Wednesday, October 5, 2016


  We've bumped around in history a bit this past week, getting to relive it with those re-telling their own stories, or watching an interpretation of it played out before us.  Parts of the wonderful blessings of homeschooling :)
  A while back, while posting some of my Granddad Murray's World War II pictures to the internet, I discovered that his division, the 504th Bomber group was on-line and I got hooked up with them.  It has been my desire to be able to attend one of their reunions and this year it was only an hour away from us in Kansas City!  Granddad did not fly on the bombers, he was part of the medical division and was an x-ray technician.  He used to tell stories of how he would watch the bombers come in to the island of Tinian where he was stationed.
  Our oldest, Bubby, is especially in to anything war related lately.  This includes everything from the Civil War, World War I or II, so Hubby and I made sure he was able to attend with us :) The day we picked to attend consisted of a POW-MIA ceremony and dinner.
  The POW-MIA ceremony was performed by a local ROTC and involved a symbolic table set for the missing soldier and a reading of the 504th men who lost their lives during the war.
  Our favorite part of the day was getting to visit with the five 504th veterans and one Marine in attendance.  Bubby found a new friend, Fiske.  Fiske served on one of the bombers and was captured as a POW (prisoner of war). I have bemoaned the fact many times that this kiddo's great-grandpas are not around to share their experiences with him.  What an awesome experience for this kid to get to meet some of the men who served where one of his great-grandpas served!
  This may have been our first time attending something like this, but it's not our last.  This is another wonderful way to encourage the love of history for our next generation!
  Continuing with our war theme, just today we were able to witness a reenactment of the Battle of Hickory Point here in NE Kansas.  This is one of the battles during the Bleeding Kansas era when pro-slavery and free-staters were battling it out quite literally for control of Kansas Territory.  This was to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the battle (which took place 5 miles to the north of Oskaloosa where we were) and just a perfect day for it! We joined a couple hundred Jefferson County school kids to watch the excitement!
It was thrilling to see the battle and hear the roar of the cannon - well, only if you prepared yourself for that one, it was quite startling ;) 
Next week in further continuance of the war theme, Bubby will once again be able to take place in a reenactment of the Battle of BlackJack, another Bleeding Kansas battle.  We're setting quite a precedent with these kinds of trips, a museum might seem kind of tame after this...

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Field Trip: Effigy Mounds

  A real vacation!  *sigh* a long time coming, but this trip brought no deadlines, except when to check in and check out of lodging.  Yay!  Our first stop was Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marquette, IA.  It was another stop where we could pick up a Junior Ranger badge!  We did this part of our trip in to sections the afternoon when we arrived in the area and then we took advantage of the little museum area and finished our Ranger requirements.

We were so late in the day that we were one of the only ones there and we got to spread out a bit.  Shorty was wired for sound having waited patiently (if you count two dozen "are we there yet" queries) and finally I told him, "I think they saw a table just for you over here", silently thanking God for touch tables all the way.  
The next morning, we braved the chance of rain and took a hike.  Effigy Mounds gives a guided tour twice a day, but because of the threatening rain the morning session was cancelled.  A wonderful ranger gave Bubby an outdated guide book (it contained markers that were no longer visible even though the features were there) and Bubby was our guide on the Fire Point trail, regaling us with stories of the mounds - it was even better than having a ranger with us ;)
conical mounds on the left

bear mound - you're looking at his head and foot

the Mighty Mississip, but Shorty was more interested in the train track ;)
Before we took off from the area, we stopped in nearby McGregor, Iowa. Excellent pizza, excellent bookstore and "refrigerators" of old carved into the limestone cliffs.  One thing we learned on our entire trip to the North Woods was that one week was not going to cut it ;)
A little fun in McGregor, IA

McGregor, IA

Monday, August 1, 2016

Field Trip: Pocket Parks

  Topeka just re-vamped its downtown area in an attempt to make it more inviting.  I've been seeing all the pictures of its new "pocket parks" and I've been dying to go!! Each park has to do with Kansas or Topeka.  We started at the south end and made the loop...
Icabod Washburn

some Kansas wheat (this is a Christmas pic I think ;) )
We HAD to stop at our favorite chocolate place - Hazel Hill. They informed us that we can check out checkers for them and monster chess pieces from the business next door for use on the boards on the sidewalk adjacent - yeah, we're going back for that and taking some buddies! After some truffles, chocolate dipped Nutter Butters and a peanut butter cup, we continued!
This picture reflects the kiddos pretty well ;)
These medallions were pretty great.  They highlighted all the state symbols.  My favorite were the box turtle (shown) and the honeybees.  My only complaint... near the medallion for the state grass (bluestem) there was some grasses....plain ornamental grass.  And near the medallion for the state tree (cottonwood) there was one of the few trees planted downtown... a ginko.  What in the world??? Yes, maybe the state symbols wouldn't thrive there, but it did seem a little confusing ;)
Bubby's favorite

 My favorite was the railroading park. The statue of Cyrus K. Holiday is utterly fantastic with a 3D map under his feet and the associated statuary of the train, signal and train wheel benches are just so cool! 

 A fun time was had by all and Topeka definitely made us want to come back downtown again really soon!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Field Trip: The Wild West

  We don't often get out to western Kansas.  We love it though.  There's something about the remote locations, land where you can see forever and the slower pace that we really enjoy.  Some of our buddies who live far away and are near and dear to our hearts were coming as close as Phillipsburg and while that is not close to us, it is close enough, and we jumped at the chance to see them. 
  We don't do anything normal, so we drove some back roads on the trip out, giving Bubby some opportunity to try out his photography skills..
When we arrived, our buddies had a field trip planned that if we had made the trip ourselves, we would have missed.  It was this excellent model train and museum in the Phillipsburg community center, open only by appointment.  Shorty was so thrilled that he couldn't stand still.  He chased the trains as they rounded the track.  I gave up trying to lift him to see the trains when they were too high for him - he was too fast!
Part of the community center's museum was a great display of the history of photography and the life's work of a local photographer (who also donated the train set). 
The time with our buddies was amazing. We came away with cherished wonderful memories and anticipation of those come :) 
  On the way home we made a stop at the Garden of Eden.  Before we got there though, we found Waldo! ;)
 I was about Mookie and Bubby's age when I last was at the Garden of Eden.  It's a quirky, cement, folk art creation of a former Civil War veteran.  One of the 8 wonders of Kansas apparently.  Now we need to research what those are, so we can add more things to our list!
Bubby ended up taping a video tour of the site.  He is going to be our videographer in trips to come ;)

There is an opportunity to "meet" the artist himself at the end of the tour.  Old Mr. Dinsmore, the creator of all of this, designed his own mausoleum and casket with glass so he could be viewed after his death.  Bubby was totally intrigued and therefore Shorty and then Mookie.  We all paid our respects and declared him not quite as bad looking as we expected, even if he was a little moldy ;)

A bit of a whirlwind trip, but full of wonderful memories <3 br="">

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Field Trip: Hiawatha

  This last week has been cRaZy!  Hubby and Bubby have been volunteering at an amateur archaeological dig in Council Grove, KS (more to come on that later). Then our work took us up to Hiawatha area near the Nebraska border.  Hiawatha was among one of the first stops my family took when we started taking summer trips when I was growing up. So although it is small potatoes, I was glad to go back. 
  Of course, any time we can meet up with Ducky and Grandma is a bonus and it worked for them to come along! We started out at the Brown County Historical Society so I could do a little historical research and everyone else browsed the displays.  The top floor had a ton of militaria and Bubby was in high heaven.  Although the top and first floors had displays, the basement was the most engaging for everyone in general. They had little rooms that showcased life from bygone eras. 

And other local displays like "the birds of Brown County".  The museum, like many county museums, is based solely on donations, but this museum seemed to have a knack for putting those donations to good use telling the story of everyday life in Brown County. 
  I separated from the rest of the group after the Historical Society.   Their next stop was the Ag Museum. The museum staff there did a great job engaging the kids in finding artifacts in the displays.  Shorty also got to ring the school house bell - which is always just totally cool!
The last Hiawatha stop was the Davis Memorial, which is one of the notable Kansas sights.  John Davis memorialized his and his wife's life in stone and you can see it in the local cemetery.
It has seen some vandalism, but is still rather impressive.  The big kids took notes throughout the whole excursion, which thrilled me!
  I would be amiss if I didn't mention our new favorite place to eat in Hiawatha - The Bread Bowl.
Shorty playing with one of the lunch boxes at the Bread Bowl
Croissants, wraps, and cookies - oh my!  We enjoyed it so much, we went back the next day and got lunch again (and red velvet donuts! Ooooooh, I'd make the 2 hr. trip again just for red velvet donuts).  I have decided that after this trip we are making a map of the Kansas counties where we can check off which ones we've been to.  We've covered quite a few within this last year alone with more to come :)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Field Trip: Butler County Historical Society

Hubby was working down near El Dorado last week - Field Trip! El Dorado is one of those places that I always exit the Kansas turnpike on, but never really visit - that changed! THE place in El Dorado for museums is the Butler County Historical Society.  El Dorado and Butler County are known for their oil wells so the exhibits were fairly heavily slanted that way.  Which really was great, because my family's land that has the gravel bar attached to it has oil wells.  Now the kiddos have a new understanding of what's going on there!
  Now, this place made a really good first impression because the staff member who got us all checked in ($8 for all of us!) was homeschooled herself - bonus! She handed us some scavenger hunt sheets for the kids. Any place that has this kind of interaction gets extra points too!  They had booklets for the older kids and for Shorty, a laminated sheet with pictures he could mark off with a dry erase marker.
Bubby with his book
Shorty and his Scavenger Hunt
There were lots of hands on activities, the energy chutes were a favorite...
There was a kids area about halfway through for the littlest of our group.  Which was much appreciated.  It kept him busy while the big kiddos searched for the answers to their scavenger hunt questions.  But inside was not the end!  There were buildings and implements outside too!  We had to dodge some rain drops and take refuge in an oil derrick once but it was well worth it!
waiting out the rain in an oil derrick
When we finished, we drove around town for a bit. This will definitely be more than an exit on the turnpike next time for us.  Another great benefit of homeschooling - getting out of your ruts and seeking new paths :)
  We stayed overnight and the next day I was a party pooper mom.  I had kiddos who wanted to just swim and I didn't want to deal with wet kids and then jumping in the car for the drive home.  I was tired and a bummer.  I had one kid especially who let me know their disappointment.  So I compromised with a trip to the little playground next to the museum we had been at the day before (it has a lake and geese/ducks too!).  One small problem -it was cold and rainy! I had to find a quick fix.  So I drove down the road toward home and hatched a plan - the Emporia Zoo! Another exit for us on the turnpike, free and with a playground of its own.  Score!  We had been last year, but it had brought vows of revisiting so I knew it would be a hit. 
  It's a pretty basic little zoo, with a bunch of either rescue or aging animals but the landscaping is amazing and well, its a zoo :)
Bubby talking to the animals ;)
The kids were pretty thrilled because in the last area they saw the big animals (bison, longhorn and deer)  that can be found in our beloved Wichita Mountains . We'll hopefully be able to go and see the ones with freedom later this year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The big 4-0

  So, I could pretend that this is going to be just another birthday.  When I turned 30 I tried decreasing my years, but Hubby just started adding more on when I tried to do that, so I'm sticking to my age.  Um, well, if I remember that is.  A while back I was looking at Facebook and one of my classmates was celebrating their 40th and I thought, "man, I didn't know they'd been held back a grade" - can you say denial?  Yes, that apparently was the word of the day that day ;) So, the big 4-0 this year it is. And really, we've been so busy as of late that I nearly forgot that my birthday was coming up until Hubby asked me what I wanted to do for the big day. He won't let me forget this one.  I think he may be relishing it a bit as he's a little older.
  I've never been too skiddish about aging.  I always said that I was going to be au natural, no dyes or additives, just me.  God made me who I am when I am. Now this may be that I had a grandma that had beautiful silver hair that fit her perfectly, or it could be that the other grandma had her red hair that didn't start graying until she was in her 60s, but I was contented. I even decided I wanted a gray streak like Bonnie Raitt.  That was until I started getting one, now I feel conflicted.  Yep, a streak down one side of my head, which is kind of cool because I can flip my hair over to the other side and you'd never know... ;)   The gray is kind of pretty when the light hits it, but curly - what in the world?  I guess I always wanted curly hair like my cousin, maybe I'll get it?
  I'll tell you one thing, if you wait for 6 years like we did, you automatically get put into a younger age bracket in people's minds.  Which is kind of fun.  I remember it happening to my folks when I was a kid.  They also waited for 6 years before I was born. I can secretly smile when people say how young we are, but that doesn't change where I am.
  And truly I would not want to go back.  I wish I had the energy I did when I was in my 20s. I wish could have a re-do on some not so great moments, but they've made me who I am. While I'm still a work in progress God used everything and every year to take me where He wanted me, so I am ... contented. 
  Now I may not readily admit my age, especially if it is mistaken for younger.  Or I may even adjust how I say things: like a few years ago when one of my college-aged buddies was asking me how long I'd been doing archaeology - I almost told her 20+ years (which was about how old she was) but told her since I was 12 instead (ha!).  But I'll admit it.  It won't scare me much.  Well, not much... ;)