A World without walls
everyday life while homeschooling overseas
In Andrew's words, as is his norm, this was the BEST DAY EVER!! Mt Rainier is one heck of a spectacular park. We learned that the roads of the park were specifically engineered to give you the most breath-taking and spectacular views possible. They did a really good job. As you go around switchbacks, around every turn is an amazing view of this huge towering volcano. Wow.
We were able to stop at some reflection lakes and got a few nice pictures. I couldn't believe how blessed we were to be at Mt Rainier on a crystal clear day. We saw the summit for two whole days! Many park visitors, we learned, come and go without ever even SEEING the top of the volcano! So beautiful, and made for such wonderful pictures! :)
After the lakes stop, we made it up to Paradise. Yep. Aptly named. It was so beautiful! We stopped in to the visitor's center so the kids could do their Jr Ranger. We lucked out and got there just in time to finish the booklet part and have a Ranger-led discussion, so they got their badges in less than an hour. Impressive! Then we ran down to the motorhome (which was parked on an overlook over a huge valley), cooked lunch, then ran back up to go on a hike up some of the mountain! We were planning to hike quickly, then go on our way. It didn't happen that way, though. Instead, as we were hiking up, we saw a whole lot of plants that we recognized: Wild Blueberries!!!! So, we spent 5 hours on the slopes of Mt Rainier picking blueberries!! YUMMY!! We ate and ate and ate, and also managed to fill 2 waterbottles full of them! The kids passed them out to hikers who passed by. We had a GREAT time and there were sure some gorgeous views on the way.
Honestly, it really was the best day ever. We had a great time just taking it easy and munching on wild berries in a subalpine forest. You can't ask for more than that!
We camped on the other side of the park at a cute little spot with a playground. the kids were so happy and played while we did some laundry. Hooray for modern conveniences.
And just for fun, here's a lovely panoramic view:
Well, here we are on a Sunday morning, and let me tell you, it's been an interesting ride already, and it's only 9:30am!! We all got up early in order to get ready for church. The kids all showered (GASP!!), and we pulled out in plenty of time to arrive at church. We found it easily (thank you, GPS) and were 10 minutes early! However, as we pulled into the parking lot, we saw that we were either REALLY early, or no one else knew what time church started there. Doh! The parking lot was empty, the building locked; 9am came and went and not one soul passed through. The only conclusion we could come up with was that it was stake conference day.
So, instead, we plugged the computer into the audio cable in the motorhome and we're listening to last April's conference over our own loud speakers as we make our way to Mt Rainier. Here's another sad thing. We drove all through Washington yesterday without seeing ONE fruit stand. And now, we're on a local highway, and we've seen NOTHING BUT fruit stands! Oh, the sadness! Since we can't attend church, though, we should probably make an effort to keep the Sabbath day holy. Sacrifices. It's so sad to pass by all these peach and apple orchards without stopping to pick some! :( Oh well. That's what happens when you leave on your vacation a few days late.
(later) What a perfect day! We drove up the Chinook pass to the Eastern side of Mt Rainier. SO beautiful!
We entered the park and hiked a trail called 'Grove of the Patriarchs'. An easy trail through a SUPER old growth forest that consisted of HUGE trees, banana slugs (they're so big!), plants, flowers, mosquitoes...and EVERYTHING was covered in moss!! It was so beautiful! We got to play next to a river, a butterfly landed on Claire, we crossed a suspension bridge (which was supposed to be one person at a time, but the kids wouldn't move, so I had to get on and shoo them along)... It was a lovely hike!
Next, we were driving to our campsite and saw another hike called Silver Falls, so we decided to do that one. We trekked down a steep mountain side to these beautiful falls! So pretty! The kids loved the bridge!
We made it to our campsite early and settled ourselves into the BEST campsite ever! No electricity (yet again), but we camped right next to a stream, and that was the kids' favorite part! As soon as we parked, the kids jumped out of the RV and proceeded to play. They were angry when we told them it was time for bed (like 5 hours later)! I'm sure they'll be up early, ready to jump in the stream again! They were making a boat regata--complete with dock, launching site, and races! I love imagination! There's nothing you can't do with rocks, sticks and water!
While the kids played, Dev and I went on a 'date night' walk around the area. We found a little path that led to a 'hot springs'. It wasn't marked, but we found it by the smell and the warmth. Interesting. Sort of freaky, but it was there. Then we found lots of cool GIANT moss covered rocks. My favorite was one that Devin's standing by a giant moss covered rock with trees growing out of it! Cool!
And for those who are fans of Anansi the Spider: "Look at that strange moss covered rock!" *Kaboom!*
Today was mostly spent driving. We got up late, did some laundry, left late, and drove up through Idaho, through Montana (Missoula), and over to the panhandle where we decided to stop for the night.
We stayed at a cute little RV park in Wallace, Idaho that was nestled in a pretty little canyon by a little creek. So lovely. Devin and the kids roasted marshmallows on a wood fire...AND we got WiFi! Woohoo!
What a beautiful thing to wake up inside a National Park, surrounded by super cool things!! :) We all got up, ate breakfast, and headed over to the visitor's center in order to get the kids their Lunar Rangers booklets and see what they had there. I found some super cool volcano books for school, and a headlamp which I've always wanted and has become invaluable to me.
We headed into orbit (the Craters of the Moon loop). We climbed the Inferno Cone--a super cool small dome that had NO growth on it except for one big tree at the top. The whole thing was covered in black cinder rocks that were SO pretty! The glittered with gold and silver! Who knew cinders were so beautiful? We all really enjoyed climbing up and seeing such a beautiful panoramic view!
We climbed to the top of a couple of 'spatter cones'. These are little volcanoes that just 'spatter' cinders out of them and make these cute little volcanoes that look like 'real' volcanoes as we are shown them.
Our next fun adventure was a Ranger led hike through this HUGE lava flow to these lava tube caves! We learned all about the flow and the caves and how they formed. It was so fascinating! The kids LOVED climbing through the caves. Some parts were some serious spelunking...
We decided to drive at night to Salmon--almost died! SO SCARY! The whole town was out of power due to some storm that had thrown most of the area into darkness. We were following the GPS to this RV park, but since there were no street lights, it was rather hard to see. We missed a turn off, so Devin was turning around. He thought he was turning into the parking lot of a filling station, but just in the nick of time, I looked up and forward and saw that we were NOT driving into a parking lot, but straight into a river off the side of a bridge with no guard rail!!! OH MY GOSH!!! I screamed until Devin finally stopped and thought I was going to have a heart attack as I imagined us continuing that last foot into a gorge. I still panic just thinking about it. More terrifying than climbing a volcano. At least the kids were all sleeping at this point. I would hate to have had them all freak out.
We managed to find the park, and lucked out that not only had the power come on just a moment previous, but the owner of the park was standing outside, which was good because we had no idea where we were! The owner was really nice and helped us hook everything up so we could have a nice sleep. Thank goodness.
What a day. And not really in a good way. Yet, it ended well, so what can I say?
Huh. That sounded like a Dr. Seuss story.
In a nutshell, we were slated to leave Rexburg right after breakfast. We were ready to go by 9am! Record time! I should have known something would happen to kill that one off... We took off, and stopped by Radio Shack in order to set up my phone number/data plan on my new iPhone that I got for my birthday. Actually, AT&T was first. They said no, go see Radio Shack. Radio Shack said no, go see Best Buy in I.F. We went to Walmart instead. Walmart said yes, here you go. I popped the SIM card in, and my phone said no. We spent the next 4 hours trying to figure out why. In the end, between Mike, Daniel, and Devin, we found that the phone just belongs to Sprint and can't be unlocked unless you have a long-standing account with them and have, in essence, 'paid for' your phone. We tried calling the guy we bought it from to see if he would be kind enough to help us unlock the phone, but when we finally got through to him, we lost the connection and he never called us back. Daniel figured out a 'loophole', where he would sign his sprint contract on our phone, then go unlock it....except they're making him keep it for 30 days before he can do that. So, to fix the problem, we looked on Craigslist and saw that someone listed an iPhone 4S--UNlocked already--so we ran down to I.F., met the guy, bought the phone, popped in the SIM, and off we went! We only left 7 hours late. And now I am a proud owner of two iPhone 4S's. So silly. *sigh* One day lost.
But not really. We got to Craters of the Moon at 7pm, just in time for the evening Ranger programs!!! And it was perfect! We went on an 'evening stroll' with a Ranger and discovered all about the volcano ring and cinders surrounding us. We learned about A'a and Pa'hoe'hoe lava flows and climbed on them. These kids will NEVER forget the name of the lava flows! Best way to learn something to hear it, see it, touch it... :)
At 8pm was the Jr. Ranger program, where the kids got to learn things and earn their badges in one fell blow! At 8:30 was the evening program, which was SUPER cool, because as the program went on, first there were bats flying over us as dusk left and as the darkness fell, a huge storm blew in (that was all bark and no bite)! The winds picked up and there was lightning all around! It was so cool! Claire cried the whole time! Ha! We got back to our lovely campsite, put the kids to bed, and by that time, the storm had blown itself out, so Devin, Devika and I sat outside at our picnic table and looked at the most AMAZING stars we've ever seen! The Milky Way was crystal clear! It was so beautiful! Honestly, it was the perfect way to end such a tough and frustrating day.
Today was Review Day, so we went to a place for review: Mini Israel! We watched a 3D movie about Israel and all yelled when we saw places we'd seen (we were all alone in the theater, so it was ok). Then, we went out to the 'park' to see all the model buildings. These people took all the important landmarks of Israel and reconstructed them (1:25) in smaller size so we could look at them. The kids were totally enthralled! In some of them, the cars drove on the freeways, planes taxied on the runways, people prayed, dances, marched, and played football (aka soccer)! We saw Jerusalem's Old City and pointed out all the places we'd been. They really enjoyed it, and it was fun to see how much they recognized without any prompting from me! :) The only downside to the outing? It was HOT HOT HOT!! The sun was blazing down on us. I'm sure glad we went early when it was only 33C!! Sheesh.
Thanks to Jon and Leora, our good friends who 'introduced' us to FS life (Devin replaced Jon in Cameroon), we were invited to spend a day in Tel Aviv with our own private tour guides! :D So, Sunday morning at 6 am, we were all up and getting ready to go! (It still took an hour and a half to get out of the house...)
By 8:30am, we were in Tel Aviv and noticed that it was already 34C/92F!! Oh boy. The sun was out and it was relentless! We walked around and saw some fun historical points of Jaffa--some Egyptian finds, cannons (as opposed to canons...), a clock tower, some beautiful arches and old cool buildings... We ate ice cream and were introduced to the juice shops here. Oh my. They squeeze the juice for you while you watch and it's amazing...
We took some time to play at the beach where the kids were yelled at by the life guard. He he he... It was funny only because the life guard blared something on his loudspeaker, and amidst ALL the people on the beach, I had this feeling it was my kids since they were slowly making their way out to sea (Devin was watching them). I jumped up and as I was running over to them to get them to come closer, the lifeguard must have figured out he didn't get any response so they must not speak Hebrew, because he yells out, "Kids! Three kids! Come back now, it is not allowed!" How did he know they spoke English? Are we that obvious?? Ha! They were mad, and Josh sulked a bit, but they overcame it and made a spectacular sand castle that I didn't get a picture of. :( But it was so nice to just sit and chat... Devin and Jon stood out in the sun with the kids, and Leora and I sat in the shade and talked away about everything. That was so lovely!
After swimming and dying of heat stroke, we went and had lunch at a yummy little place on the street. Mmmmm... It's so fun trying new things! And even the kids found something to eat! Hooray for Schnitzle! :D
After eating, we were ready to try to find a park to play! They took us to a big park--we're talking BIG--and we found a little place that rented paddle boats! We got two paddle boats for an hour and had an absolute BALL paddling and steering around the river! (Sadly, I left the camera in the car, so I don't have any pictures...but it was SO FUN!) It was a great workout, too! :) After the paddle boats, there were these 'dune buggy'-type things that you could rent, too, and the kids BEGGED... Unfortunately, we gave in. It was a four-seater. One person steered and pedaled, one other person had a faux steering wheel and also pedaled, and two in the front just sat and enjoyed the ride. The kids were in heaven! Devin and I jogged after them to make sure they didn't run into trees, people, bicyclists, or the river. We definitely got our workout!
When we finished this, we were walking back to the car and stopped off at a store to pick up a few things for the next day--fruits and eggs and stuff. The kids talked us into some chocolate. Never again. We were passing it out, and lo and behold, it has Hazelnuts. Dang it. Claire was having a reaction, and I had already used up the epi pen! I had one dose of Benadryll in the car, but she wouldn't close her mouth when I gave it to her, so most of it spilled on me. I was so upset! We found a pharmacy, and the guys at the pharmacy were infuriatingly slow-- "Benadryll? Antihistamine? Yah, I guess we have something like that. Let me look..." Then, a few minutes later, "Here you go." Jon asked if it was the same dose for kids (how did the guys miss the fact that I told them my DAUGHTER was having an allergic reaction? Do I look old enough to have an adult daughter?? Really?), so then the guy said, "Oh. Just a minute." So they had to confer for awhile about it, and then it was ok. Basically, they gave me Claritin. Whatever. If it helps... I gave it to Claire, who decided to CHEW it (seriously???) and within a few minutes, she threw up in the car. Then she felt much better. The swelling in her mouth went down and she was ok. We didn't get home until almost 10pm. The kids slept REALLY well. Josh got VERY sick while we were out and about--I'm almost 95% sure that it was heat stroke of some sort. I felt the same way. I had to rehydrate him and we decided to spend the WHOLE day today doing nothing except watching movies. :) Sometimes you just have to have a day off. It's been very beneficial for me as well as the kids. Poor Josh sat in the same place all day long in a stupor. All the kids did, really. They were watching the Muppet Show, and I missed 3 episodes because I fell asleep!!!!! Can you believe it?? ME?!??! I couldn't believe it, either. Funnily enough, I'm STILL tired. I hope I'm better tomorrow so we can do something else fun!
Movie in Hebrew with Arabic subtitles... :/
Today turned out MUCH differently than I had intended. I got up intending to take the kids to Herodium--King Herods winter palace/tomb. We got to go to a big exhibition of it at the Israel museum a few weeks back, and thought it would be really cool to see the thing in real life.
I popped in the place in the GPS, and noticed it was acting really funky. First off, it took a few MINUTES to calculate. That doesn't bode well. THEN, when it finally came up, the directions went directly south, with a perpendicular line east to the site. That didn't seem quite right. I started to follow anyway. The 'road' that it told me to go on kept shifting and I just couldn't seem to find it. I finally stumbled on the road that takes you to Bethlehem, and as I zoomed out on the GPS, I saw that Herodium was further away than Bethlehem and smack dab in the middle of the West Bank (Palestine). Now, if I were with Devin, I may have still tried it out. But there were a few things against me. First off, the GPS doesn't work in that area, which is why it wasn't giving me any specific directions. Second off, while we CAN drive in the West Bank, there are many places we're not allowed to go, and I don't know where they are. Third, if ANYTHING were to happen and the checkpoints were closed, I'd be stuck, and it could potentially be dangerous. Maybe not, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. As I was meandering around the city, trying to find my way, some guy jumped in the middle of the street and flagged me down. He told me that Herodium (aka Herodion, Herodyon...they're very loose with their spelling here) was over an hour from here, but he could take me if I just jumped in his taxi! He could take me there and to Bethlehem and to Masada... Now, these ARE places I'd like to see, but not by myself with the kids in some strange guys' taxi. No, thank you.
So, we changed our plans. I had planned to go to some Stalactite Caves, so I entered that into the GPS, and off we went! It didn't take more than a few seconds to get the directions up, so I knew it was safe. :) It still took 45 minutes to get there, but the drive was GORGEOUS!! We wound our way through mountains covered with evergreen trees. There was hardly anyone on the road. It was lovely!
The caves were interesting... We got there right in the middle of about 45 school groups. Sheesh. The lady at the ticket counter took our money, and told us to tag along with the school groups. You couldn't get into the caves without a tour guide. So, we tagged along. The group was an Arabic school group. The guide spoke only Hebrew. So, she told them things in Hebrew, then a teacher translated it into Arabic, and the kids and I looked for bugs. They gave a whole schpill outside the caves, then showed a movie, then we FINALLY got to go in. It was really pretty inside--very cool formations and the lights changed colors just for fun. The groups inside were sort of annoying, since they had to stop every once in awhile and talk some more--in Hebrew and Arabic. Luckily, the kids and I were able to slip by a few groups and do our own thing. We were grateful for the education we received when we went to the Timpanogos Caves this past summer, as we knew most of the formations! Peter had never been in a cave like this, so we taught him the names of all the different formations: Stalactites, stalagmites, cave straws, flowstones, cave popcorn. The cave popcorn was Peter's favorite. At one point, there was this 'field' of cave popcorn next to a little pool. Peter looked at the pool and said, "Look! An ancient bath!" Smart kid! I told him that this was where they people anciently had movie nights. They ate a lot of popcorn and made a big mess, then jumped into the bath to clean off. The kids thought that was very funny. :)
Claire on the top floor of the fortress!
After our cave tour, we found a park off to the side of the road in the mountains! We had a picnic, and the kids played for hours. They found a BIG playhouse. When Andrew told Peter to take a look at that, Peter said, "Oh. A fortress." He's a riot! They played house (I was the grandma. I'm ashamed at my kids and their lack of respect for my youth!) and enjoyed themselves immensely. I did get a chance to sit and just enjoy the peace of the forest. I watched these very pretty birds fly all over...and eat our discarded fruit! :)
It was a day well spent!
Our cute little trees that we planted!!
In honor of Earth Day, we did a super cool activity today: We planted a tree in a National Forest here in Israel! How cool is that?? We drove out about 40 minutes outside of the city into the middle of nowhere (SO pretty!!) into an area that they’re trying to re-forest. A very nice park ranger met us there and told us a little about what we were going to do… Of course, he didn’t get very far, because he made the mistake of passing out pickaxes before giving us his shpill. Ha!! We each got a tree (an Arizona Cypress, actually) and we walked out into this big field full of baby trees and irrigation pipes. There, we dug holes and planted our little baby trees! Then, the kids started hacking away at the rocks and dirt, and started finding ancient pottery. The Ranger said they could keep the pottery they found and they were ecstatic! So, they collected ancient pottery for a museum… We got certificates for participating, and flags that said, “I planted a tree in Israel!” On our way out of the forest, we found an area with picnic tables, so we stopped and ate our picnic lunch. The kids ran around and climbed on the rocks and found an old jeep which of course became TIV 3 (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) and they happily played storm chasers for another hour! We finally headed home when it really started to rain on us
Once home, I set up the jaccuzzi bath tub and everyone took turns in the Jacuzzi (or jakuzey, as they spell it on the wall sticker). After Jacuzzi time, we have our ancient pottery museum.
You can tell these kids have been to a lot of museums… They even charged me admittance fee! Sheesh. How’s that for gratitude? :D
The other day when the kids and I went to the Western Wall Tunnels, we stopped into the information center at the Jaffa Gate and found that we could get a Combo ticket which includes the North and South Ramparts Walks, Zedekiah's Cave (aka King Solomon's Quarry--or King Solomon's Mine?? Ooooohhh...), and the Jerusalem Archaeology Park/Davidson Center. So, I got a combo ticket. Yesterday, we did the Northern Ramparts Walk and Zedekiah's Cave. The walk is really cool! You get to walk all along the top of the Old City Wall along the battlements! We 'shot' arrows through the slots and looked over at the view at each and every watchtower. We had a great time!
Eating our pastries walking through the Muslim Quarter
After our HOUR LONG walk (may have been even longer...) over the walls of the city, we headed back through the city to find the exit at Damascus Gate so we could find Zedekiah's Cave. It's this super awesome cave right below the city wall between Damascus and Herod's Gates. The kids LOVED it!! Peter was SO MAD when we finally had to leave! They ran through and explored and found 'houses' and 'caves', and saw Zedekiah's Tears and thought that was really cool (they're called Zedekiah's Tears because when the Babylonians came to take over Jerusalem, it's said that King Zedekiah went and hid in this cave, but cried when he realized that there was no way out and he was trapped...then they found him, captured him and his family, killed his sons before his eyes, then poked his eyes out. Those guys knew how to do it, eh? Gross).
Unfortunately, we had to book it back to the car. We were parked on street/meter parking and I had a little trouble with it. We found a spot no problem, and I found the meter to pay for parking. It was 5.50 NIS per hour, which is fairly reasonable, I suppose. So I put in 3 hours. Then, I thought that maybe I should put in 4 or 5 just in case, so I did. Apparently, though, they only let you pay for 3 hours max, because even after I put in all that money, it only gave me exactly 3 hours. It stated how much I had paid, but still only gave me three hours. I was so ticked!! So, we were down at Damascus Gate and had to get back to Independence park in 12 minutes... Oh dear. The kids were tired and dragging, Peter was mad because he didn't want to leave the cave... I carried Peter on my shoulders while I almost ran back to the car. The kids did a pretty good job keeping up for being SO tired! We made it back in 25 minutes. It was a long walk. :) No ticket, thank goodness. We spent the rest of our day doing nature journals, drawing pictures, doing some iPad apps, and reading.
Today, we were up and out of the house just before 9am! Wow, eh? We found some GREAT FREE parking by Zion's Gate (I'm not revealing my source!) and we ran up to Jaffa Gate to do the Southern Ramparts Walk.
The reason there are 2 walks is because you can't walk on the wall over the temple mount. So you can go from Jaffa Gate to Lion's Gate, which is the last gate before the temple mount, or you can go from Jaffa Gate to Dung Gate (love that name) which is the last gate on the other side of the temple mount. So, the kids and I walk ALL around the entire city of Jerusalem ON the walls of the city! Pretty cool, eh? We ended our walk today at Dung Gate, and right there is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park/Davidson Center. It's a really cool spot. It has ruins of houses, arches, stairs to the temple, etc. Also part of the Park is the Umyyad Palace, which is the other temple-like building right across from the Dome of the Rock. It was a great spot with lots of places to explore, tunnels to walk through, and pillars to walk on (don't think they were really supposed to do that...).
Inside the Davidson Visitor's Center there were some displays and things to look at, plus a movie talking about pilgrimmages to the temple and what it may have been like during the Second Temple Period (Herod's temple). The kids enjoyed the movie so much, we watched it both in English and Hebrew (ha ha). I think they were tired and ready to sit.
After we finished exploring, we were all really tired. Honestly, if we didn't have those combo tickets, I would not have gone into town today. We are all EXHAUSTED. We spent another 3 1/2 hours walking constantly today and we are just tired. We walked back through the city to Zion's Gate so we could get back to the car. On the way, we found some people selling some very lovely fruit, so we got strawberries, passion fruit and grapes. When we got home, we added that to some peaches, honeydew melons, apples, pears, and oranges that we already had in the fridge and we had ourselves pretty much the BEST fruit salad EVER for lunch. SOO yummy! And it was so big, we had leftovers so that we could eat fruit salad with our roast chicken and corn on the cob for dinner tonight! Mmmm... You just can't beat eating fresh fruit salad with fruit you picked up off the street in Jerusalem... Holy fruit, Batman! He he he...
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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