A World without walls
everyday life while homeschooling overseas
Easter Weekend gave us an opportunity to have some time away from work and school (doesn't happen often for us!), so we took advantage and decided to go camping! We went down to Dana Nature Reserve, which is just south of the Dead Sea. It was so amazing! We reserved a couple of tents ahead of time at their campground, we packed a backpack each, and then drove down--about 3 hours--to the reserve (and I can tell you--I don't know how ANYONE gets around this country without a GPS!!! I don't think we ever would have found the place! Good grief it was crazy!). We listened to Ben Hur the whole way down and it was so interesting! It's been a long time since I've seen that show, and the radio drama we listened to was excellent and brought so much of the story to light!
When we got to the camp, we parked our car at the 'Tower', and we had to take a shuttle down to the campground area. They don't let you drive down to the campsite, nor can you bring your own tent. They have just over 20 big white canvas tents set up, so it's first come, first served.
We arrived, we dropped our stuff off in our tents, and went over to the big main tent for our dinner. Luckily, we had some leftovers and some veggies for me to eat, because we decided that this would be a good time to try out our MREs and use our 72 hours kits (they're a little old...it was time...) The kids ate spaghetti and meatballs, potato/cheese/bacon soup, and beef stew. They had cookies and pound cake for dessert and drank 400 gallons of fruit punch and milkshakes (yes, I typed 400). It was pretty funny to see everyone eating out of pouches.
The camp was totally full, but all the people were very friendly and we had a lovely time chatting with all sorts of people from all over the world! We talked with some students visiting from the US (they were living in Israel, but came over for a visit), people from Belgium, French, Switzerland, London, Lebanon... Everyone was so friendly and really seemed to be enjoying a respite from 'civilization'.
There was no electricity nor lights nearby, so one of the main reasons we went down there, aside from the need to get out of the city and have a nice weekend, was to see the stars! We were in the chapter on stars, galaxies and constellations in our astronomy studies, so this gave us a great opportunity to show the kids what the stars REALLY look like! They were dully impressed. :) When I noticed the stars were starting to come out, we all ran over and found a 'star watching rock' (yes, we've been reading the Wrinkle in Time series), and we all laid down and watched the stars come out! Amazing! We lay up there and sang Primary songs and talked about how amazing the universe is and how grateful we are to God for the world we live in and the beauties that surround us. :)
The kids went to bed around 9:30. Who am I kidding? I think I fell asleep first! Ha! The boys all slept in one tent, and Claire and I shared another. Claire told me stories until I fell asleep! Isn't that funny? I must be getting old. I woke up around midnight to some SERIOUS snoring. I thought, "Wow. I had no idea that Claire snores!" But, no, it was someone in the tent next door! Ha! I went outside to find the loo, and was so astounded by the QUIET and the beauty of the night. It was so peaceful and lovely.
The next morning, the boys all woke up at 4am. Love camping. I tried to ignore them (they woke up Claire who came over to see if I was awake and I pretended I wasn't), so they all left and went exploring and had the time of their lives! Devin and I finally got up at 6, and the free breakfast wasn't available until 8:30. Doh! So, off we went on all sorts of hikes and explorations! We had a GREAT time--especially because it was SOOOOO windy, so it wasn't too hot. The view was astounding, and we really enjoyed hiking about and running around the open land.
(one of the pictures wouldn't let me caption it--it's the one of our little camp as seen from our 'star watching rock'--a very cozy picture!)
After breakfast, we went on one more hike. We went on the cave hike! It was a bit far--especially considering that we had been up and hiking for hours already--but it was fun. We found some cool caves to explore, Claire fell a few times, we got lots of 'stickers' in our socks and shoes, and Peter ate cookies. Random, I know.
We walked back to the camp, gathered up our backpacks. and headed over to the shuttle to take us back to our car. Such a fun ride! Ha!
On our way home, we stopped off at IKEA since we hadn't been there yet. We ate dinner there. Unfortunately, it made Josh SERIOUSLY sick, so that wasn't so nice. Oh well. We made it home and it was good to be home. I suppose. It was probably one of the most relaxing camping trips I've ever had. I would go back in a heartbeat!
For our Peter Preschool time, we've been doing a letter of the week. We spend a little time each day doing things that start with that letter. This week, our letter was 'N'. We made 'nests' (coconut macaroons). I put Robin Eggs in a jar and had the kids guess how many were in the jar (hooray for math...), then we divvied them out and the kids put them into their little nests! Ta-da! Best preschool ever! :)
Then, of course, I taught them the finer points of Robin Eggs:
This message brought to you by Easter and the letter 'N'.
Yesterday was the pinewood derby. Wow! It was SO much fun! I know that sounds really funny coming from me--but it was fun. Maybe it's because I knew almost all of the people there (most of the people in scouts here are homeschoolers and we all do the co-op together--I loved having my cute recorder girls come running up to me and hugging me!!); maybe it was because Josh took the place by storm; maybe it was because we brought special visitors with us; maybe it was because the kids enjoyed themselves so much; maybe it was because we weren't at home trying to think of something to do... Either way, it was a great deal of fun. :)
Josh worked VERY hard on his car. He drew the design, painted it, carved out spots for his headlights and taillights--and even wired his headlights and taillights so they worked! Everyone oohed and aahed appropriately when his car was racing with its lights on! :)
He ended up taking 2nd place overall, plus he was unanimously voted as the leaders' choice award (the medal around his neck in the above picture). I was SO grateful to those leaders who saw how much work, effort and, yes, love he put into making that car.
This is a great cub scout troop. I'm happy that we're a part of it.
After the derby, our 'adopted' grandparents who came with us to the event took the kids out for ice cream to celebrate and stayed to play a few games with my obsessive game girl. It was a wonderful day!
This was the phrase that was repeated over and over by two tearful boys all the way home from tennis today. The kids are TIRED today. I don't blame them. I'm tired, too! There isn't much of a schedule with dad gone...or maybe there's TOO MUCH of a schedule with dad gone! :/ We've been keeping ourselves awfully busy and staying up way too late. I've had 'dates' with friends and mom nights with other friends; the kids have often stayed up until I got home (10pm is just too late for my kiddos)! Then they're all up at 6:30, I'm up at 5:30. We're tired.
This morning, the kids and I went to The Baptist School, where our Arabic tutor teaches. She has been asking us for almost a year to come and present a play we wrote to her kindergarten classes! We finally went today and it was so much fun! The place was easy to find, the people there were very nice, the kids were surprisingly respectful and quiet. Not sure if it was just the fact that they were trying so hard to understand our English, or if it was just the novelty of something very new and different or if it was our superb visual effects (like the giant fan for the blowing wind of a storm and Claire with a spray bottle of water to make the 'rain pour')... Regardless, it was a positive experience. :) However, at the end, the principal of the school thanked us and gave us all some chocolate. Claire conscientiously asked if it had nuts. The principal laughed a little--I think people think kids say they're allergic to stuff when they just don't like it. Well, the principal said there were no nuts in it...only to find out it was filled with cashews. Lovely. Luckily, I had lots of Benadryll in my backpack. *sigh* Oh well.
We all took the rest of the morning off to read quietly (hooray for reading days!!!!!), so I could work on some stuff for primary. We watched some of a Greek History dvd from the history channel (I didn't like this one so much), talked to Devin via Skype, then headed out for tennis.
Tennis is sometimes the bane of my existence. Last week, it was awesome! The kids were happy and helpful and concentrated... Today, it was a pain in the neck. The girls were bugging the boys and the boys were bugging the girls and my kids were SOOOOOOO tired and snappy and sobby (I made that word up. Deal with it.) that I wanted to pull my hair out. Coach kept telling me I was a saint for dealing with 4 kids with really strong personalities. He he he. Thanks coach. There are times when I think about quitting, but I don't for lots of reasons. If I quit, I'd have to think of some other outdoor activity to do and I don't want to. At least they're outside.
So what made the day the worst ever? I'm sure you're wondering by this point. It wasn't the cashew allergy or the sobbing messes during tennis... After tennis was over, Andrew and I were playing around with one of the big huge jumpropes, making 'snakes' and 'hills' for Peter to jump over. Once, we decided to swing it a little. Peter jumped over it, then it touched the back of his feet, and he completely fell apart. He screamed and yelled and beat the heck out of Andrew... then we left the embassy and he tried to pull Claire in to get him a treat from the gift shop and I said no, and he--wait for it--screamed LOUDER. Andrew joined in at this point because he felt he deserved a treat. Unfortunately, he didn't and I said no. I know, I know. MEAN mom. What can I say? Guilty.
So, that's why it's the worst day ever. We came home, ate dinner, and the kids are all currently in the shower/bath. They are soon going to tell me how this is the worst day ever again, though, because Peter and Andrew have been in the bathtub now for almost an hour. I told the kids that if they ate dinner and showered, I'd let them play on the iPads for a bit. However, they are all going to bed EARLY--so since they've spent that whole hour playing in the bathtub, their iPad time is going to be short indeed. That will call for more weeping and wailing. Does anyone have a tranquilizer gun that I can borrow?
Another funny thing: I just found out that we're changing our time on Thursday night. Oh goody. I was just getting really used to my 5:30 wake up time. :( Now i have to go back to being really tired again. *sigh* So, my question is this: Since my kids are going to bed early tonight, should I follow suit to get myself used to the new early time...or should I take advantage and watch a MOVIE!?? Hmmmm...
Devin made it to D.C. safe and sound. Day 1 is now behind me. Day 2 started fairly auspiciously by my little boys waking up before my alarm (not nice, since my alarm goes off at 5:40am) because Andrew wanted his iPad under his pillow and Peter wet the bed. However, I got some really good scripture study/prayer/meditation time in this morning and even took time to exercise. As I sit here writing this, all my children are cooking breakfast! And just so you all don't think this is impossibly perfect, my kids are FIGHTING like cats and dogs while making breakfast. Not the most relaxing thing and I have a feeling I should probably intervene soon before the pancake batter ends up all over the floor and Claire cries harder and Josh eats one of his siblings and Peter beats Andrew up and Andrew cries like a roman candle... Oh. Too late.
Later: We had a nice day, really. It was pretty laid back. We did our normal math and spelling and stuff, but we added writing stories about Leprechauns (the kids REALLY loved that one--and I think I'll have to do more writing in the future!), eating green pancakes, drinking green milk (not me! Gross!!), drawing rainbow pictures that had Leprechaun gold and shamrocks attached to them...(Andrew was the most simplistic of all of us...even Peter really got into the spirit of it! I used the project to talk about the order of colors and had the kids use oil pastels and smear them all together. They had a good time.) Josh had another practice today with his accompanist for his first concert tomorrow. He's so excited--as he should be! :) We got to talk to Devin for a few minutes in the middle of the day.
It's funny. We really do get quite a bit done during the day. However, I feel like we're hardly doing anything. I'm hoping that this sad little funk I'm in from having Devin gone goes away soon so I can get a grip and take control of my schedule again. I don't know why it has to affect my whole day. I usually only see him in the morning/evening anyway, so why is my whole entire day thrown off? Guess that means I love him. :) That's true, anyway. :)
Today Claire and I finally finished going through a box of a bunch of my old stuff from when I was younger. My mom sent it to me with a shipment because the shipment needed more weight. Thanks mom. But I had put off going through it for years! Sheesh! And I found at the bottom of this box a whole tone of sheet music! Sweet! Beethoven, Chopin, Shubert... Plus one song that was the one that made me decide to start playing the piano: Child of the Universe. I sang it in the 4th grade choir and thought the music was so pretty that I just had to learn to play the piano so I could play it! I couldn't believe I still had the music! I was actually thinking about it a few months ago and started looking around to see if I could find the sheet music (I couldn't). I'm pretty impressed that it was in there. It was missing the front page, but I know what the intro sounds like, so it wasn't too hard to pop it in. I played through it today and it brought back lots of memories. Thankfully, I play better now than I did in 4th grade when I started goofing around with it. :) Hooray for surprise music in the bottom of unpacked boxes! Thanks, mom! :)
I have a few minutes before rushing off, and decided that I really need to get myself back in the habit of blogging. Both for myself, for my kids, for my family (parents and in-laws), and for times when Devin is taken away for training trips. So, I'm going to do a 'back post' without back-posting it! Whew. I don't think that made sense.
All last month, I really struggled. I was very angry, very snappy...pretty much a horrible person that no one wanted to be around. It was a tough inner struggle for me, as I kept thinking in my mind, "I love this person, I'm going to be nice to them!", and then I'd turn around and make snide remarks and bite their heads off. *sigh* I was frustrated and feeling in a rut. Devin and I had long discussions about this but nothing was really helping.
Finally, last weekend, Devin did the impossible: He took the day off. Yes, he has every Saturday off--figuratively speaking--but lately it's been spent catching up on work things, or doing church things, etc., and so EVERY SINGLE DAY is EXACTLY the same for me. I don't mind home schooling my kids. I love it, actually. But I NEED at least one day a week to be different. And I think that's what was bothering me!
Last Saturday, Devin dropped all his other projects, and just hung out with us. He made food for us. After Josh's violin lesson (I go with Josh to his lesson and I practice/play my clarinet while he has his lesson--it's LOVELY), Devin surprised me by piling us all in the car, taking us to Burger Shack, and then to a big outdoor park. The kids played and played and we were all outside together! It was wonderful! Ever since that day, I've felt calm and at peace with the world (I know that it's more than just THAT day that's been helping, but that was the turning point).
I'm so grateful for a husband who is so thoughtful and cares for my needs and that of my family. I'm so blessed.
On to today's news: I had a lovely lunch with some friends--specifically with one friend I've been trying to get to come to 'social' gatherings for some time. I know it isn't because she doesn't WANT to, but that's exactly why I felt like it was necessary to get her out! She works HARD and has an 8 month old baby. I love this lady. I hope she had a nice day out.
This morning, the kids and I had a long heart-to-heart about our math studies. I really don't like the curriculum we're using right now (and no, I'm not going to mention what it is). I think it's vague, doesn't give any explanations or helps... It would probably be an ok supplement, but not a core curriculum. So I've been pondering about what to do about it. I want something that will help them get to where they need to be in math without them feeling overwhelmed or frustrated...and without ME feeling overwhelmed and frustrated! I LOVE math, but I really don't have the time to sit down with each one and give them an hour long math lesson every day. I'd love to, but I can't. I've been thinking about getting some sort of curriculum that was DVD based so they could watch the dvds, but I haven't had a lot of success with DVD based curriculums thus far. Today, though, as I was browsing, I remembered someone mentioning the Khan Academy, so I decided to look it up. It's AWESOME! I have an account as a parent with my kids signed up under me and I can see exactly what they've done and how they're doing, which can help me see what to do to help them better understand a concept, PLUS he has these little teaching example videos that are 2-2 1/2 minutes long that explain the concept to the kids (or whomever). Josh and Claire took to it immediately! They get special points for completing a class and get badges to show their accomplishments. Josh spent an hour on it this morning. Both of them asked if they could use this as their math now. Cool. I'll try it. It will teach them what they need to know, and I can supplement what they don't understand, or give practice as they need using these other math websites with worksheets and stuff. The kids like that during math time now, they get to use their iPads with earphones on so they can watch the videos and take the quizzes. I'm just happy they're excited about math again. I hope this works. I feel like the older ones are way behind where they should be because of the nature of the math book we were try
I realized that I give my kids computer and iPad app time every day. Yes, it's for school apps, typing, and critical thinking games, but still. Why don't I get computer time? I suppose it's because normally during that time I'm prepping for dinner, reading a book, running someone to somewhere, or doing something inane. Why can't I take a minute during their computer time and do my computer time, too? Huh. This could be the start of something good.
Today, it's raining in Jordan. Hooray! My only concern is that when it rains in Jordan, we usually have really iffy power. If we have more than a few lights on, our breaker tends to trip regularly. Hopefully that doesn't happen. On a normal laptop, it wouldn't be a problem, since it has a backup battery. However, this laptop is SO OLD that the battery doesn't function anymore, so if it's unplugged, or if the power bumps out, the computer just shuts off...then it takes FOREVER to boot up.
Devin and I have been having this conversation quite a bit lately. Our computers are old. Very old. Isn't it a shame to have old computers (and not even computers--they're laptops) when you're an IT guy? We're hopefully going to have that remedied here in the near future. Devin was discussing it with a co-worker the other day. He asked the co-worker what brand/type of computer he (the co-worker) would buy if he were in the market. "I'd build my own!" was the reply. Well, that but the flea in Devin's ear, so he's now researching parts, and hopefully within the next month or so, we will have an actual desktop computer that is, in Devin's own words, "Wicked Fast!" Hooray for wicked fast computers! :) Love that man!
In other news, Josh is growing like the proverbial weed. He literally grows about a centimeter every 2 weeks. He is now just about 1 cm shorter than I am. I took him to get shoes the other day, since his shoes were falling apart, and he tried on some men's size 7, only to tell me they felt too small. What??!? He thought size 8 was perfect. I did the 'toe test', and his toes go all the way to the tip top of the size 8s...so they won't last too long, either. When did his feet grow to be more than an inch bigger than mine? Where have I been?
We're enjoying our country studies and learning all sorts of things about all sorts of countries. We are slowly (oh so slowly) whittling down a long list to just a few choice countries that we plan to bid on. And no, I'm not going to list them here. When our bids are in (circa August), I'll list the top 10-15, and then everyone can guess all they want to. Until then, it's our little secret. It's been fascinating, though, as the kids and I have studied these places, to see their preferences and ideas. They're being very mature about it and looking at things with not only a critical eye, but with an eye to the future. I'm very impressed with their thoroughness and their impartial look at all of these countries. It's a neat experience.
I'm sure everyone is wondering about the picture up at the top... We had a church activity for Valentine's day. It was originally an adult only social. We had a dinner and played some games and planned to have a dance at the end. There was a little wedge placed in our evening's plans, though, when the most WONDERFUL lady in the world, who was watching ALL of the kids in the branch, let us know that our 2 hours were up and the kids knew it! Ha! So, after our dinner and game time, Devin went and picked up all the kids, and they joined us for the dance portion of our evening. :) It turned out to be the BEST ACTIVITY EVER!! We all had SO much fun! The dads danced with their daughters and it was SO funny! Honestly, I really think it was the best activity I've ever attended. I'm sad that more people didn't come--it was so fantastic and fun for everyone. I love this branch here SO much. We are so very blessed to have a branch full of the most amazingly wonderful people! I'm grateful for that.
I'll bet you're all wondering where I've been all this time? Well, I've been busy, of course, but then, I'm ALWAYS busy. This time, we've been having some awful internet problems. Blah. The computer kicks me off about once a minute for about 20 seconds each time. It's SUPER annoying. Devin says the router is shot, so he ordered a new one. It should be here soon, then I can post all our outings and pictures and things.
Some of my favorite highlights of this week: For FHE this past Monday, we all watched Apollo 13 (the one with Tom Hanks). The kids LOVED it! Andrew has asked to watch it again every day!
The kids and I went on a field trip yesterday to Madaba with a lovely friend to a mosaic shop where we got to watch them make real mosaics, fancy pottery, and inlaid wood furniture. It was astounding and fascinating how much work goes into all those things! Josh took pictures of the ENTIRE store! It was so cute! And my kids gushed over everything. We had a great time, and once my internet is up and going properly, I will post the pictures and have more fun details. :) The kids kept telling me it was the best field trip ever.
Tonight, for movie night, we watched Taming of the Shrew (the version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor). The kids and I have been learning about Sonnets and William Shakespeare this week in our poetry unit, so I thought it would be really fun to end that week-long study with watching an actual production. We all laughed hysterically through the whole show. I love that my kids like this stuff! Josh LOVED it! Even Peter sat through almost the entire thing! It's one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and it does my heart good to enjoy it with my children. :) Hooray for learning! :)
Amman is still suffering from that 'little' winter storm that we had on Saturday. Wow. There is still a good foot of snow/ice on the ground everywhere, because people don't know how to get it out of the way AND because it's not getting hot enough to really melt it all away. The sun comes out, melts a little of it until it runs down the streets like little rivers, then night comes and it freezes solid. I hate this type of weather. This morning, the embassy opened late. I was going out to drive Devin to the embassy so I could have the car so we could go to our climbing class... when we got out to the car, Andrew and Claire were slipping and sliding around on the 2-3 inches of solid ice covering everything. That car wasn't going anywhere. Poor Devin walked to work, and we canceled climbing class...so we're still at home. Well, at least we're getting some good school work done!
I'm just hoping that the snow melts soon. My printer ran out of ink, and they don't have the kind I need at the stores close to my house. :( I have to go really far in order to find what I need, and I can't get there because of all the ice. Alright, so MAYBE I could, but I'm not ready to fight all the idiot drivers here. Sorry, was that not nice? I love the Jordanian people, but even they admit that at the best of times, it's horrible to drive here. Add to that some slick ice and deep-ish snow, and it's nightmarish. I'm not going out until there's none left. That's final. I'm ready to get out and do some other fun things, but not until I feel a little safer.
For the second half of our 'day off' of Veteran's Day, on our way back from Um Qais, we stopped by Ajloun Castle! Now this is a pretty cool castle. It's not a serious rubble pile like most of the castles here. the kids LOVED it (probably because it was MUCH cooler temperature wise than Um Qais, and because there was a roof overhead through most of the castle. Shade and cooler temperatures do wonders for the temperament and enjoyment...)! We didn't have much time to explore, so we made the most of it by looking into every nook and cranny! It's always so wonderful to be outside!!
Who Am I?
As a Stay At Home Mom of 4 wonderful children, I have the amazing opportunity not only to home school them, but to do so in many different places! I am married to the most amazingly wonderful (and handsome) man in the whole world! Together, we seek out, every day, that Joy in the Journey that makes life exciting!
by Dan Brown
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