Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The First (and maybe last) Family Puzzle Challenge

I come from a long line of puzzlers.... jigsaw puzzlers. My grandparents on my mom's side always had a puzzle set up and all of us have always enjoyed working them. We've recently been working puzzles at my mom's house and bantering about who is the best at it. This friendly banter turned into an all-out puzzle smack-down. We decided to have a puzzle competition. My sisters, mom, and I entered the competition immediately. When we decided that the winner's prize would be that all the losers had to buy her a drink on our upcoming family vacation, my brother-in-law stepped up to the plate as well. Jon volunteered to be the referee (and he was drafted to be the child care provider as well).
We spent several weeks debating and establishing the official rules. We finally agreed to meet at my house on a Saturday in June. We celebrated the June birthdays (my mom, sister, and brother-in-law) and made a day of it. Jon took the kids down to the pool while we spent the day puzzling.
Here's the puzzle we worked ----
It was a challenge finding five identical 500-piece puzzles that were not pictures of cats or beaches (as agreed upon in our heated debates). Three stores later.... I settled on candy! On the day of the party, I set up a candy table to look like the puzzle. It set the tone and gave us lots of sugar to fuel our puzzling!

We had to have real food as well, of course! Here's my brother-in-law with his birthday requests.... meat and lemon meringue pie. Yes, he's an odd bird... and now and old bird too!

Here's Jon in his official referee shirt! We finally bought him this official shirt after years of teasing him and watching him make all the calls as he watches football and hockey. He too his role very seriously. He and Ray led us in an opening ceremony, which included the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer, and the re-hashing of all the rules.

Here we are PUZZLING!!!
As you can see, it was intense! Ray periodically walked around and gave status reports.

The kids even had their own puzzle station!
At this point I'm sure you're thinking at least these three things ---
1. What a weirdo family. (True)
2. How long does it take one person to complete a 500 piece puzzle. (Longer than we thought --- for most of us.)
3. Who won?

Well..... it turns out that we have a certifiable puzzle savant in our family. My sister Colleen, who had trash-talked us for weeks, spanked us! She beat us all by more than two hours!

We started at about 10:30, took breaks for food and birthday celebrations, and she finished (as you can see on the clock in this picture) at 4:45.

Colleen proceeded to help Reenie and my mom finish their puzzles. Mike and I both finished on our own.... but not until around 7:00! One of the funniest moments was when Mike put his last piece in and then immediately flung the whole puzzle onto the floor! Needless to say, none of us wants to do any puzzles for a while.

It ended up being a really fun family day with lots of singing along with the radio and just being silly.

Here's our puzzle champion ----
We're hoping to enter her in some real competitions and have her win us some money! In the meantime, she'll be getting lots of free drinks on vacation! And she still has bragging rights.

Here's one of the completed puzzles. It was harder than it looks! And we all hated those green olive-looking things! If you'd like to work this puzzle, we have plenty of copies to lend you!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cub Scout Camp

Last week Ray and Adam attended Cub Scout Day Camp at a local metropark. It was a great experience!
Unfortunately, the first day was RAINY! Like good Boy Scouts, they were prepared. They loved wearing their ponchos.... and getting completely muddy!
Ray attended camp last year and Adam was SO EXCITED to get to join him this year.

Here's Ray with two friends from his den ---

Ray had a great group leader who sent us several pictures during the week!

I am amazed at how many activities the boys get to do at day camp. Crafts, fishing, hiking, bb gun shooting, archery, geocaching, badminton, camp songs, water games, field games, skits, fire safety, bounce house, animal studies, trading post..... they loved them all! They came home every evening dirty, tired, and full of stories.


The theme of this year's camp was "Welcome to the Jungle." On the last afternoon, they were performing songs and skits for the parents when suddenly the director announced that they were finally being rescued from the jungle.... and then a helicopter flew in and landed right in the field! It was really fun! All of the kids got to go check it out up close.

I loved Adam's enthusiasm about camp. He really had a blast. He was so proud when his group got to get up and sing and do their skit.

Adam is second from left in the yellow hat.

He was so excited to be part of this skit. His role: "part of the campfire." His job: "Get soaking wet." You can see his lovely backside below --- right before some other scouts came up and poured water all over the kids and camp directors.

Here's Ray's group. He's second from the right.

They did a skit about selling brains..... with the "hilarious" punch line explaining that the most expensive brain belonged to the camp director because it had never been used. Scout humor. Ha ha.
My favorite picture from the week ----

What did I do all week? Whatever I wanted! ;) Shopping, errands, relaxing, housework, time with friends.... I have to admit that this week gave me a mini-crisis. I really ENJOYED dropping them off and driving away... having some time to myself and knowing that they were getting to do really fun and worthwhile activities that I DID NOT HAVE TO PLAN OR LEAD. I began to feel jealous of moms who get to drop off their children every day at school. I began to question our decision to homeschool. But by 3:30 I did miss them and I loved picking them up and hearing their stories. This was a great week for us to transition into summer mode.  I'm thankful for the staff and volunteers who made it possible for my boys (and for me).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pool Rats!


 It's Summertime! If you're looking for us, chances are we're at the pool! We are so blessed to live just three houses away from our pool. And I'm LOVING the fact that the boys don't need (or even want) me to be right with them all the time anymore. I'm able to relax a bit and they have a great time.

I estimate that they've each jumped off the diving boards approximately 6,834 times so far this year. They're obsessed! Their newest trick is jumping off and touching the bottom of the pool. Woo hoo!

Today we packed a picnic lunch and Jon joined us on his lunch break. In the past several days we've enjoyed swimming with lots of friends and cousins.

Hooray for Summer!

Carter and Adam

Ray in mid-air and Adam heading for another turn
Ava and Ray 

Adam and his friend "E"

My cutie Goddaughter "L" striking a pose!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Homeschool Curriculum Day

Our homeschool support group hosted our first (likely annual) curriculum day on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was a great opportunity for us to gather to discuss, share, and learn about various teaching resources and methods. More than 50 women attended and it was a great day!

The Curriculum Day was organized in three parts:


 For several weeks five volunteer moms had been collecting used books and other learning resources from our members. The members labeled each item with a card listing their name and the price they wanted for the item. We had quite a great selection of things to sell! When items were brought to the check out, we removed the cards. Last night I used those cards to tally each member's total sales and then wrote checks to be mailed out. This was an easy and efficient way to manage the sale. I think it will be even bigger next year. Many of us were able to buy things we need at significant discounts.

The picture below shows an entire room that was filled with FREE books and materials donated by our members and a local Catholic school. We were able to get TONS of great Math manipulatives from a school that was trimming down their collection.

Under the leadership of a true super hero among us, we had a group of moms work together to provide truly delicious refreshments. Isn't this display beautiful?

We had a lovely room in which to relax and visit. We also had an awesome slide show of various group events past and present.

 In addition to the hospitality room, we also enjoyed lovely goodie bags which included a brand new group newsletter, a candle, a prayer card, candy, and other items.


Rather than bringing in speakers for this event, we asked many of our members to share their experiences and materials with others. It was AWESOME to witness the learning and sharing that took place. We seldom have the opportunity to sit down without children and really discuss these things. And we were blessed to have many new homeschoolers with us who were able to learn from the "veterans." This day truly couldn't have happened without the hard work and generosity of SO MANY women who brought their materials and took the time to talk with others.

We had two sessions of "Conversation Circles" led by one or more of our members. The topics for these were: Homeschool Preschool/Kindergarten, Avoiding Burnout: Taking Care of Ourselves, Junior High, Homeschooling Children with Learning Disabilities and Special needs, Living the Liturgical Year at Home, Getting Organized - Tips for Home and School, High School, and Juggling Extra-Curricular Activities. Guess which circle was PACKED with participants? AVOIDING BURNOUT! I'm told it was a great conversation. As moms we really need to help each other and take care of ourselves so that we can be good parents and teachers for our children. We had people take notes at each of these sessions and we'll be publishing those notes for our members soon.


We had one session of "Curriculum and Methods Showcases." We used almost every room of the school (we were very blessed to be able to use a parish school building) to set up displays. Experienced moms were available to talk with participants about the materials. Our displays were organized as follows: Catholic Curriculum Providers, Religious Education Resources, Chastity Education Resources, Misc. Curriculum Providers, Classical Education, Unschooling, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Online Schools. We also had our group lending library displayed and available. We even had an author and representative from Catholic*Heritage*Curriculum who attended, set up a large display, and gave a door prize!
I am so blessed to share this homeschool journey with so many wise, holy women. Without their encouragement, advice, and support, I would be lost. The Curriculum Day was truly worth all of the planning and hard work because it helped lots of moms get the encouragement and support they need for homeschooling. I can't wait until next year!