Friday, July 30, 2010


The family's just returned from a 3-day trip to Branson.  It was the first visit for Schnickelfritz and the Toolman, I haven't been in 15 years or so.  It's grown in so many ways--bigger, tackier, more crowded.  Our hotel overlooked a miniature golf course sporting a volcano that erupted every five minutes.  From 9 am to midnight our hotel room glowed orange when the two fireballs exploded.  Fritz and Toolman actually played the course and said the heat was intense--just what they needed in 90+ degree weather.

We took in one show--magician Kirby Van Birch.  Fritz was lucky enough to be called up on stage to examine the props for a "walking through a solid mirror" illusion.  While I was tickled for him, I was also praying he didn't blurt out "Hey, I saw this on Magic Secrets Finally Revealed!"  He told Kirby he was a magician too and would be attending magic camp next week.  Kirby said maybe he'd see Fritz's show someday and now Fritz expects him to show up for the parent's performance on the last day of camp.  Well, Fritz was rewarded for a job well done--a coupon for a free funnel cake, tickets to the Worlds Largest Toy Museum and a Branson Heleocopter Tour, and a free pass for life to the Kirby Van Birch Show.

Sorry there's no pictures, the magic show doesn't allow cameras.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vacation Bible School

Schnickelfritz attended one of the neatest VBS programs last week.  We had to travel to a nearby town, but it was worth it.  Let me just say that this church has a real passion for reaching kids for Jesus.   A lot of the men in the church schedule their vacation at this time to participate.  Someone (or several ) with a sewing machine made costumes for the leaders and the kids to wear.  One day, storms rumbled in just when VBS was getting started.  They had an army of men and teens with umbrellas to escort us from the parking lot to the door and keep us dry.

The program was called Joseph: A Journey from Prison to Palace--a packaged program you can Google to learn more.   The highlight of the day was the visit to the marketplace held in the church's gym.  Kids were allowed to pick three activities by visiting various "stores": the Beautician/Barbershop--to get their eyes painted like Egyptians and their picture taken; the Toy Store--to make their own version of the Egyptian game Senet; the Embalmer--to decorate a cardboard sarcophagus; the Printers--to make their own piece of papyrus; the Brickmakers--to make bricks with mud and straw; the Bakery-- for snack time;  the Jewelers--to make their own jeweled neckwear.  Fritz's favorite stop was the animal pens where he made friends with a dog, a cat, a rooster, and a chinchilla .

Here's an overhead view of the marketplace.

The kids enter the marketplace through this elaborate gate.

This was before Pharoah ensalved the Israelites, so I guess they needed to advertise for help making bricks.

I don't know if the mummy is the shop's sign or a client.

The final day the children were allowed to play water games outdoors.  Schnickelfritz was a little too enthusiastic and got soaked.  Imagine my surprise when I picked him up and he was still dressed in his Egyptian clothes  (they had his regular clothes in a plastic bag for me to take home).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

for the perfect frozen slushie drink.  My Schnickelfriz and I often stop at the QuickTrip to get a frozen black cherry slushie.  As the weather has gotten hotter, we've been stopping more frequently.   My tightwad instincts are that I can do it better and cheaper at home--it's just a matter of getting the right combination of black cherry Koolaid, sugar, water and ice. 

Another thing I want to try and make is a FlipFold shirt folder so Fritz can fold his own laundry.  I've seen the TV commercial but am unwilling to fork over $20 plus shipping.  I've found several people who have shared their home version on the internet--most seem to use cardboard.  I'm wondering if foam core board would be more sturdy?  Next trip to Walmart I'm going to get supplies.   I'll keep everyone posted.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Travel Kits

Ah, the summer family road-trip...the car is gassed up,  the tire pressure checked, reservations are made,  suitcases loaded, the dog has been taken to the boarder, and the destination punched into the GPS.  Have we forgotten anything?  As soon as the first "Are we there yet" is spoken, you'll realize that the phrase "getting there is half the fun" only applies if considerable planning has been done here too.    There's the easy route--plug in a portable DVD player and let the kids vegetate in the back seat.  Surely we can do better than this,  Donna Rees thinks so.  She is the author of The Old Schoolhouse's E-book, Travel Kits.

The book takes the concept a step further--instead of preparing surprises for your own family's trip, it actually suggests that you use Travel Kits to bless other families.   This involves a lot more research and planning: how many children do they have and should each get the same gift?  What size vehicle will they take (a small car necessitates small gifts)?  If you choose to provide snacks, does anyone have food allergies?  The book guides you through all these questions and more.   The E-book's 93 pages covers the "how-to" of assembling a travel kit, pages of gift ideas, recommended books (to give as gifts), an origami lesson,  and embedded links to tourism websites.

Another topic covered in depth is the presentation of the surprises: how they should be wrapped and what sort of "container" will you use to present them.   Over and over the author stresses that blessing others does not have to be a financial burden on the giver--she has used freebies from the drugstore, dollar store finds, and newspaper comics as wrapping paper. 

For the timing of this review, I did not have another family taking a trip so I had to work on a travel kit for my own son.   I don't want to give away any specifics, but the author's ideas for magnets,  cake pans and pill sorting boxes just got my creative juices flowing.   I printed out my copy to read by the pool.  The large pictures with black background and the text boxes with blue backgrounds used up a lot of ink and made the pages wrinkly, so you may want to read your copy on the computer.

I would offer one caution. There is a difference between showing hospitality (the focus is on the guest) and entertaining (the focus is on the hostess and her culinary skill).  I can see where assembling and presenting these kits could become less of a blessing to others and more of a "see what I've done for you"  thing.   You don't have to be a Martha Stewart, thinking up clever packages and containers.

Travel Kits: A Simple Way to Bless Others  is available at the TOS's  Schoolhouse Store  for $12.45.  The download only took a few minutes with my dial-up service.  There are plenty of other down-loadable products available and remember shipping is always free on physical products.

You can see what my fellow crewmates think about Travel Kits by clicking here .
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the Travel Kits E-Book for the purposes of completing this review.  I received no other compensation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A new use for Graphic Toolbox

Last year's Homeschool Crew was fortunate to receive a copy of Graphic Toolbox for review.  We've used it to make file folder games, edit family photos,  and create background sets for a puppet show.  Now, rather than enhancing images I'm finding wonderful uses for GT as a virtual white-out pen.

To extend our homeschool budget as far as possible I try to buy used curriculum.  The challenge here is to find student workbooks that haven't already been written in.  Recently I found a copy of the art program "I Can Do All Things."  The lessons were clean but the beginning exercises had been done in the book.

I scanned the image into the Graphic Toolbox and proceeded to draw over the lines with a sample of the background page color.  In large areas I could use solid rectangles to cover the drawn images.

Now I can just print the image out for our use.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fritz made a new friend

...and so did I--at the deli counter of Wal-mart of all places.  My Fritz is about as extroverted a person as you likely to meet.  I'm sure someday he'll be a greeter at Wal-mart, after he retires from the Supreme Court, that is (a mother's got to dream you know).   Fritz spotted  a fly on this girl's cart and decided the chivalrous thing to do was swat it away for her.  When she said thank you and when I heard her mother giving her order I could tell  they "weren't from around these here parts."   Since my son had already broken the ice I asked where they were from and what brought them to rural Missouri. 

They were from Wales, and apparently our little town has at least one business with enough international dealings to bring her husband over for a three year stint.  The two children were making friends at school but poor "Mum" was still trying to make connections in the community.  We stood in the parking lot talking for 20 minutes and now we have plans to meet at the pool next week.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Finally back

I took the entire month of June off to recuperate from a hysterectomy (and really we stopped school early in May when I was being diagnosed), but now it's time to get back to business.  July 1st is the start of the new school year in Missouri, even if schools don't start until August.   I presented my Schnickelfritz with a math test today to see what he remembered and his reaction was to jump for joy and shout "Yay! A math test."  No lie.

He was not as thrilled with the next activity.  Daddy noticed that he misspelled  his name on the test paper and said that he needed to practice writing his name 20 times.   Fritz does know how to spell his name orally with no problem, but writing it down and penmanship in general need some work.  Improvement is our goal for this year. 

We will also be using Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day,  Mystery of History Volume One, All About Spelling Level Two, and the I Can Do All Things art curriculum.
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