you really “need.”

You can substitute a lot in a recipe and still make good food. Think of it as being creative!

Out of hamburger? Use ground pork or ground rabbit.

No green peppers? Substitute some celery for crunch.

Once you get used to making substitutions based on what you have on hand, you’ll be able to avoid last minute grocery runs.

6. Know Which Produce Lasts

One of the downsides of grocery shopping once a month is that the fresh fruits and veggies don’t always make it. But, by buying plenty of long lasting produce, and then filling in with frozen goods, I can usually make it through the month with only one additional run for produce.

Here’s what I’ve found lasts the longest:

1. Carrots
2. Celery
3. Onions
4. Iceberg Lettuce
5. Apples
6. Oranges
7. Winter squash
8. Potatoes
9. Cabbage

By buying these in bulk and storing them properly, I can include something fresh with almost every meal all month long.

I also buy berries and bananas and other “fun” produce, but we always plan on using those items within a few days. That means I don’t buy as many of them.

7. Have a Meal Plan

Without a plan, I’d stock up on groceries I never intend to use. I’d randomly buy ingredients and they might spoil and get thrown out.

I wouldn’t plan on batch cooking or anything else. And my grocery budget would skyrocket.

You have to have a plan! I always do an annual meal plan at this stage in life. It allows me to really stock up on what I’ll need–I’ve been known to buy a year’s worth of spaghetti before when it’s on sale.

Do you live in the boonies? How do you save money on groceries?

I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments section. Let’s save some money!

I've struggled to integrate read alouds for many years. Here's why, and how I finally made it work.

How I Finally Integrated Read Alouds

Read alouds. I used to be totally on top of these. Jayme and I snuggled and read book after book.

But then, Owen started ripping books. If I was reading a book, he’d snuggle for a second and then use his ninja skills to rip a page completely out in one swift movement. Then he started eating books.

So our books got moved upstairs, out of reach. For a while we left board books downstairs, until Owen started destroying those too.

I’d read a book to the younger kids at nighttime, but that was the extent of our read aloud. I wanted more.

Over the years, I’ve tried different times of day for our reading. We tried:

Reading during a meal

I love the idea of reading aloud during breakfast or lunch. I can see how that’d totally work for most families. But, I still need to be one on one with Owen during meal time, especially now that he’s outgrown his booster seat.

If I don’t hold onto him, he flops to the ground or walks around the table bugging everyone. I’d put him in his wheelchair for meals, but he’s such a messy eater that I hate to do that.

So scratch meal time reading off the table.

Reading aloud before quiet time

We try to get some active play in before quiet time. You know, so the kids are actually cheerful to sit down and play quietly for a bit.

I also tend to get focused on what I’m going to get done during quiet time, and was always forgetting to actually read.

Integrating read alouds into homeschool time

It makes sense to add read alouds into our school activities. After all, we’re all gathered around and working. But, it just didn’t work for us. Especially as the kids are getting older and school is taking more time.

Asking them to sit still and listen for even longer just didn’t work too well for us.

So what did I do?

My goal for this school year was to read aloud all of the Little House books. There’s so much knowledge and history packed into the books, and it was past time to share this.

I’ve learned that for my family, the best time to do read alouds is after dinner table chores are done, before we do our evening Bible time as a family.

Why does this time work?

How I make read aloud time fun

Most kids, including mine, don’t do so well just sitting and listening quietly. Their brains listen better when they’re engaged in an activity with their hands.

So now we bring out the paper and crayons. The kids have to draw a picture inspired by the book, and then they’re free to draw whatever they’d like.

Simon and Brynna usually join us at the table, and they draw too.

We end up with some great pictures, and I get insight into what they’re picking up on in the story. A little glimpse into their brains.

The picture below shows the pictures that the kids colored one day last week.

Pictures the kids drew from our read aloud.

Do you do read alouds?

How do you work them into your day? Did you run into any problems trying to integrate it into your day? Please share in the comments section below!

homeschool curric

Our 2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum

Do you know what? In all the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve never really written a post on our homeschool curriculum before. Want to know why?

In the past, I’ve created my own curriculum, piecing together games, videos, readings, and play. Of course I used some workbooks and premade materials to round out our learning, but those weren’t the focus.

But this year I find myself a bit overwhelmed. Between pregnancy exhaustion, Owen’s severe sleep disorder, and my growing freelance business, I just can’t make my own materials this year.

I know that if the kids were waiting on me to develop their materials, they’d spend a whole lot more time playing instead of actually learning. So this year, I’m turning to some trusted publishers to tackle the production. Then I just have to teach.

We started a few subjects a couple weeks ago, and it’s been going so smoothly! I love it.

So what did I buy? Here are our 2016-2017 Curriculum Picks!

Sydney (Kindergarten Curriculum)

Sydney turns five at the end of November. If she were going to public schools, she’d still have another year to go before starting Kindergarten. But, she’s more than ready and I don’t want to make her wait.

I figure we’ll take it slowly, and if we need a little extra time to finish, we have a whole year of wiggle room.

I keep Kindergarten simple on purpose. We play a lot of literacy and math games, and explore the world around us. That means I don’t want a ton of time devoted to book work.

This year, Sydney will be working on:

The early Explode the Code series (Get Ready for the Code, Get Set for the Code, Go for the Code)

I love how these books break down early reading skills to bite sized chunks. Sydney loves going through a couple of pages each day, and is really strengthening her letter sound knowledge.

Abeka Math (Kindergarten level)

These books are inexpensive, have just enough color to keep it interesting, and have a scope and sequence I appreciate. My kids will be doing Abeka Math through second grade, at which point we’ll switch to Teaching Textbooks.

Abeka Science

We were gifted with an older version of this book, and it provides a great introduction to God’s world. Since I am a product of public schools and the science they teach, I’m finding I really enjoy science from a Christian perspective. I’m learning right alongside my kids!

Ellie (1st Grade Curriculum)

Ellie is in first grade this year, and loving her books. She’s currently working on:

English/Language Arts

Ellie is finishing up Explode the Code 1 from last year. She’s also working on reading with the Abeka Grade 1 readers, phonetic readers that we have around the house, and some targeted games and activities.
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She’s also tackling Abeka Language 1 and using a spiral notebook to practice handwriting, spelling, and writing skills.

We may order the next Explode the Code later in the year if she needs some additional practice with phonics.

Math

Ellie’s working on Abeka Arithmetic 1. She likes that she has tests. 😀

Science

Ellie and Jeffrey are working on Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy this year. Ellie got to pick their shared science, and Jeffrey picked their shared history/social studies.

We plan on going through the elementary Apologia over the next several years.

History/Social Studies

Abeka’s grade 1 history is being used by both Ellie and Jeff. They’re learning about a lot about America, and the world around us.

We will be purchasing the Daily Geography practice to begin after baby arrives, just to get some additional map and geography skills.

Health

Sydney, Jeff, and Ellie are all learning Health together. We’re using the Abeka Grade 1 health book that came with my eBay find for the spine of this curriculum. Then we’re doing lots of active play, targeted stretches, and cooking work.

Home Ec

Ellie loves organizing and helping in the kitchen so it seemed natural to bring Home Ec into her school year. She’s working through the Lessons in Responsibilities for Girls book 1 and enjoying it.

She really wants to sew, and is looking forward to those lessons. I don’t sew, and am not looking forward to them so much!

Jeffrey (2nd Grade)

I can’t believe my little guy will soon be 8. He’s in second grade already, and loving math.

English/Language Arts

Jeff is working on decoding long vowel words with blends, and really working hard on his reading skills. He really wants to be able to read all of the directions in Paper Mario himself.

He’s working through grade 2 Abeka Readers, and reviewing with some easier phonetic books as well. Like Ellie, he’s finishing up an Explode the Code book from last year (book 2).

His handwriting needs some practice, so he uses a spiral notebook to write daily. He may need a handwriting book–we’ll see what the first part of this year brings.

He’s working through Abeka Language 2, and loves being able to read most of the sentences on his own.

Math

Like his little sisters, Jeff is working on Abeka Arithmetic. He’s on the grade 2 materials. I anticipate him finishing before the year is over, and getting started on Teaching Textbooks. He is really motivated to do math, “like Jayme” so we’ll see if he keeps up this pace.

Self-Care

Jeff is working through Lessons in Responsibilities for Boys, book 1. He’s also helping cook on his day, and taking charge in plenty of areas. He’s certainly growing up!

Art

Jeffrey asked to work on drawing this year, so he’s currently using YouTube videos for instruction. I plan on picking up a new unit from See the Light and he’ll work through that with anyone who wants to join him.

Owen

Owen’s disability prevents him from schooling in any traditional way. He eats any papers or books put in front of him. He destroys crayons.

But, I want him to learn alongside of us. That means Owen is typically either in his wheelchair, special stroller, or sitting on our bench next to me. He listens as I read aloud and instruct Jeff.

Owen loves watching videos and using his iPad as well. He’s got several apps that he enjoys. We also integrate video as often as possible–I typically just do a YouTube search for the topic we’re learning about in science or history and see what comes up. We’ve seen some terrible videos, but most have been pretty good.

Many of the goals I have for Owen right now aren’t academic. They’re very much motor skill, life skill, and independence related. So we integrate sensory play into our days, utilize Owen’s therapy sack, tunnel, and swing, and work on walking.

Owen’s OT comes out to the house once a week, and we’ll practice the skills she works on each day.

I’m hoping to trial a communication app this year now that Owen’s behavior is a little better to see if we can get him to use it. I know he has a lot to say, and just can’t get it out!

Jayme (Freshman)

Where oh where did the time go? Jayme is a freshman this year. I can’t believe it.

Her current plan is to do Running Start her junior and senior years, and earn her AA in graphic design at the community college. While I know it could change, we’re sort of planning courses around that goal.

She tackled WA State History for credit last year, so we’ve already crossed something off the list of requirements. Now to tackle the rest.

Here’s what Jayme is taking, and how her credits will pan out:

English/Language Arts

I have several books that will be required reading for Jayme throughout high school. She just finished the first one, Alas, Babylon.

After she reads each book, I have her complete a couple weeks worth of activities. She looks up vocabulary words, writes a paper or two, and completes a project.

She’ll continue working through other novels for her freshman year, including:

Peter Pan
The War of the Worlds
Romeo and Juliet
The Screwtape Letters
A Tale of Two Cities
Fahrenheit 451

In all she’ll be required to study 9 works of literature, though I’m still trying to finalize her final two selections.

Asides from literature, she’ll be working her way through:

Easy Grammar 9
Word Roots Level 3
Writing with Skill Book 2
Editor in Chief Level 3

All of these will be worth 1 English credit.

Math

To earn her math credit, Jayme will be working through Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 this year. I’m going to have to check the state requirements, but I believe she’ll also have to take a state test at the end of the course.

Since she wants to enroll in Running Start, we are making sure she’s meeting the appropriate requirements for graduation, including state testing.

Science

Jayme is using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology this year. Since she prefers working on her computer, we purchased the complete course on CD-Rom. We’ll also be picking up the lab kit (including the dissection kit) to make this her lab science credit.

History

Jayme will study world history the next two years. She’s going to be using The Mystery of History Vol. 3 this year, and the accompanying companion guide.

She’ll earn a credit of social studies/history for this course.

Spanish 1

We’ve tried many Spanish curricula over the past couple years. I’ve finally found one that Jayme is enjoying (and learning from!)

We’re using Lifepac Spanish 1, with the accompanying audio CDs for pronunciation. We like that it integrates culture study into the language (unlike Rosetta Stone and some of the other popular choices.)

This will give Jayme a foreign language credit.

Computer Skills

Learning to be proficient with Microsoft Office is essential in today’s world, so Jayme will be learning all about Office and more with the Premium Professor Teaches Office Super Set.

This will be a 1/2 credit in the Career/Tech field.

For fun, Jayme will also be continuing her coding studies.

Art

Jayme will continue to use Crafty courses to improve her drawing and graphic design skills. She’ll be working on putting together a portfolio to showcase her work from this year.

This will be her fine art credit.
What are we using for homeschool curriculum this year? Click through to see my selections for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, and 9th Grade.

That Wraps Up Our 2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum Choices

If you’re homeschooling this year, I’d love to have you share what you’ll be using.

Here’s to a great year!

Teaching your kids to swallow pills can be a challenge. Here's how I did it.

Teaching Your Kids to Swallow Pills

Owen has a g-tube. For the first several years of his life, all of his medications were liquid and we simply put them through the tube. Then he switched to the Ketogenic diet. Since liquid medicine has more carbs, they were no longer an option. For the first time, I had to figure out how to get him to swallow pills.

The doctor recommended simply crushing the pills and mixing them with water to run through the tube. That didn’t work. I kept clogging the tube and that was a mess.

So I started experimenting with ways to get Owen to swallow his medication.

The easiest way I found was to simply put the medication on a spoonful of something that Owen was eating. When he was on his special diet, it was usually Jello mixed with heavy cream.

Now that he’s off the diet, it’s most often applesauce or yogurt.

Since then, I’ve also taught Jayme and Jeffrey to swallow pills using this method. It works! Here’s some important tips I discovered along the way.

1. Don’t Mix the Meds Into the Dish of Food

I made this mistake with Owen a couple of times before I finally figured it out! You don’t want to mix the medication into the food.

Doing this means your child has to eat the entire dish. It also means it’s way harder to track which pills actually make it down the hatch.

2. Place Each Pill Directly on the Spoon

Instead of dumping the medication into the food, place each pill carefully on a spoonful of food. That way you can feed it directly and ensure it makes it where it’s supposed to go.

I’ve found it best to do one spoonful for each individual pill, but you can definitely experiment with doing two or more at the same time.

Teaching kids to swallow pills can be a challenge. Here's how I did it.
Here’s one of Owen’s meds on a spoonful of a highly desirable food. In this case, birthday cake ice cream.

3. Pick a Food Your Child Likes

You don’t want your child to fight this process. Pick a food that’s highly enjoyed. Since my kids all like applesauce, that’s our go-to for any pills that need to be taken.

4. Pick Foods That Don’t Need Chewed

This is key! Most medication that needs swallowed tastes disgusting! You don’t want your child to chew it.

Give your child a food that is just swallowed instead of one that needs chewed first. Doing so saves many taste buds!

5. Transition to Taking a Pill with Water

I’ve only done this step with my oldest. Owen still won’t swallow pills with only water. But that’s alright. Baby steps!

Once they’ve learned to swallow a pill with food, have your child try placing the pill in their mouth and washing it down with a big drink of water.

If it doesn’t go down the first time, have them try again. If they keep struggling, bring the applesauce back out and do it that way. Then you can try again with water the next time.

Practice When Appropriate

Other than Owen, who requires multiple pills on a twice daily basis, my other kids don’t take much medication. So we don’t have tons of opportunity to practice.

That means when they’re sick or on antibiotics to keep a wound from getting infected, we make the most of the opportunity. Practice when you can.

Have You Taught Your Children to Swallow Pills?

Did you use the food on a spoon method that I did, or something different? I’d love to hear what technique worked best for you in the comments section.

Farm fresh eggs are delicious! But if your chickens free-range and don't always lay in the coop, you need to know if those eggs are still good. Here are some quick tests to tell.

Are My Farm Fresh Eggs Good?

I love having chickens! I love watching them free-range around the farm–helping breakdown cow patties in the pasture, eating bugs out of the dirt, and taking dust baths in the heat of the day. I love the farm fresh eggs!

But, one downside of having free ranging birds is that they don’t always lay in the coop. My birds seem to go through cycles of laying in the coop or not. I’ve tentatively linked it to the weather, though it’s not always the case.

No matter what causes them to lay outside, it does leave me with a problem. Not always having eggs, even though I have plenty of chickens.

The kids now go on egg hunts daily, and I even pay them–10 cents per egg they find. They’ve been out searching, and bring me in eggs.

I’m left with the task of deciding whether the eggs are still good or not. In the past, I’ve solely relied on the float test. If the egg floats in water, it’s bad.

However, this failed me recently. I had a large batch of eggs to process, and they all sunk. I thought that meant they were all good. But, they weren’t.

Here are three new ways I’ve since used to tell if my farm fresh eggs are good or bad.

1. Give Them a Shake

When you shake a fresh egg, you shouldn’t feel much movement. But, when you shake an older egg, you’ll notice some definite sloshing.

I’ve learned that the sloshing when you shake an egg is an indication that it’s bad.

2. Look at the Yolk

When you crack a farm fresh egg into a separate bowl, you can easily exam it before dumping a bad egg into the dish you’re preparing. I highly recommend this!

After you’ve cracked the egg, look at the yolk. A good egg’s yolk will be mostly intact.

Conversely, a bad egg’s yolk will be completely runny.

You don’t want a runny yolk upon cracking.

3. Use Your Nose

The nose knows which eggs are past their prime. Before I add any egg to a dish, I give it a quick sniff.

You’ll recognize a bad egg instantly. It stinks!

On a side note, I also do this with my farm fresh milk. If it smells bad, I don’t use it.

You can use your nose to sniff out many kinds of bad food!

Do You Use Farm Fresh Eggs?

How do you determine if they’re good or bad? Did I miss any reliable tests?

Exciting baby news from the Tanner family! Can you guess what it is?

And Baby Makes…..10!

Yes, the Tanner family once again has super exciting news!

We are expecting baby number 8 early in 2017. Almost exactly two years will have passed since we welcomed little Brynna Ruth into the world.

Sydney is the most excited. She and I were in the local hydraulic shop picking up a repaired tractor part, and she announced out of the blue to the poor guy there–“There’s a baby in mommy’s tummy!”

She also says that it’s going to be a boy. So we shall see. Since we don’t peek during the ultrasound it’ll be awhile before we know for sure.

The other kids aren’t as convinced that it’s a boy, though Jeffrey is hoping it is. Jayme and Ellie, on the other hand, predict a girl.

A boy would leave us with an even split–four of each. A girl would leave the girls ahead 5 to 3.

How We Prepare the Other Kids for A New Baby

From the beginning we’ve taught our kids that babies are a special gift from God. That mindset has really carried over into each of them.

They look forward to a new baby. To watching the baby grow. To watching a personality develop.

Yes, children are a blessing. And Bryan and I model an attitude of excitement for the kids. We include them in going to the midwife appointments and listening to the heartbeat.

They help brainstorm names. (Bryson Luke is winning for a boy name right now, and Zoe Abigail for a girl, but those will probably change before baby actually arrives!)

Towards the end of my pregnancy, we all fill out a prediction paper. I create a little form with options for the kids to circle and fill in. They decide what day they think the baby will arrive on, what color eyes baby will have, and if baby will have hair. They circle a pound and ounce prediction and a length one.

Then they have a spot to draw a picture.

After the baby joins the family, we pull out the prediction papers and give a piece of candy out for the closest guess in each category.

Pregnancy Countdown

My first trimester has finished, and we’re looking forward to baby joining us in about six months. I’m sure the time will fly.

At least until my due date passes and I’m still pregnant. I usually go two full weeks over, and those two weeks DRAG!

I’ll be posting periodic pregnancy updates here on the blog, and will be sure and let you know if Sydney was right with her early gender prediction!

Here's our selection of Memory Hymns for 2016-2017. I'm looking forward to committing these great songs to memory with the kids!

Memory Hymns for 2016-2017

It’s that time of year again! We’ve been busy redoing our annual meal plan, updating our chore charts, and picking new memory hymns!

For the past three years, we’ve been picking a hymn to memorize each month. We use the categories from our hymnals to guide our selection.

By this coming fall, we’ll have memorized a song from each section of the hymnal! Just two sections remain. Then, our selection method will change. My husband and I picked hymns that we think are important to learn the words to.

To not just sing aimlessly, but to actually study and learn the words of. I’m really looking forward to this year’s selection!

Here’s a post detailing how some of the tips I’ve learned over the years about memorizing hymns with such a wide range of kids.

Alright, without further ado, here are the songs Bryan and I have selected for this year.

Memory Hymns for 2016-2017

August
From the Choruses Section of the hymnal
Obedience

September
From the Medley Section of the hymnal
Following Christ Medley
Which contains a verse from each of the following hymns:
*I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
*I’ll Live for Jesus
*I Just Keep Trusting in MY Lord

October
Standing on the Promises

November
Jesus Saves!

December
We always pick a Christmas song for December! This year it’ll be
Ring the Bells

January
Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

February
I Love to Tell the Story

March
Since Easter is in April in 2017, we’ll be learning a song about the cross in March.
Glory to His Name

April
We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord this month! The perfect month to learn:
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

May
A Child of the King

June
Faith Is the Victory

July
Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It

If you’re interested, here are the other hymns we’ve memorized over the years. I’ll have to go back through some of the early ones again now that some of the kids are getting older!
2013-2014
2014-2015
2015-2016

What hymns will you be memorizing this year? Please chime in in the comments section below.

The park is the perfect place for imagination building. Here are five games that encourage creative thinking.

5 Imagination Building Games at the Park

We love going to the park! It’s a great way to break up our long monthly shopping trips, and to kill some time between appointments. The park is the perfect location for imagination building.

With just a bit of a story line, you can get your kids engaged in delightful creative play. While my youngest kids don’t really join in, my middles are the perfect age for this type of play. Here are five of my favorite scenarios to create at the park:

Pirates

We imagine the biggest play structure is our pirate ship. If you aren’t on the ship, you’re swimming! Our mission is usually to find a place to bury our treasure.

So we send out explorer pirates one at a time to scout. When everyone has had a chance, we compare notes and pick a burying spot. We drop a lifeboat and row out to the location.

We pretend to bury our treasure, and then head back to the ship before resuming our voyage.

Spaceship

We’ve also turned the big play structures into spaceships. The outlying structures are distant planets. We take turns exploring, looking for planets we can land on.

As we run out to the planet, we have to avoid the asteroids (Owen loves to sit in the gravel and throw rocks up :D). Then we have to climb up the slide to make it back into the ship, because it properly decompresses us (or something like that!)

Time Travel

Jayme and I developed this one many years ago, and it’s still a favorite. The play structure turns into a time machine. We take turns pushing buttons and traveling to a historical time period.

If you aren’t on the structure when we take off, you’re lost in time and we have to search for you! It’s great motivation to get everyone on board.

Once we land, we pretend that we don’t know where we are. We set out to explore, trying to figure out what’s what and where in history we are. We’ve seen knights, dinosaurs, and more without ever leaving the park.

When it’s time to leave, we have to jump on board for one final flight, back to the future!

Store or Restaurant

Many of the parks we visit have a little area that’s perfect for a store counter. We use the rocks as money, and take turns being customer and store owner.

It’s a great way to practice customer service skills and manners while still having fun.

Car

This one only works when there’s a steering wheel involved! One person is the driver, and gets to pick where we go. Once we arrive at our destination, it’s time to do something fun there.

We’ve taken a trip to a favorite restaurant, gone to the toy store, and visited Grandma. We’ll all get out of the car and stretch, and act out what we’d do at each location.

Then we pile back in the car and someone else gets to drive.

Do you play imagination building games at the park?

I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments section below. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to play!

We recently headed to the drive-in theater. Here's how we made it work with the kids.

Drive-In Theater with Kids

We don’t typically head to the theater. When you add up the cost of tickets for all of us, and throw some popcorn in there, I’m sure you’ll understand why! I’m pretty sure Chicken Little was the last movie we went to as a family, and that was when we were living in San Diego and Jayme was an only child! (Oh the memories!)

But, back to my post, an ad in the newspaper caught my eye a couple weeks ago. The local drive-in theater was airing Finding Dory followed by The BFG.

Both were movies I knew the kids would enjoy. Honestly, both were movies I wanted to see! The price was nice too. Most of the family could get in for $24. That’s a really low price per movie!

So Bryan and I chatted about it, and we decided he’d stay home with Owen and the rest of the kids and I would catch the Friday night airing. I was a bit nervous. After all, the box office didn’t open until 8:45 PM. That’s way past bedtime around here!

I was a little worried about driving that late at night. We’re over an hour away from the theater!

We decided to give it a go anyways, and I’m glad we did. Here are some things I learned about tackling a drive-in theater with kids:

Plan on Waiting in Line

We got to the theater at 8:45, when the box office opened. The line wrapped all the way out onto the highway. We sat in line, slowly creeping up for an hour. Yikes!

Next time I’ll be better prepared for this, and bring some fun activities for the car. As it was, we enjoyed a few car games to pass the time!

The Movie Starts at Dark

The actual start time varies depending on the time of year. The showing we picked was late. It didn’t start airing until a few minutes before 10:00. That’s really late!

I think if we go again we’ll hit a showing either earlier or later in the season to bump that start time up a bit.

Bring Your Snacks

If your drive-in theater allows you to bring in your own snacks, do it. We popped plenty of popcorn, packed some candy, and brought along water bottles. The kids each had their own bag and snacked as they pleased. It was quite fun.

If you can’t bring snacks, I did discover that the snack bar was way lower priced than a traditional theater.

Go to the Bathroom During the Movie

Yes, you’ll miss a few minutes. But you’ll avoid the line that wraps all the way around the building. That’s a good trade off in my opinion!

Besides, thanks to rolled down windows and plenty of cars, combined with the large screen, we were able to hear the movie so we didn’t really miss a lot.

Turn on Your Car Between Features

This was a tip for my husband, and after seeing other cars at the theater needing a jump, I’m thankful he told me! Listening to the radio without the car being on drains the battery. In order to give it a little boost, you need to run your car between the movies.

Bring Blankets

The kids fell asleep. As they were dozing, they were cold. Blankets were so handy. They each wrapped up and felt cozier.

Leave When You Need To

We parked in the back. Mainly because we sat in line for over an hour before getting there. But, it worked out really well.

After the first movie, the kids started nodding off. Jayme, Simon, and I were awake at the start of the second, but we slowly started falling asleep.

I knew that if I waited much longer I might not make it all the way home so we decided to leave. There was about 1/2 an hour left in the second movie when we pulled out.

Yes, it was a bad spot to leave in–the queen was just having her nightmare from the BFG. I wanted to see how it ended. But I knew I had a long drive.

So we’ll catch the movie again when it comes out on DVD.

What Would I Do Differently?

Next time I may just plan on leaving after the first movie. The drive home was long! I may bring some hot cocoa or something similar next time and leave it in an insulated mug to stay warm for the drive home. The caffeine would have perked me up a bit.

Bring the Bus

We talked about bringing the bus. But we didn’t know how it’d work out. Next time I think we will. There were a couple of motor homes there. And we can all go if we take the bus. Having another adult would have made the drive home much easier!

An External Radio Would Help

Our car radio played for about 25 minutes before the car needed restarting. We had to restart it a lot. An external radio would prevent us from losing sound so often. If we head back again, we’ll probably invest in one!

Have you been to a drive-in theater with kids?

What was your experience like? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section! Do you even have a drive-in theater nearby? I know there definitely aren’t as many as there used to be.