Thursday, July 21, 2016

10 Tips to Stay Cool (When your Trip to the Zoo falls on the Hottest Day of the Year)

Nothing beats a visit to the zoo. How do you beat the heat when your field trip falls on one of the hottest days of the year? First of all, always check with heat index advisories and take strong consideration to the dangers of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Children cannot regulate their own body temperatures like adults and can become overwhelmed easily in extreme hot/cold environments.
Our recent field trip to one of Michigan's zoos happen to fall on one of the hottest days this summer--although, the days to follow forecast even higher heat index predictions. It helped that we picked a zoo that is designed with at least 75% of the park in mature shaded trees, so we didn't have a lot of direct sunlight throughout our visit, and they provide spray misters throughout the zoo for people to walk through and cool off.
Still, it helps to plan ways to keep the crew cool. Here are 10 ways we prepared to beat the heat for our trip to the zoo.

1. Frozen water bottles
The night before, I put half a dozen water bottles in the freezer, half a dozen in the fridge. They double as an ice pack for the first half of the day and ensure cold water to drink in the late afternoon.

2. Frozen snacks
I also put a box of portable organic yogurt squeezers in the freezer-- mess-free frozen yogurt! And I froze a few boxes of squeeze pouch applesauce. It's an easy simple way to give a quick cool down to the kids' insides and cool their organs down a couple degrees during the heat of the afternoon.

3. Hand-held portable fan
A small, battery-operated fan is only a few dollars in most department store camping sections. You can find a slim one to stick in your purse, and it makes for a great cool down solution in a windless hour. Especially if you wipe the kids' foreheads first and fan their faces. A quick wipe off of sweat combined with a little breeze of air to the face can work wonders for refreshment.

4. Pack an umbrella
Especially for stroller-riding kiddos, who aren't walking themselves over to shade on their own. Even a small, purse size umbrella can be handy to have on hand to guard against too much sun exposure.

5. Homemade Ice Cloths
Knowing I needed a way to drop the kids' temps down at pressure points like their head and neck, I decided to make my own ice cloths. Wet some washcloths in cold water to keep them flexible, wrap chunks of ice balls into the washcloths and pack them tightly into ziplock bags. About an hour after lunch in the "African Exhibit" I pulled these out of the cooler and applied them to the back of the kids' necks. They were ice cold and they loved them! The ice water remained in the bottom of the bag, so the kids could pass the cloths back to me to get them re-cold and apply again.

6. Ice Thermos
Fill at least one thermos to the brim with crushed ice. You'll be especially thankful for this at the end of the day, after repacking everyone into the hot car to head home.

7. Refrigerated Sunblock
Popping the sunblock and aloe into the fridge the night before made for another quick cool-down solution. Whenever we re-applied the sunblock it was just a touch of eliminating heat from their T-zones. We love Ava's all natural blend made with vegetable glycerine.

8. Large cooler / Small Cooler
I was especially glad I decided on two separate sized coolers for the day. Not only did it make for an easier load not carrying the large cooler through the park, but the zoo didn't allow for more than water to be carried through---picnics had to be in the parking/picnic areas. Packed our lunch and food in large cooler, packed some ice water, ice cloths, sunblock, etc. in the small one.

9. Dress in cool, breathable clothing
No polyester, wool, etc. Think LIGHT cotton shorts/shirts, basketball jersey shorts (not black), material that can breathe and retract heat.

10. HEAD off the heat
Headwear can really make a difference. Sun-visors are fantastic, because they shade your face but let the top of your head breathe. My son wears a white one in place of his usual baseball cap. My daughter's sun hat is a light-weight flexible cotton. Headbands are great as well, because it lets the top of your head breathe.

Enjoy summer and stay cool!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Moshia: Our Deliverer. Celebrating His Protection through the Feast of Purim

King Ahasuerus/Xerxes, Queen Vashti, little Queen Esther and her cousin, Mordecai. ❤ Happy Purim!
Reading through Esther as a family.
It doesn't matter if it's Pharaoh, Haman, Herod, Amalek... the plot to destroy God's people and undo the serpent's death sentence from the garden to the Cross will not hold. Bible History is our history. Its all His Story. ❤

"That means that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- ADONAI is the same for everyone, rich toward everyone who calls on Him, since everyone who calls on the name of Adonai will be delivered." -Romans 10:12

Ah, the Feast of Lots, or the Feast of Purim. A Biblical observance where God's chosen people were sought for destruction by the casting of lots--or throwing of dice--to destroy them. Adonai turned the tables on the plots of their enemies, through the surprise placement of Hebrew Hadassah as the Persian Queen Esther. There is much we can take from this important story in history. God does not "play dice with the universe," His provision, care and promises can be trusted! And throughout His Word, we find evidence that He is our Deliverer!

"I, yes I, am ADONAI; besides me there is no deliverer [Moshia’]." -Isaiah 43:11 (CJB)

The establishment of Purim as a celebration for God's people and those who ally themselves with them, is laid out for us in Scripture.

"...they made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate..." - Esther 9:27
"So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city;"

Our Purim Feast!

What an awesome opportunity to teach our children the virtues of being BRAVE for the Kingdom of God and His people? The Book of Esther, among other things, affords us valuable examples of standing up against the crowd.

Our kids spent the entire day in the Book of Esther, of their own choice. It was awesome to witness!

Ultimately, we can point to God fulfilling His promises through the example of Esther. This story of deliverance, in turn, points us to the deliverance from our sin bondage through Yeshua (Jesus), our promised Savior and Messiah.

And, excitedly, it builds us up for the upcoming beauty of deliverance through the observance of Passover- Moses, and Christ The Lamb, as well as Christ's amazing Resurrection on the Feast of First Fruits!
Celebrating the Biblical Feasts is so rewarding and JOYFUL! HalleluYah! May He Be Praised!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

40 Ways to Enjoy a Snow Day

I recently read in the news that some schools in other parts of the country are implementing ways to have "virtual" school on snow days. Schools telling families how to spend their snow days is heartbreaking to me. Are we really getting to a point in culture where we are willing and able to say goodbye to the concept of snow days?? No, I refuse.

Authentic play for kids is something I am extremely passionate about. Read my post about it here.

Regardless, I understand that sometimes cabin fever from multiple shut-in days is taxing on parents and kids. Especially unplanned, unexpected ones. But these are not days to fear or dread or virtually escape. They are blessed opportunities to embrace LIFE! I've put together this list of 40 WAYS you and your family can enjoy snow days. I wrote a similar piece a couple years ago, with 20 Simple Ideas; combined, that offers you SIXTY SOLUTIONS FOR SNOW DAY FUN.
Don't fear another snow day, celebrate it! Children are a blessing from the Lord, and each day His mercies are anew. Hope you find these ideas heart warming and adventure sparking.

1. Hot Chocolate Lessons. Dive in to hot chocolate fun:

2. Cookbook Quest. Flip through some old cookbooks, or online at, and find some new meals and desserts to make! Getting creative in the kitchen is a wonderful way to spend time with your kids and learn as a family. Let them take charge!

3. Skate!!! Grab some ICE SKATES from your local thrift store, or head to the nearest ROLLER SKATING RINK, and skate the day away! Pack some high protein snacks and glide on.

4. Spend a Day in Deuteronomy
. Here is a full day of activities inspired by Scripture:

5. Snowboard, sled, snowshoe, cross-country ski!
Winter sports are amazingly fun! Don't let the cold scare you away, just make sure the kids and you have plenty of insulation in your winter apparel and proper head covering, and head out to enjoy the snow! If you have or know someone with the right equipment, you can even try ice fishing.

6. Make Maple Syrup! Depending on the time of year, consider tapping your backyard maple trees, or exploring an area nature center that taps them to make homemade maple syrup. It only takes a few trees tapped to make enough for a single family. We love our maple syrup adventures.

7. Imagination Day! Unplug and let the kids exercise the creative muscles in their brains. Dress-up clothes, or a few small adult things like a briefcase, purse, and maybe a magnifying glass are some helpful props to get them started. Let them play out a spy mystery mission, or transform the couch or a cardboard box into a space ship, passenger train or hot air balloon. Let them be. Don't supervise. Let them get lost in their world of play. Kids who often have every moment structured for them may take a little longer to calm their stimulation habits to get into this mode, but give them space and remember it is the best thing for their growing minds to absorb.

8. Make a math day. Here are 7 simple ways to mix up your math routine.

9. Drop Everything and READ day. Start a new book, individually or as a family.

10. Smitten Mitten. Here are some cute ways to enjoy Jan Brett's book, "The Mitten". Board books aren't just for toddlers. Good stories make magic for all ages.

11. Is it Groundhog Day? Say no more...

12. Lego Day. Get building! If you don't have legos, call your local library and see if they have some in-house you can go use.

13. Make beaded jewelry. Bracelets, necklaces, ankle bracelets, barrettes and more.

14. Under the Sea! Explore the amazing elements of sea horses with this fun sea horse study:

15. Dance Party Day!
Crank up the radio or a mix of your favorite worship songs and dance the day away with your kids! You can even learn a new type of dance. After all the wiggles are out, try looking up steps to the Charleston, or FoxTrot! If you have enough people around, you can even start learning how to square dance! FUN!

16. Make Modeling Dough. Creating things with pottery or modeling dough is fun for everyone.

17. Snow Survival Skills. Read through avalanche survival stories with your kids (non-gruesome ones!). Talk about emergency winter preparations. Learn how to build a fire in the snow! My husband and son do this with our local cadet troop during winter camp-out trips. Other survival activities include: learning how to tie knots, make an emergency winter kit for your car, build a solar stove or research how to find food in the winter wilderness.

18. Spa Day. Pamper the kids with foot soaks, homemade food facials, nail painting and bubble baths.

19. Draw something new. Pick up some new step-by-step drawing books (robots, horses, whatever your kids love) from the library, or look online for free tutorials. The ideas out there are endless.

20. Feet Paint! Create all sorts of adorable works of art with your kids' feet. Butterflies, trucks, anything you can dream up! Check pinterest for inspiration, set up newspapers and a small tub for rinsing, and let the kids explore foot prints with washable paint.

21. Indoor Obstacle Course. If you have the living room or basement space, create an indoor obstacle course for the kids to do. It is not as complicated as you may think. All you need are some simple station ideas. One wall to do spider stretches/handstands against, perhaps something you can use as a balance beam, string/tape/hoops to use as circles they can hop along, an area to do sets of jumping jacks, a mat or blanket to do somersaults on, etc.

22. Apple of Your Eye. Who says it has to be autumn to enjoy an apple day? Here is a Johnny Appleseed day we enjoyed, but it can be fun any time of year.

23. Think Spring! Start some plants or sunflowers from seedlings, and make an indoor area greenhouse to grow and track them until the warmer seasons roll around.

24. Homemade Memory Game
. We often think of the game Memory as being a card matching game for small children. The truth is, exercising our memory skills is beneficial at all ages, even more so as we age. Try this tray game and mix it up for your kids depending on ages and abilities.

25. Start a seasonal puzzle. Nothing gathers the family together for quiet, calming, contemplative time like a family puzzle project. Pick up a 600-1,500 piece puzzle, clear a table space and spend the winter coming back to it as the hours melt by.

26. Origami! Learn how to do origami, build paper airplanes, design paper snowflakes and explore other paper folding projects.

27. Farm or Zoo Day. Visit an Amish farm, orchard, or even explore a winter day at the zoo. You'd be surprised how active the animals are in the cold months as they try to stay warm.

28. Animal Shelter. Visit, volunteer or donate items of need to your local animal shelter. Winter is a tough time for abandoned pets. Extra food, blankets, even just time spent with the animals in need will be of great benefit to the shelter and to your children.

29. Freeze Experiments. Eggs, colored liquids, salt, solids, sand, paint, wax, water balloons... let your kids explore the elements by setting up a tub for them to freeze things. Have them track the time and temperatures for their experiments, along with their hypothesis and results.

30. Mummy Madness! Explore ancient Egypt for a day, week, or year! There is endless fun in history adventures. You can make the Nile River, or wrap the kids up as mummies using dollar store T.P.!

31. Tabletop Tennis or Bowling. Any table can be turned into a place for playing ping pong. Also, if you don't want to venture to your local bowling ally, you can create a simple tabletop bowling game with block pins and an all-purpose ball.

32. Habitat Happenings. Track and identify animal prints in the snow, and search out local spots that animals have built their winter homes. Squirrels, birds, fox, skunk trunks and more!

33. Jump into Joshua and Jericho. Here is a day unit with crafts and activities for the book of Joshua:

34. Create a family time capsule. What elements of our living habits today would we need to include to explain our era to generations in the future? Photos, news articles, entertainment, how we eat and clean?

35. Make cards to deliver to the local nursing home. Even simple notes with a special verse or encouraging quote can really brighten the days and hearts of those in assisted living situations. No need to make an appointment, just show up and ask to pass them around. Invest in the elderly of your community and teach your children the value of spreading kindness.

36. Indoor camping. Set up a tent inside your house! Build a cardboard pretend fire, roll out the sleeping bags, and make s'mores. It will be sure to create unforgettable memories for your kids for years to come.

37. Make a Prayer Jar. Decorate a mason jar, or paper cover a shoebox. Write your prayers and favorite verses to collect inside. At the end of each week, or month, or even the end of the year, pull them out and look over the many ways God has grown and blessed you.

38. Book Publishing! Have your kids write and illustrate their own books. They can handwrite or type them out; color or cut-out pictures to paste along with it. You will be surprised at the fun they have, let the creative juices flow. If writing isn't a strong suite for you or your kids, there are countless creative writing prompts and ideas you can find online to inspire your young authors!

39. Learn a New Language
. Japanese, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Finnish, German, Danish, Portuguese, Latin... the list goes on. Your local library will have wonderful resources for you to use, and there are many wonderful online resources for introducing yourselves to learn a new language. Spend the day expanding your cultural horizons. Even just a day of dabbling in different languages can be a fun adventure.

40. Play with your Food. Combine snack time with craft time, and the possibilities are adorable.

I promise you don't need screens to pass the time. Forget the video games, television and tablet time. Make the most of this time with your growing children.
While schools keep insisting that *quantity* is the answer, I will consistently push back to urge families to carve out space for creative, quality time together. This not only helps authentic play and learning take place, but it seizes healthy growth in the ways that matter most for child development.
Need more ideas or inspiration? Here are 20 MORE ways to enjoy the days off with your kids.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A week's worth of homeschool lunches

I try to keep our lunches simple, but nutritious. I love that home educating affords us the freedom to reheat leftovers, and also to go straight to the plate. We don't have to spend the money on "convenience" foods that will be "lunch-able." We don't need to buy sandwich bags in bulk. And I don't have to worry about half the items going to the trash from distracted lunch room eating. Bonus? Whatever scraps we do have, go to our chickens, and provide further fresh eggs from our backyard, going back into the family.
It's not something I set out to do; it wasn't a reason in our education choice. Oh, but what a beautiful benefit. We have the freedom to enjoy breakfast foods at lunchtime, or dinner, or whatever we want. I can make sure our kids are getting all the protein, calcium and nutrients their growing bodies need, and we can save at the pocketbook. I often try to take a smaller portion of whatever we ate for dinner the night before, and easily incorporate it into lunch the next day just by adding different sides or changing combinations.
So here is another week of homeschool lunches, I hope you find them surprisingly simple and inspiring. God Bless!

Homemade pizza with fresh Amish mozzarella cheese

Honeycrisp apple, cucumber and chicken salad with sourdough bread

Bell peppers and blue corn chips, cottage cheese with blackberry, oranges and celery

Egg wraps, yogurt squeezers on sale, carrots, grapes and lettuce

Refried beans on romaine lettuce, tomatoes and baguette.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A week's worth of homeschool lunches

Don't get into a lunch rut at home, there are many combinations to make homeschool lunch hour a tasty one!

Dried mango with honey and peanut butter on graham crackers; salad with cheese and chia seeds.

Venison sloppy joe on lettuce; dried fruit & granola

Chicken and Black Bean Vegetable Stew

Wild rice with peanut butter quesadillas

Cauliflower tots/bites (breaded with egg and baked) with chopped tomato & carrot sauce, cucumber, muenster cheese, and Apple chips we dehydrated overnight with some applesauce. I love Dei Fratelli Truly tomato in a box... It comes pureed with carrot and celery, and we can use it just like ketchup!

For more, see my tag for homeschool lunches. :) Blessings!

Light of the World: Our Christ-Centered Hanukkah

"Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo's Colonnade. So the Judeans surrounded him and said to him, "How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly!"
Yeshua answered them, "I have already told you, and you don't trust me. The works I do in my Father's name testify on my behalf, but the reason you don't trust is that you are not included among my sheep.
My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no one can snatch them from the Father's hands. I and the Father are one."
-John 10:22-30

We were blessed to celebrate our first Hanukkah this year, following after our Lord. We used a wonderful Christ-centered devotional, called Light of Yeshua. Eight fun-filled nights of celebrating the Light of the World during the Festival of Lights. We had friends over, played games, ate new foods, and sang songs. We also discovered a new Shalom Sesame series, where Grover goes to Israel and discovers all sorts of new traditions and learns Hebrew words. We got some really wonderful books about the Maccabees, and read through portions of the Maccabees books for the first time. It's so amazing to think about how the overcoming of the religious oppression led to rededicating the Temple that Jesus Himself needed to walk as our Savior, and it was a captivating week of setting our minds on rededicating ourselves to Him. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. We spun the dreidel, ate latkes, sufganiyots and shakshukas. We lit our menorah each night with our prayers and Bible portions, and just had a wonderful week. Hallelujah!! A blessed celebration of God's miracles. We have found so much value in embracing Biblical feasts this year.

"We have chosen to turn aside and pay attention to what God has to say..."
"In the beginning, there was darkness and God created light. But, one day there will be only light and no darkness!!"
HalleluYah!!! Yeshua, Light of the World.
We had a beautiful first year of Hanukkah; miracles of God. Thank you to everyone who joined us this week of Praise and Awe, learning and loving, spreading the Light of our Lord.