Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chalk Mandalas

I had never heard of a mandala until a month ago when my daughter got a very cool Ravensburger Deco Mandala-Designer Drawing Machine for her birthday. We both had fun creating designs with it. Then a homeschool group we just joined had a chalk and nature mandala making event today. (It's funny how once you are introduced to a new idea it seems to pop up again and again.) I'm not very good at coming up with ideas for art activities. Having been just introduced to this art form, I doubt I would have thought to create them with chalk. (When I refer to mandalas here, I simply mean art with radial symmetry.) So it was nice to jump on the bandwagon of someone else's idea who has a lot more art knowledge than I. We came up with our own unique designs and then bailed due to the heat. I do hope to do more art and art appreciation this year for all of our benefits. I love learning new things with my kids and this is a subject in which I feel particularly deficient.
ART soothes the SOUL
(somebody get me a coloring book.....)
Jonah's white chalk mandala
Elisabeth and I worked on this mandala complete with mushrooms and a few leaves

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beating the Florida Heat in Cape Canaveral

An rainbow over the Jetty Park Pier
Florida summers can be brutal and this one is no exception. Instead of spending all summer hibernating in air conditioned buildings, we decided to schedule some trips near water. My husband works remotely and thus it is a little easier for us to take in a change of scenery. The downside is that he only gets to fully enjoy our locale in evenings and weekends.

This past week was spent a mere hour away from our homebase at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. The campground is decent and the beach and pier are walking distance away. So I was able to take the kids to the beach most mornings and the hubby and I got in a little fishing from the pier in the evenings. The afternoon sun in Florida is blazing hot, but it is often followed by some fairly intense thunderstorms sometimes lasting into the early evening. While the storms themselves can be a nuisance, their remnants make for dramatic sunsets. On this trip, the evenings were my favorite part of the day particularly near the water where the cool sea breezes keep the bugs and humidity at bay.

Elisabeth inspecting a spadefish
Sunset from the Jetty Park Pier
Besides swimming and fishing, we were fortunate enough to witness the launch of a Delta IV Rocket during our stay from Cape Canaveral Air force Base - the launch site is only 6 miles away. The coming and going of various large ships from Port Canaveral especially the massive cruise liners provided a novelty for us as well. To top it off, we just happened to arrive at the inlet in time to see a trident submarine enter and then 30 minutes later depart the base across the inlet.
Watching a Delta IV launch from Jetty Park
The view from our campsite of a Carnival cruise liner leaving Port Canaveral

There are other great destinations in the area some more kid-friendly than others. We ventured out to the Brevard Zoo - a 30-minute drive from Jetty Park. The Dinosaur Store in Cocoa Beach provided some entertainment during one particularly rainy afternoon. There is a mall and movie theater in Merritt Island and a free Air Force Space and Missile Museum thought daddy was more interested in that venue.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Celebrating 7 Years of Joy

Happy Birthday to my adorable, sweet-natured, self-assured little lady. She makes my heart smile.

Monday, July 13, 2015

An American Driver in Great Britain


While planning our vacation to Great Britain, we considered traveling by train and by car. Being a family of four with two small children and given the distance we wanted to travel, it turned out to be much more economical to rent a car. And if you consider the freedom a car provides for exploring the countryside, our decision was simple.

We ended up reserving a car from Europcar at the Heathrow Airport. According to our sources in-country, car rentals are cheaper when renting from the airport as opposed to city centers. 

Europcar gave us a TomTom GPS with the rental. The Points of Interest (POI's) on TomTom's are, in our opinion, unreliable at best (we were reminded of this more than a few times on this trip!) With our cell coverage in the states, we can validate routes via google maps on our smartphones. But here in Great Britain, we found cell coverage to be much more sketchy between denser urban areas. It is possible our GiffGaff provider had something to do with that, nevertheless, an accurate, fully-functioning, dedicated GPS device can save you some frustration. 

Regarding the car itself, we had our pick from a dozen or so available. As we perused the options before us, my eye was drawn to a yellow Fiat, not so much because of the color - though that turned out to be helpful - but because it had more big windows and sat up higher. In my mind, that made it a better choice for sightseeing. It wasn't until we were underway that I realized it also had a glass roof that opened. And the yellow color - well, if you are in an unfamiliar vehicle it is nice to have a nice bright color to help draw your eye when searching for it in a large carpark.

For Americans used to driving on the "right" side of the road, driving around Great Britain can be mind-boggling at times and not just because of driving on the left. It seems that most of the automobiles in Great Britain have standard transmissions. Rental cars with automatic transmissions cost twice as much as those with standard transmissions. So my beloved husband had to sit on the right and shift with his left hand. Fortunately, the gas, break and clutch pedals were in the same formation and the gears are oriented just as they are on an American car. So unless you are prepared to pay the price, American drivers must adjust to these changes and quickly.

British No Stopping sign
Simultaneously, American drivers must also familiarize themselves with unfamiliar signage and traffic patters. For instance, when you see this sign what would you think it means? Well, my first thought is that it means "STOP!" Don't go this way, etc. This can be very confusing as you negotiate your first roundabout on approach to a motorway onramp. As the caption states, in Great Britain this means no stopping.

And roundabouts are EVERYWHERE! Some look like normal roundabouts that you would see in the US. Then you have the roundabouts that are circles painted on the pavement sometimes not even a foot in diameter. So go around that bit of paint! - seriously! Every time you come to one of these you must treat it the same way as a "normal" roundabout. And then there is the double roundabout - I'm not even going to try to describe this! Note the sign in the following photo - and this one isn't even so bad. Once comfortable with these, the benefits of roundabouts become clear as traffic does keep flowing, but it takes some getting used to.
English: Sign for double roundabout at Faringt...
English: Sign for double roundabout at Farington. 'Model Farm' on right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are traffic lights at larger roundabouts and some pedestrian walkways. Instead of a changing from red to green to yellow, there the pattern is red, yellow, green, yellow. So you get an extra yellow to tell you to "proceed slowly" or "go cautiously" or "prepare to go" - I'm not sure - pick one. My chauffeur liked this change though.

When driving in the country, the challenges are a bit different. Many of the roads, particularly in Scotland are narrow and really not large enough for two cars to pass except at wider passing places. The roads are well-paved and there is good signage which keeps the experience from seeming entirely third-world. However, this sign makes the experience seem surreal:
English: National speed limit applies
English: National speed limit applies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note the caption. The national speed limit in Great Britain for single carriageways is 60 miles per hour! Supposedly Brits are stuffy and conservative, when in fact they have legalized the game of chicken! Here is a video from one of our rural drives on a single carriageway northwest of Inverary in Scotland.

We did not meet an oncoming car in this instance but we did at other times. My very conscientious husband is going well below the 60 mph speed limit in anticipation.

If you are an American planning to rent a car for your travels in Great Britain, I hope this helps. Some bottom line reminders: drive on the left and look right before entering ANY roundabout. Safe travels!

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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Samaritan's Purse Tour

Samaritan's Purse
Samaritan's Purse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On a recent visit to Boone, North Carolina, a friend recommended we take the facility tour at Samaritan's Purse. Their Boone campus houses the International Field Office and a year round Operation Christmas Child warehouse. The kids and I went primarily for the purpose of educating them about Operation Christmas Child. As it turned out, I also had a lot to learn.

The tour guide gave us a brief history of the organization and touched on all the different areas where Samaritan's Purse has a role. I know of several folks who have worked with Samaritan's Purse both as staff and as volunteers, but I really did not grasp the full scope of their operation. In addition to Operation Christmas Child, we learned about International Crisis Response, US Disaster Relief, World Medical Missions, Children's Heart Project, and Operation Heal our Patriots. If I wasn't already convinced of the good they do in the world, I certainly was after this tour.

At the end we were shown the Operation Christmas Child facility where the shoeboxes are checked for inappropriate items and packed into larger boxes for shipment. One great thing is that any void's left by removed items are then filled with other items that have been donated in bulk. And those inappropriate items (i.e. mouthwash, hand sanitizer, etc.) get donated to homeless shelters and other places with a need for such things. How great to know that nothing put in those boxes is wasted and one way or another they will bless someone.

Processing station for shoeboxes at the Boone facility.
Another thing I learned is that the boxed items do not have to be shoeboxes or even shoebox size. So if you feel lead to give something to a child that doesn't necessarily fit in a shoe box just get a bigger box [though you may want to help cover the added cost of shipping by adding more than the $7 suggested amount.] And if you are worried about sending winter hats and gloves to hot climates - let God work it out. I confirmed that other than age and gender, volunteers do not sort the boxes for different regions. So when kids happen to get items that they have been hoping for or that one thing they really needed, it truly is a miracle. Our guide shared the story of a little boy in a north African nation who received gloves in his shoebox. The child was so excited to get the gloves, but being in a warm climate it was not apparent to volunteers why gloves brought him such joy. It turned out that his job in the village was to take the bread out of the oven and now he had protection from burns. There are many more such stories that will encourage and inspire anyone involved or wanting to be involved with Operation Christmas Child.
Despite the length of the tour (90 minutes or more) my almost 7 and 9 year olds were engaged and soaked up the information. They both have a much clearer understanding of the parameters of what are appropriate items for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and they better understand the importance of these gifts. And like me, they better understand all the ways that Samaritan's Purse helps others in need and how they can be a part of it if they choose to.
Besides donations for Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan's Purse also accepts donated medical equipment and supplies. It did not even occur to me that they needed or could accept such items. They even have folks who can restore older hospital equipment for use in the field. They always need walkers, crutches, slings, and anything else you can think of related to medical care. And don't assume you have to ship such items. If you contact them, they may have a truck in your area.

Visit their website or take the tour on your next visit to Boone to learn about all ways Samaritan's Purse shows the love of Christ in the world, bringing hope and help into the midst of tragedy and loss. Find out how you can get involved whether its Operation Christmas Child, Disaster Relief, or World Medical Missions.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16 (ESV)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Lost Premolar

My 8-year old just lost his first premolar. He pulled it out himself not wanting to lose it in his sandwich.
According to various on-line eruptions charts, those transitional teeth between incisors and molars are usually lost around age 10. He has been consistently early in losing and getting teeth. It looks as if this trend will continue.
He says, "It feels weird."

When I asked him if he wanted money now or if he wanted to put the tooth under his pillow, he still wanted to act out the Tooth Fairy bit. So cute!