Nature Walk

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A panoramic view of the pond

We are in the Midwest visiting family for the holidays. Today the girl and I took a walk looking for a beautiful deer we have spotted a few times while here. Unfortunately we did not come across the deer, but we did enjoy our time outside bird watching and looking for animal tracks in the snow.

We watched the geese for a while and then we accidentally scared them away.

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There was also two hawks in the tress.

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Autry went swinging for a while, and then we followed some animal tracks.

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We were surprised by all the different tracks left in the snow.

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Taking a nature walk is a wonderful way to spend the morning. Tomorrow we head home to 70 degree weather and blue skies. I have enjoyed the snow and cold, but I am ready to be back in California, to be home.

The California Zephyr

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The kids and I took the California Zephyr this week from Sacramento to Chicago. We have been on several long train rides before, but this was our first time on this route. The route takes you through the Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies on your way to the Midwest. It was truly breathtaking and made all the better with the cold weather and snow that covered the ground for most of our trip.

We had to get up at 2:45 in the morning in order to get to Sacramento in time for our 11:00 departure time. The kids were not too happy about this but they did fall asleep right when they got into the car so it was not too bad for them. We arrived in Sacramento with time to spare so we explored the station before boarding the train. It is an older station that was in the process of being restored. It was quite charming especially with all the pigeons living in it.

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Waiting to board our train in Sacramento

Waiting to board our train in Sacramento

Finally we boarded our train and set out on our journey. It would take us a little over 48 hours to get to Chicago which meant we would be on the train for two nights. Because of the long journey I decided we needed a family bedroom so the kids would be able to stretch out and enjoy themselves. The family bedroom has ample seating during the day and four beds at night and includes all your meals. The only downside is that there is no private bathroom, but the space seemed more important to me than the convenience of a private bathroom. I was glad to have all the room on the long journey as I am sure the kids would have gone stir-crazy in a smaller room.

The kids spent a good deal of their time reading in our room. Decca also entertained himself on his iPad.

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And of course we all spent time looking out our windows. In the family bedroom you have two windows on both sides of the train. The views were spectacular from the moment we got out of Sacramento and headed towards Reno and the Sierra Nevadas.

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The first day passed fairly quickly and before we knew it we were getting ready for bed. The kids were so tired and the train was so peaceful that they ended up going to sleep around 8:00.

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The next day we were up early (it was still dark out) eating a nice breakfast in the dining car and then making our way to the observation room. The observation room is my favorite place on the train, but you have to get their early to get a seat. We stayed a few hours that morning because the view was so spectacular that we did not want to leave.

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The twins were half asleep when I forced them to eat breakfast.

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Later that morning we had the opportunity to step off the train in Colorado. It was only 14 degrees so the kids and I didn’t stay long. We did stay long enough to play in the snow and to find icicles.

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The rest of out trip we enjoyed the views of the Rockies, elk and deer in the mountains, eagles over the Mississippi, and the excitement of getting closer to our destination. I took so many pictures in my excitement but will only share a few more.

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Viewing the many eagles by the Mississippi was the highlight of the trip for me.

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In a week we will be on The Southwest Chief heading back home and I am sure I will have more photos to share then. Until that time I will leave you with this picture of Santa that my youngest son got while on the train. It may be hard to spot Santa, but he is driving that old train.

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Summer Vacation

We have been on vacation for almost a month now. We drove cross-country from California to Indiana in four days, and we have been here ever since. We have been having a good time although it has been raining for much of our time here, so we haven’t been able to get outside as much as we liked. We have been having a few adventures though, which is always fun.

Our first stop was in Albuquerque, and we stayed at a wonderful historical hotel. It was originally a hospital for workers of the Atchison, Topeka, and  Santa Fe railroad. We were surprised to see a dog at the check in counter but she was so sweet. The kids will never forget Molly!

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Being homeschoolers we had to check out all the historical aspects of the hotel. There were several displays of items found during the renovation.

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A final picture from our time at the hotel… the twins were trying their best to look vintage in this shot.

1011063_10151502486235922_1779532559_nAfter New Mexico we headed to Oklahoma via Texas. Decca had a great deal of anxiety on this leg of the trip because he had recently learned about Tornado alley, and he was sure we were going to run into a tornado. It didn’t help that we did run into a major dust storm in Texas that made it hard to see the road. We found a little tornado museum on the side of the road though, and he wanted to see it even though he is scared of them. I think he has a love/hate thing going on with tornadoes.

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For our third night we made it all the way to New Harmony, Indiana. This is a wonderful little historical town in southern Indiana that we often stay at. The hotel room had aloft with a spiral staircase and it immediately became Decca’s favorite spot of the room. He asked me to take a photo of him where he was pretending to fall off of it.

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I remember being a kid and staying at this hotel. We also had a loft room back then, and I remember being fascinated by the stairs. I love sharing the same memories with my own children.

After getting a good night sleep we woke up and explored the hotel and Historic New Harmony. First stop the giant chess board that Tru couldn’t wait to play a game on.

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Next we explored the roofless church which you can read about here.  It is a wonderful spot to sit quietly and take it all in. There is also a dome in the middle of it that houses a sculpture titled “The Descent of the Holy Spirit.”

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photo 5After we explored the town some more we headed up to Culver, Indiana to see my Grandma and my Uncle. Unfortunately my uncle is very ill with cancer and my mom and I wanted to see him before it was too late. This is why we didn’t take longer on our trip across the country.

We made it to Culver, and we had a nice cottage to stay in on the lake that is in my Aunt’s family. It just happened to be empty while we were there, so we were able to use it. It was so nice to be out of the car and to have a peaceful place to stay. There were thunderstorms most of our time there, which is another anxiety trigger for Decca, but the twins and I loved it. We also loved having deer in the yard in the morning and watching the sunset over the lake at night. Spending time with their great-grandmother was icing on the cake for them.

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After a few days we came up to my dad’s house, and we have been here ever since. The twins turned 14 here. How can they be 14?

1010662_10151511556735922_844518736_nWe had a nice little party for them with my dad, my brother Harold, and his family. Last year it stormed on their birthday and we had no power. This year it was sunny and beautiful.

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Other happenings around here…we found two abandoned kitties living in a car. We captured them, nursed them back to health, and found them both homes. It was fun for all of us to have two little kitties for a while.

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We had a  Fourth of July celebration with my brothers Jesse and Jim.

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Of course Decca was standing by with a bottle of water in case of a fire. He did enjoy the fireworks this year though, as opposed to last year when he spent the entire time inside.

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The next day we went to the dunes up at Lake Michigan to watch the fireworks with my brother Jimmy. This was an epic fail, as the twins would say, because we were too far away from the fireworks to really see them, but it was fun anyway.

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We went to Chicago to Millennium Park to meet up with other students from the twin’s online Latin class. They had a blast meeting the kids and they all walked around Millennium Park for a short time while Decca and I explored. After that we all went out to eat to an Indian restaurant. It was a great day.

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Other random shots from our time here –

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Right now I am sitting in the dining room of my dad’s house. It is only 10 in the morning, but it is so dark out. A storm is rolling in bringing with it thunder and rain, which I love. The twins are sitting on the front porch waiting for it, Decca is by my side scared. The lights just flickered on and off, but later today it is going to be hot again. It is a typical summer day here and I am happy that we are here to enjoy it.

Before long we will be back in the car heading home. I am sure we will have some adventures on the way which I will have to blog about. Until then…

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Indiana. I started my day with a 5k race with my brothers. It was very pleasant out, not too hot and not too cold, making for a perfect run.

Before the Turkey Trot…

And our after shot.

After the run the kids and I took it easy at my Dad’s house. I did some cooking, and they had a lazy day. Then all of my family got together, and we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Finally Home

The twins celebrated their thirteenth birthday while we were on vacation.

We have been gone for over a month on a wonderful summer vacation. We took a train to Chicago, spent the next three weeks visiting family, and then we took a cross-country drive back home. The kids spent most of the trip outdoors canoeing, swimming, bouncing on a trampoline, and driving a tractor.

We also got to spend some time with my grandmother. She is 92 years old and still going strong. I treasure out time together.

It was a great summer break, but I am happy to be back home again. I am no longer tired or sick with mono, and I am feeling quite energetic about the new year. I am looking over the books I have purchased so far for next year, and I am getting excited.

Some of Decca’s books for next year.

And here is some of Tru’s books.

I am going to spend the rest of the month planning out our next school year, and then we will begin school on August 1st. I can’t wait!

Disneyland Hotel – A Review

As most of my readers know I took the kids to Disneyland for my youngest son’s birthday. We live very close to Disneyland, and although most of the time that we go to Disneyland we don’t stay overnight, sometimes we enjoy spending a few days there in a hotel. When that happens we always stay at The Grand Californian, which is a wonderful hotel with a beautiful lobby and a great location.

This time I thought we would try something different and stay at the Disneyland Hotel. The hotel had gone through a major renovation a while back, and I thought it would be worth a stay to see what it was like. The last time I stayed there was when I was a teenager, and I remember not being very impressed. I thought it was time to try it again.

The highlight of our stay was the newly renovated rooms. They were very well done and spacious. Our room had two queen beds and a sofa that converted to a twin bed. Between the bed and the sofas there was plenty of room for spreading out. In addition there was many Disney touches throughout the room which the kids loved. From the wooden panel over the bed that lit up and played music to the Mickey lights in the bathroom it really made our stay in the hotel magical and added to the birthday celebration.

The panel above the beds.

One of two lights in the bathroom

There was plenty of room for a birthday!

There are three towers at the Disneyland Hotel, and there isn’t much space in the lobby of the main tower or in any of the other two towers. The hotel lobby was nice, although it was very small. It had some great Disney memorabilia  and teacup chairs near the guest registration area. There was also two little Disney stores in the main tower. I enjoyed all the little details, but I missed the grand lobby of the Grand Californian. I love having an area to hang out in and people-watch, and I was sorely disappointed by this.

Goofing off in the teacup chair.

One of the great vintage posters found in the main tower of the Disneyland Hotel.

Tru studying an old sketch of Disneyland.

The pool area at the hotel was the other area I was very disappointed with. The pool area was crowded and the water was extremely cold. It took us nearly twenty minutes to find a place to sit, and we were lucky with that. Many people were walking around for a long time trying to find a lounge chair to sit on. And the water, don’t get me started on the water. My youngest son jumped in the pool, and then got right out again because it was so cold. The twins stayed in the water, but after twenty minutes they were so cold their teeth were chattering. The crazy thing is that it was a fairly hot day, but the water was so cold. For the amount Disney charges for a stay you would think they would warm the pools.

The slides at the pool are in a monorail theme.

Overall we had a great time at the Disneyland Hotel. I loved the rooms and felt all five of us fit in there nicely. The small details were great. I did miss a large lobby and a decent pool experience. I also missed the warmth of The Grand Californian. I am conflicted about where to stay next time we go. I love the experience of The Grand Californian but I love the rooms of the Disneyland Hotel.

Outside the Disneyland Hotel on the way to Downtown Disney.

Weekly Update – Spring Break

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We have been on Spring Break, and the kids and I have both been enjoying it. We all needed a break, and I can’t quite believe it is almost over. I could really use another few weeks.

Gazing up at the Giant Sequoias

In front of Lower Yosemite Falls

My brother came out to visit us, and he and I went up to Yosemite for a few days. My parents watched the kids, so it was just him and me. It was nice to have a few days alone, but by the end of our stay I was missing the kids so much. Isn’t it funny how that works?

It was great to spend some time with my brother.

The kids have been hanging out all week, not doing too much. Tru has been golfing a little, Decca has been practicing the piano, and Autry has been drawing and singing. Other than that the kids have been playing video games, watching tv, and enjoying the outdoors.

Self-portrait by Autry

One thing that we all have been watching this week is the premiere of The Legend of Korra. This is the follow-up to Avatar, and the kids have been waiting for it for over a year. The official release date is not until April 14th, but you can get the first episode free on iTunes right now. We all liked the first episode, and the kids are looking forward to the rest of the season.

I have tried to spend some of this week planning for school next year. I haven’t gotten very far, but I was inspired by my trip to Yosemite to do a state study with Decca next year. I plan to use California History for Kids as our main spine for the study. He likes activity-based books, so I hope this will be a good match for him. Other than deciding on doing a state history I have nothing else figured out, nothing. Hopefully I will remedy this problem over summer break.

In other news this week Kingsley got a much-needed bath…

and a shave.  

And that is our week in review.

Snow

We flew to Chicago on Friday. We were suppose to leave LAX at 4:00. Instead our flight got cancelled twice, and we didn’t get on a plane until 7:30. We got to Chicago at 1:30 in the morning. It was not a fun day of travelling. However we woke up to a wonderful sight.

It did not last long, only an hour or so, but it was a wonderful surprise. It was not supposed to snow, and I told the kids not to get their hopes up for snow while we are here. As Autry was going to sleep she asked about whether it would snow, and I said no. She said she was going to pray for it to snow sometime while we were on our vacation.

The kids were so happy and excited when they looked out the window on our first morning here. It was magical. We immediately got dressed and went outside to explore.

Catching Snowflakes

Tru in the snow

It is now the next day, and it is sunny and warm. The snow is already melting, already a distant memory. It may not snow again while we are here, but that is all right. We had our first snowfall, and it was wonderful.