Monday, September 29, 2014

Honey Bee Days - Morton Arboretum

On Sunday, September 21st I had the privilege to attend The Morton Arboretum Honey Bee Days. The Morton Arboretum did not disappoint with their fall festive decorations either.  That is defiantly an amazing place to soak in all of the beauty of this season!



    
So, with staying with self-sufficiency as my main drive, exploring bees was right up my alley.  A weekend dedicated to honey and bees?  I'm in!  Especially since I'm kicking around the idea of starting a bee box to obtain my own raw honey.  I kind of consider this event as a fate feeding my informational desire...it'll happen, I will get my bee box.  I just don't know when.


 

I got to see a section of the box frame loaded with bees and all of their golden honey.  It was pretty cool!  

There were vendors on site selling honey related items.  I'm a sucker for those honey sticks.  I'll own up to that right now.  They are PERFECT for a cup of tea.  Not only for the added sweetness, but many are flavored as well.  YUM!  If you could make it with honey, it was available here!





Let's talk liquor.  It is no shock or surprise that I also gravitate towards these tables as well.  I don't drink, but I make my own liquor.  So, when I saw that they were selling mead made from local honey in a glass skull bottle, I needed to know more!  Mead and beer are the two brews that I have not tried on my own yet.  Once I get my bee box going and some honey from that baby I'll have to give mead a whirl.


In addition to the vendors The Morton Arboretum was also offering educational and informative Honey Bee Hikes and demonstrations.  Of course this fit right in with my desire to seek out homeschooling/educational options.



 

Such as learning how to home bee keep.  

Now, for those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I had a bit of a run in with a flock (YES!  A FLOCK) or bees the day prior to going to The Morton Arboretum.  I ended up killing 9 in my house.  I figured out that they were coming in through the top of my screens (old time windows) and were attracted to the prickly pears I was reducing to make jelly.  Note to self, make prickly pear jelly at night. 

But, I digress...

In addition to enjoying The Honey Bee Days events we got to walk the grounds of The Morton Arboretum.  You can drive the road loop, or bike it as well.  You can bring your own bikes in or there is a rental stand on site.  I've both driven and biked the loop, the bike ride is gorgeous!  But, since it was Will and I we walked for a short bit and enjoyed The Tree House Tales.





The Morton Arboretum offers an extensive calendar of events, year round.  Actually, as I'm leafing through their fall booklet I see that there is a Meet the Beekeeper event on Columbus Day that I may have to go to.  

This upcoming weekend they are having their Drink It In: Beer Festival and 11th Annual Fall Color 5K & Walk which will usher in their Fall Color Festival that will take place every weekend in October and will offer a scarecrow trail around Meadow Lake to enjoy the amazing, brilliantly colored trees.
The Children's Garden at The Morton Arboretum is also offering special events for kids throughout the month as well. 

Oh!  And they are hosting a Drive-In Night featuring the movies Frankenweenie and Hocus Pocus. Tickets are in advance only, so if that's something that you are interested in I'd call today.

I had a wonderful time at The Honey Bee Days and taking in the gorgeous weather during one of my favorite times of the year at The Morton Arboretum.  


The Morton Arboretum is open 365 days a year, starting at 7am each day and closing at sunset.  The Visitor Center's hours and additional information can be found here.  Wednesday is their discounted admission day, regular admission ranges from $12 for adults to $9 for youth (2-17), and admission does include parking.  

*the opinions are mine alone and I was compensated for this post with admission for two to The Morton Arboretum.  I chose to attend The Honey Bee Days*.    

Monday, September 22, 2014

Homeschool Bash 2014

There are very few companies/organizations in Illinois that support homeschoolers.

...and Illinois is one of the more lenient states regarding homescooling laws.

I had the privilege to propose an idea for a going back to school party for homeschoolers over the summer.

My town offers has a huge going back to school party that takes place at a local park the Friday after school officially starts in the area.  Complete with bounce houses, games and food, it's a must attend event for local school children.

But...

...what about homeschoolers?

Sure, I could easily take my kids to the party at the local park.  It just doesn't "feel" right to me, though.  I don't know, maybe it's just me.

So, over the summer I was approached for a blogger event and pitched the idea of a going back to school party for homeschoolers.  Actually, I wanted to call it "Not Going Back to School Party"... that didn't fly with their marketing folks.  Understandable, really.

Anywho, I sat down with the marketing manager and general manager and talked about why I homeschool and why I think it's important to have a celebration for homeschoolers, and how I thought that they were a good fit for such an event.

...and they agreed.  Like, excitedly agreed!

How cool is that!

So, last Monday at Chick-fil-a in Orland Park, the very first area Homeschool Bash was held.  Due to the weather, we did have to move inside.  But, the turnout was still great.

The bast part - meeting other homeschooling families from the area.

The coolest part - two woman who lived in neighboring towns meeting each other and connecting.

Fellowship

That was one of my biggest fears when I started homeschooling, the prospect of being alone in my journey.  That I wouldn't have anyone to talk to.  That my kids wouldn't have friends.

Though I did take tons of photos at the Homeschool Bash, they contain children who are not mine, so I don't feel comfortable posting them here.  But, here is the promo poster from the store...


The turn out and response was fantastic!  Chick-fil-a Orland Park is planning on a Homeschool Bash 2015!

My hope is that this continues each year and brings more and more homeschooling families together. That they do feel connected and that they are not alone in their journey.
 
I have done a lot of posts here, partnering up with local companies that offer services or specials to homeschooling families, and I am always very appreciative of their accommodations.  This was a little different.  Chick-fil-a Orland Park threw a party, complete with games and prizes and people is cow costumes, for homeschoolers.  It was pretty cool!  I hope to see you next year!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Freehand

My mind is all sorts of running wild right now.

When this happens I can't focus.  I can't read.  I can't process.  You can say something to me and I'll need you to repeat it a time or two.

When I get like this (and that doesn't happen very often) I need to slow down.  But, not in the sit in quiet solitude and meditate.  I still need to be busy, just deliberate in my efforts.  So, I've been doing this:





With this.


No painters tape.

I've been painting freehand with a watercolor brush.

Because when my mind races I may not be able to read an entire sentence but I can draw the straightest line ever.

So, I've been putting that to good use around the house.  Next up, the front door.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Working On 50

Today is my parents 49th Wedding Anniversary



Forty-nine Years!

How rare is that now a days?  And, just as a point of reference, I'm not in my 40's.

What I have learned from my parents is that marriage is work.  That there are good times and bad, but the good times outweigh the bad and you grow.

That marriage is a commitment.  That it is something that should not be taken for granted.

That you never, ever speak ill of your spouse in public - EVER.

That it gets better with time.

That there is give and take and sometimes you get spun around, it's kind of like the hokey-pokey.



Happy Anniversary Mom & Pop


Monday, September 8, 2014

Good Byes Suck

Today is a tough day for me.

I went to visit my friend Jen as she is moving to southern Indiana this weekend.  She's moving 4 hours away.

I've written before about The Farm.

Our first visit there, here

And then what became weekly visits, here, here, herehere and...well there are a lot and that's just from 2011 & 2012.

But this one, this is my favorite.

There have been a lot of changes around here with regards to homeschooling.  Cody is in high school, Chris is not attending private school, so it's just Will and I.

All of my homeschooling friends are no longer a constant and that sucks.

Jen and her family moving really sucks.

My boys practiced shooting guns and bows at The Farm

Learned how to pole fish, drive an ATV and a tractor there

They learned how to make homemade mozzarella cheese there

How to blow out eggs to decorate

How to walk by bee hives so that you don't piss them off

How to spot wild edibles

The difference between store bought food and farm raised food - eggs, sweet potatoes, long beans, raspberries

How to properly start your own veggies

Wills first solid foods came from Jen's garden - sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin...

Jen and her family have helped us to be more sustainable in our efforts.  How to do more for ourselves and how to seek out reliable sources of information on growing, preserving and preparing our own foods and crops.

Jen has specifically empowered me to be okay with being different...outside of the norm, and to know that I am capable of a whole lot of things.  Growing my own food, preserving it, making my own food from scratch and seeing the beauty of a Ball Canning Jar.  Plus, truly knowing what this mean 



I am going to greatly miss them not being a short 40 minute drive from us.

Here is an article from the September/October 2014 issue of GRIT Magazine. They won homesteader of the year.  They freely gave away what knowledge they had to those who were willing to learn.  I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be one of those people.


Thank you, for everything.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome to My Crazy - Not a Post About Tomatoes

So, the plan was to do a post about the tomatoes that are coming in very quickly in the garden right now and how to preserve them when they are in an abundance...

not happening

It's hot today.  Like nasty, humid, muggy - hot, and I'm not going out to pick the garden and get eaten up by misquotes in the process.  So, the tomato post will have to wait.  This should hold you over, though



Let me share a little bit about what I lovingly refer to as "my crazy".  My two oldest are back in school full time now so it's just me and the little man during the day.  I noticed quite early on in this new arrangement that I was forgetting to finish things.  Like, the laundry or the dishes or vacuuming...

I'd start the task, but get distracted.  Most of the time by this


or my phone, which has pretty much all of the same capabilities, yet I have the ability to utilize it while in a reclined sipping a cold Dr. Pepper.

Anywho, those who know me have referred to me as being intense, OCD, Type A, organized, detailed, Superwoman (I hate that one, by the way) and so on...

I'm not

Most days, I feel like stuff is slipping through the cracks, even when they are not.

And now, holy cow!  Between two active kids in two different sports and homework...the homework! ..oh, and scouting and just regular life stuff...it's insane right now.  By no means am I complaining, just being honest.  I feel stretched.

How am I keeping sane?

I'm not

How am I harnessing my crazy?

Like this...

I have been a planner person since high school.  Before it was a thing.  Before schools issued students planners.  It was reinforced once I entered the work force after college.  I worked for a company that worshiped Franklin Covey.  I swear, I almost kissed my Franklin Covey instructor after an in-house workshop one year.  I still color code stuff thanks to her.  


I really dislike being asked multiple times a day "what is going on today?"  Hence this.  It's the central point in our home where everything with a date on it goes.  Invitations, schedules, other calendars, tickets...whatever - it goes here.  The calendar is color coded by person.  This allows me to try (operative word here) not to double book time.  That's not happening today, by the way.  I have to be at two separate scouting things roughly 15 minutes apart and 20 miles away from each other.  


I absolutely love and cherish what little time that I get to have all by myself.  I love my family very much.  I love them more when I can nurture myself, though. This is on our refrigerator and it's little man's schedule.  So, if I happen to be gone around the time he needs to get a snack, whoever is watching him knows when and what is going on.
The wellness section is for me.  It's my accountability check so that I can make sure that everyone is getting the necessary supplements.  My kids rarely get sick, I'm making sure that continues this year.      


My chore box.  

Each day of the week has it's own section


And each section has index cards with the day of the week and the chore written on each.  I pull them all out in the AM and put them away as I finish them.  Right now, I am waiting for the dryer to time out so that I can finish the laundry and I need to vacuum upstairs, which will get done once someone is up from his nap.

Does this mean that I totally stick to everything in perfect order?

No

Not even close

I have on Tuesday's and Thursday's to iron clothes


This is my pile...it's Friday.  That is Tuesday AND Thursday's ironing.  

I leave myself grace

It helps me stay humble 

Do you realize that I had to write in my planner to soak my feet today?  I've been trying to do that for days, DAYS!  Actually, I'm doing that as I type this post.  No shocker there, really.



I'm a writer.  I need to write stuff down.  Tasks need to be crossed off when completed.  My brain feels lighter when I get all the jumble that is swirling around in it out.

If it doesn't get written down, it will likely not happen.  Take the purchase of french onion soup.  I need to write that down yesterday, otherwise dinner wasn't happening.  

Now, that doesn't mean that I don't embrace technology.  My husband and I share calendars so that we can both see what is going on while on the go.

But, if I happen to seem frazzled while you are trying to plan something with me, realize that I need to check multiple sources and write it down.
  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jumping Up and Getting Down at Sky Zone

One of the disadvantages of living in the Midwest is the winters.  I hate the feeling of being stuck on my home due to inclement weather.  It really wasn't too bad last winter, even though the snow was insane, because I was immobilized and couldn't drive anywhere.  But, I digress...

Winters around here can be less than enjoyable.  

Finding enjoyable activities to do with my kids, who range in age from 15 to 18 months, can be difficult as well.  I have to find something that everyone is going to enjoy.

Enter Sky Zone

"We are dedicated to providing you with the pure joy that comes with flying. We are sky lovers, thrill seekers and people who believe that jumping is freedom. We believe fitness can be fun and play can be smart. We are healthy and bursting with energy. We fly high and keep it safe. We are Sky Zone."


Oh. Heck. Yes!

This was our very first time EVER going to a place like this.  We visited Sky Zone in Elmhurst on a Sunday afternoon.  Though there were multiple birthday parties going on when we were there, the actual jump zones were not packed with kids.  

Located right off of I290 in an industrial area, Sky Zone Elmhurst was easy to get to.  It took us about 1 hour. At this point, I think that's kind of par for the course when it comes to going anywhere with my kids, so really, the drive was no big deal.  

The facility is large, bright and clean.  

The staff is extremely nice and helpful.  

Once we checked in and received our awesome orange Sky Zone jumping socks, we were instructed to go view a video on the rules and meet with a Sky Zone staff member to review the rules prior to jumping. I think that we were there for maybe 5 minutes, and the video was playing in an area where you can take off your shoes and switch into your Sky Zone socks.  Lockers are also available for you to store your valuables or there are open bins to put your shoes.  

Chris and Cody took off to different sections to jump and explore while Will was warming up to the place.

 

There is a foam pit area where you can jump off of the trampoline floor into the foam blocks

There is a basketball area

There are multiple dodge ball courts

There is a special little kids area for safe jumping


There is a huge jumping area for older kids and adults


Will and I stuck to the little kids area, which he did enjoy once he got use to it.  With that being said, if you do plan on going and you have a toddler, I really would try it out for the 1 1/2 hour session.  It took Will about 45 minutes to warm up to the idea of jumping and getting use to the trampolines that by the time we went to leave, 15 minutes later, he wasn't too happy.  I do love their saying that "if they can walk, they can jump!" - it's so true!  Sky Zone Elmhurst offers a Toddler Time just for little ones to explore.   

So, what about safety?
Each section has an employee monitoring safety and making sure that the rules are being followed.  They will correct you if you are breaking a rule.  They want to make sure that your experience, as well as everyone else's, is an enjoyable one; and safety comes first!

I like the idea of Sky Zone as a fun alternative to PE during the winter months for homeschooling.  They do offer a Friday Homeschool Jump, which is a great opportunity to have your kids burn off some energy, get some physical exercise and meet up with other homeschooling families.  

Speaking of exercise - holy cow!  Cody, Chris and Dave were all dripping with sweat when we were done.  It's fun, got their heart rates up and allowed them to try new things, like flips and bouncing off of walls, safely. To learn more about the calorie burning fun offered at Sky Zone, click here.  Nothing is cooler than watching your husband take on your two older kids in a group dodge ball game.  

 
 

I did jump...kind of.  Lets flash back to the beginning of this post, I was immobilized over the winter.  Knee brace, crutches, months of physical therapy to get to the point where I could walk again.  Could I jump, though?  Well, the answer is sort of.  I knew my limits and got off of the trampoline when my knee started to not feel right.  But, I had a blast watching my kids and husband jump.  If you are a parent and you want to bring you child to jump, but you don't want to, that is an option here.  You only have to pay for your jumper and they have a "parent's lounge" for you to sit and watch your kids from.  Pretty neat!  

Was there anything that I didn't like about Sky Zone Elmhurst - not really, I mean it would be nice to have a Sky Zone closer to where we live.  But, like I said, an hour commute is kind of typical at this point.  

We loved Sky Zone Elmhurst! The hour that we were there FLEW BY!  We are definitely going back.

  

Thanks for letting us fly with you, Sky Zone.

You can find out more about Sky Zone Elmhurst here:
Website - http://www.skyzone.com/elmhurst
  


*the opinions are mine alone and I was compensated for this post with admission, including 1 hours of jump time, for my family and I at Sky Zone Elmhurst*.    

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

15

You started it all


You allowed me to start my journey as a Mama and I have evolved thanks to you & your brothers

But, mostly because of you


You have known all the the phases of our evolution -

  • from the single wide trailer, me working full time (plus some) and you in day care 12 hours a day
  • to living with your Aunt, me still working full time, but you and now home with your dad
  • to living in our first home, me still working full time, your little brother being born and starting kindergarten
  • to living in our second home, me now home full time and your dad working full time and you starting 2nd grade at a new school
  • to living in our third home, me still home full time and your dad working full time, your littlest brother being born and you starting high school at a new school


You have struggled along with us as we evolved as a family, through income levels, through social classes and through spiritual insight, to where we are today.  But, we will not stop here.  We will continue to evolve and change and learn.  It's what we do.  

You know the meaning of hard work and you know that nothing gets handed to you.

You are resilient and tough, introspective and wise

You were the first


You started it all

And what I want you to know, to know with all of your heart and with such certainty, is that you are loved. That the people who are in your life love you very much.  That you should not be afraid to be authentic and truly you, do not confirm to fit in.

You are an awesome kid and I love you very much.

This is your story - people have seen in multiple times over.

Know that you are loved.  Know that you are supported.  Know that you are destined to do great things.