Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stocking Shelves with Library Elves

If you use the library alot for homeschooling, school, or just for fun you have GOT to get on this program called Library Elf.

It keeps track of all of your stuff on all family members cards, at every library you use, and for interlibrary loans as well. It sends you email or phone text reminders when things are going to be due, when they are overdue, when you have holds available and soooo much more - it's really awesome. oh, and it's FREE!

My local library was not part of their system when I looked into it, so I added it myself with just an email - you can do it yourself with a few easy steps - directions are on the website. (I actually told my librarian that I had done this after I did it. She had never heard of Library Elf, but thought it sounded great and thanked me for getting them in the system.)

You really want to look into this, it's an answer to prayer for those of us who have library books taking over our homes & calenders! And it helps to prevent those nasty fees on late interlibrary loans. http://www.libraryelf.com/Default.aspx

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hospitality Makeover - Turning Over A New Leaf in the Woodlands

HOSPITALITY, n. The virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging.

"The Bible lays much stress upon the practice of hospitality. Not only does it enjoin hospitality as a duty, but it presents many beautiful pictures of the exercise of this grace and the blessings which it brings... When the spirit of hospitality dies, the heart becomes palsied with selfishness." -- Ellen White

"There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt and puts the stranger at once at his ease." -- Washington Irving.

Be not forgetful to entertain stranges: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. -- Hebrews 13:2.

Ahh, to be "hospitable". A joy and a burden simultaneously. For years I struggled with this issue, torn between a desire and knowledge to have "planned" company, yet my lack of time and energy to prepare for it.

I grew up witnessing the two extremes of entertaining. There was my mother who never had guests (well, maybe once a year) and my grandmother who had unexpected people dropping in daily and joining the family for a meal, snack, or short visit. I always enjoyed life at my grandmother's home and decided at an early age I would immitate her generous spirit when I was an adult. Over the years I have been in the midst of numerous family members who have most definitely been blessed with the gift of hospitality - my aunts Cathy, Ann, & Connie to name a few. These ladies have always seemed to have a knack for making everyone feel welcome, at home and valued when in their presence. There are also many friends I have from back home in Fargo-Moorhead that possess this same ability... Shereen, Joanne, Jill, and Polly to name a few.

During my college years, my apartment was always the place friends congregated to hang out and spend time together - which was always fun. When Mike & I were married (b-4 kids) we entertained on a regular basis - again our little home being a hub-bub of activity with friends, co-workers and the like.

It wasn't until the children came along that suddenly formal entertaining and planning became burdensome to me. It seemed for years I was always pregnant and ill/tired or nursing clingy babies or toddlers and life continued to grow busier with a schedule that was regularly full. Although I missed having "planned" visitors over on a regular basis, I had no desire to take on the task of entertaining. Don't get me wrong - we still had PLENTY of company over - weekly as a matter of fact. Friends and neighbors dropped in regularly for visits and of course we hosted family get togethers on the holidays, BUT we were not inviting families over for a meal and relaxation hardly ever.

This was something that always troubled Mike (being the incredibly sociable fellow he is) and he would often encourage me to rise up to the challenge with promises of assurance that it would be worth the extra work involved because of the enjoyemnt that would be had by all. He of course offered his help as mush as his schedule could allow.

Now, even when my spirit was willing, we were still faced with the challenges of a very small home with a "2-Butt Kitchen" that our family barely fit in, and a small living room area. There just was not much room for guests when our family already filled up most of the house!

Needless to say, it became a goal of ours to one day be able to entertain on a more regular basis and make preparation simple and efficient enough so that ALL of us could enjoy it. My ultimate mentor and role model in this area is my dear friend Beverly whose very name brings to mind the word "hospitality" to nearly anyone who knows her. She is truly blessed with a gift and countless families and individuals have enjoyed her warm, welcoming ways. Much of what I have learned over the years on receiving guests has been from observing her the many times our family had the opportunity to visit Beverly's home.

Well, with all of that said, once we moved here to our new home we thought that after some time passed we would get to know people slowly and begin to regularly invite people over. YES and NO! We have had people over- LOTS of people, but there was nothing "slow" about it! Since we moved here in May, we have had company at least once per week - often more than that and usually for a meal - both planned and unexpected. Despite not always being prepared, it has always worked out and always been enjoyable for all of us. We have had several families from our immediate area over multiple times, as well as friends from Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Karlstad, Minneapolis and South Dakota. We have hosted anywhere from 1 person at a time up to 30 and have overnight visitors as well. The summer has been busy with guests and we have a fall line-up ready to arrive as well.

I'm not sure if it's the larger house, more kitchen prep room, no nursing babies, or an attitude overhaul on my part but I am definitely enjoying being a hostess much more and truly finding it a blessing. My children are overjoyed to have friends over regularly to play & visit with, and Mike is thrilled to finally be able to spread his social butterfly wings!

In the meantime, I'll continue to meditate on Bible verses, quotes and poetry like the samples included here when I start to feel weary or burdened and wish to resort to my old hermit like ways!

And YOU? You'd better come for a visit very soon!

"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality." Romans (ch. XII, v. 10-13)

Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire;
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And every stranger finds a ready chair:
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laught at the jest or pranks, that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale,
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.
-- Goldsmith.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Family Vacation = Homeschool Loot!

You may be wondering what the picture above is all about, besides it being a very helpful homeschool resource site of course, well... read on....

This August we ventured on the yearly Amick trip to South Dakota where Mike's "roots" are and therefore countless relatives. On the way down we made a two day stop at my place of birth in Graceville, MN for my cousin's wedding. There we saw many relatives and had a lovely time. Gabriella and Ruby were dressed in beautiful light blue matching dresses to be part of special photos taken with all the other little girl cousins - all wearing the same dress in various pastel hues. The wedding itself was lovely and fun was had by all. I think my childrens' favorite part of the day (and maybe mine too?) was the large chocolate fountain at the reception, surrounded by huge strawberries, marshmallows, etc for dipping... mmmmmmm

Next.. off to SD to see Mike's Dad, Several Grandparents, Mother, and a few friends. It was a full couple of days filled with dining out, grilling, visiting the park and watching the national geographic & discovery channels with Grandpa Mark & Grandma Shirley, followed by quick visits to Mike's friend Sheila's house and the Mitchell nursing home to see Grandpa & Grandma Stach.

Last, but not least was our arrival at Sioux Falls to spend time with Mike's mom and help her have an impromtu garage sale. After a late night of sorting and prep we greeted the public the next morning and began the sale while I continued sorting items to bring out. Since we had not advertised, we had to be creative to draw in cutomers. Mike and the kids all dressed up in fun items we found during the sorting process and definitely caught the eye of those driving by - not to mention that Mike was not only quite goofy looking, but had a sign and was standing on a busy street waving people in as they came driving by - shockingly it really worked! Maybe it was the pink striped silk shirt and old fur hat he was wearing (?) - that somebody actually bought off of his head! At the days end we were an exhausted crew, but had success in selling and giving away a good amount of stuff! We departed the next day and arrived home wiped out and ready for bed!

Now, you may be wondering to yourself "Where does homeschool loot fit into this story?" Let me tell you.. Since starting this blog site, a number of relatives have read it - especially the entry on the surprising homeschool goals for this year. Within days I had emails and phone calls from family offering typewriters, computers, books and more - all wanting to help out with our homeschooling needs! We were absolutely amazed and ever so thankful for all the consideration. So, since we were seeing almost all of our relatives, they all brought us stuff --- actually so much stuff, we could not fit it all in or on top of the van and had to decline some of it (or leave our children behind.... hmmmmm.. somewhat tempting considering parts of the van trip!).

We arrived home safe and sound with every inch inside of and on top of our van FULL. Below is a list (although not complete) of our "Homeschool Loot":

*My aunt Connie gave the kids 2 computers (1 Mac) and an assortment of items - including some walkman stereos, a desk lamp, and a lovely troll doll collection that Ruby has taken an odd liking too! Sadly, we had to leave one computer behind - no room in the van, we kept the Apple which came with a great kids typing program (perfect for Elliot) as well as an assortment of education programs. She also gave us a mission bench for Ruby's room - which filled the entire back of our van. It's now near Ruby's bedrom window so she can sit and see outside and it houses her toys inside.

My aunt Ann (a 3rd grade teacher) gave us several boxes of books including many literature classics. The kids had a grand time going through the boxes our first night there and of course wanted them all. Again we had to leave some behind due to space issues, but brought the majority home. They are already being read & enjoyed by the kids.

Grandpa Mark had some nature magazines and calanders for us, as well as a dead locust along with its molted part for microscope work. The kids were quite excited to see a locust - I was too since I had never seen one before.

At Grandma Marilyn's (as we sorted for the sale) we were given TONS of clothes for mom, new phonics toys, tons of old stuff for dress up to use for skits, play acting etc, craft items, an old typewriter, and Mike's old record player and record collection he had when he was a little boy. It is so incredibly cute! The kids were all spellbound as he showed them the records and taught them how to put them on the player. They listened to them all morning and had a joyous time.

Last, but not least - among the clothes I received from Marilyn was a brand new... denim jumper! All of these years of homeschooling and I still did not own one until now - it must mean that this will be our best school year yet!!??? For those of you who are not in the homeschooling "know" you may be wondering "What's up with the denim jumper anyway??" Well, in homeschool circles the unofficial homeschool mom "uniform" has always been the denim jumper. Go to a homeschool convention and you're likely to see a sea of denim jumpers. It's something we've joked about in a friendly way in the past, and it's become a recognized symbol of homeschooling. It's what you'd call an inside joke with homeschool moms. Anyway, now I too own one - I dunno if I'm a denim jumper gal though... I guess we'll see what tranpires this school year!

(Oh, for those of you who know my mother in law, I know you are asking yourself "WHY did Marilyn own a denim jumper EVER????????!!!!!! Yes, I know - it's SOOOOOO not her. I'm still asking myself this very question too - as I'm sure she is as well.)

So, the trip was a roaring success - we went, we saw many and we returned home more fully equipped! I guess the famous movie quote is not far from reality..."Build it and they will come" (Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner -remember that one?) In our case it was "Blog it and it will come.." and it surely did!

** For those of you who love the old childrens' records from our youth and want your kids to be able to enjoy them too - check out the following websites. Our kids have enjoyed listening to the same stories/records Mike & I did as kids. We found these sites a few months ago - so for them, seeing the real machine & records now adds a whole new element to the "history lesson"!

You can listen online or download them - all for free. There are a number of educational ones on the list as well.




MN Science Museum Field Trip Highlights

On August 9th our family, along with eight other homeschool families (36 people total) from around the state took a field trip to the Minnesota Science Museum in Minneapolis. The start to our day was early, with breakfast at 5:30am and departure by 6:15am. Compared to some of the other families who lived farther away and had to leave their homes around 4:00am, this was sleeping in! We also had one family come early and spend the night before with us as well as the night of the field trip day since they would have had a 7 hour drive to get to Minneapolis.

We arrived at the museum by 9:15 am and after our group was checked in and all had tickets, bracelets and museum maps we were off on our days agenda. First up was a film titled The Human Body in the museum's omnitheater. It was an educational, yet very entertaining film on how the systems of the body work, complete with amazing film coverage from inside the body. The theater itself was huge with the screen covering the front and side walls as well as a portion of the ceiling. The kids all had a great expereince.

Next was a sack lunch in the cafeteria followed by some free time to explore the museum's many exhibits. Our next group event was in the 3-D Cinema where we viewed a film on African Elephants and the White Rhino. It was amazing to experience the 3-D effects! The kids were continually trying to touch the images in front of them - except for Ruby who sat so completely still with her 3-D glasses on that I often checked to make sure she was still breathing! She was absolutely captivated. After the film, she did not want to remove the glasses and wanted the movie to continue.

After more free time to explore the museum, it was finally our group's scheduled time to enter the museum's guest exhibit BODYWORLDS, which was the main reason for our homeschool trip. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to view this world-renowned, first ever exhibit of real human bodies. BODYWORLDS, developed by German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, features 200+ specimans (including entire bodies, individual organs, and transparent body slices) preserved with special plastics that allow views of the interior layers of the human body. Almost 18 million people around the globe have seen this exhibit, and we are so thankful to have been among them - it was definitely an educational experience that could never be duplicated. To view some of the specimens in the exhibit visit: http://www.bodyworlds.com/index.html

After further exploration of the museum - fossils, dinosaurs, weather exploration, gift shop and more we hit the city with a couple of the families from the group. We decided to have supper in a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, then we visited a dessert shop that featured numerous flavors of "Italian Ice" - very similar to sorbet. Around 25 flavors to choose from and all vegan - YUMMY! We departed from Minneapolis full and tired and arrived home around 10:30pm. Everyone promptly went to bed except for myself and my friend Wendy (the homeschool mom of the family spending the night) - we stayed up until after 3:00am chatting! Needless to say we were a bit sleepy when 7:30 am breakfast time rolled around!

Even though it was an enormous day we had a great time and experienced much. All the kids did a great job with the busy agenda and had fun together. Even little Ruby was a true gem the entire time, including travel time to and from the city - she was quite the little trooper and we were all so appreciative of it!

Another trip to the museum this fall is on the Amick homeschool agenda. The new guest exhibit will be on birds of prey (an area of interest with our gang) and the omnitheater film will be Vikings: Journey to New Worlds. We were able to watch a preview of the film while there and the boys were so intrigued with it that they begged to return to see it. Therefore, an unexpected unit study on the Vikings is already underway in our household as the kids are studying to prepare a project and demonstration for Mike & I on the topic. The reward of their independant efforts and hard work will be a return trip to the museum in time to see the Vikings film, which I have no doubt will be an awesome ending to their research project.

Family Favorites from the August Visit:

Mike: "Seeing the healthy lungs compared to the smokers lungs, and the healthy heart compared to those that were diseased in the BODYWORLDS exhibit."

Sue: "The female archer in BODYWORLDS and the Hmong story cloths in the Hmong people's history exhibit."

Gabriella: "My favorite part was in the BODYWORLDS exhibit. It was the 2 human bodies in the couples ice skating pose."

Christopher: "The 'Human Body' film in the Omnitheater because it showed the activity inside of the body."

Elliot: "Walking around in the museum looking at things, and the Egyptian mummy was cool."

Ruby: The elephants in the 3-D Cinema for sure!