Monday, October 17, 2016

Party with a Purpose

So my baby was the reason our family got to have a GREAT time at Main Event (Cobb) recently.  She has been a part of a medical study since birth - The Teddy Study.  This is a medical study that will follow her until she's 15 years old.  Why?  She has the gene for Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile diabetes).  She was tested at birth and qualified for the study.  We agreed to participate because the purpose of the study is to, ultimately, find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.  Who wouldn't want to participate in a study that is so much bigger than themselves.  The Teddy Study is actually a huge undertaking - encompassing 4 countries and several consortiums of researchers and doctors.

I have learned soooo much about Type 1 diabetes from our participation.  Nicole is the rock star though - she goes every 3 months to get her blood drawn for the study.    There are other parts to the study (checking water sources, checking viruses, looking at diet records, tracking activity, looking at stressors, etc....) that we participate with - ultimately looking for the commonalities of children who do and do not develop with autoimmune illness.  Not everyone with the gene will develop it.  And not everyone who develops it actually has the gene.  Crazy.

However, once a year - the Teddy staff throw a big party for the families who are monitored in the Atlanta lab.  This year.... 4 hours of free play at Main Event.  Oh yes - we were there!!!!!!!

What you don't see at the 3 rounds of lazer tag we fit in, the free lunch, and the HOURS of games we all played.   It was so fun - and we are so thankful for our little trooper in her participation. 

Slice of Life

Now that we are home, we settle into a "normal" routine of sorts.  I think that really means that we learn to go with the flow.
Here's a slice of our life....

Megan has started a few independent projects - ones that she's created.  She is working to perfect the perfect dog treat.  I love when she comes to me and says, "mom, can we look for something online?" because I know that means, she has a plan....
 Nicole, not wanting to be left out of the computer time - usually begs to get online to work on her RAZ kids reading.  Honestly - it's a win- win for mom!

Then there are our "normal" school moments in the basement classroom.
 And field trips - like our excursion to the zoo.  We are working to get our "zoo passport" stamped every month of the year so they can earn the credit to spend the night at the zoo.  And we had to go check in on our little flamingo chicks.  They hatched days before our last visit (right before our big trip).  They aren't so little anymore.

 And we had to make sure we get as much of the meerkats as we can.  They are leaving the zoo at some point.  They just haven't thrived at Zoo Atlanta, so they will be rehomed somewhere.

 And this was the first visit in a looooooong time when the giraffes have been at the feeding stand.  We had a credit so we got to cash it in.  Glad we didn't wait, 2 lettuce leaves after us, he just up and walked away.

And - wowzers.... I can honestly say I knew this Greater Kudu was out there... but he's always hidden.  But this day we got a great view of him.  He's huge!

 Since little panda cubs were born while we were gone, Lun Lun and the babies are off exhibit.  But we had to spend some time with the Mei's - they will be leaving soon to head to China.  My girls are soooo sad they are leaving.

One of our daily routines is our walk....  One day Nicole and I were walking home from the playground, and Megan rode ahead on her bike and found some Turkey Vultures.  She actually didn't see the vulture who was sneaking up behind her - she was watching the one in the yard - the one eating the squirrel. 

 These guys drove home the reality of the food chain!

We have also found the coolest art tutorial online.  My girls LOVE it..... It's called Art For Kids Hub.    It is so fun and creative.  My girls beg for art time.... and that's after school is done.

Our first project was "watercolor leaves" - love them!

Later the girls asked to do a drawing tutorial - so they decided to learn to draw otters....

 Megan and I have been working hard to figure out what of her 4th grade curriculum works and what doesn't work. I think that'll be the struggle all year.  We've basically thrown out math (the set up was driving us both crazy!) but while we look for curriculum that fits - we are using some online resources to teach the concepts I know she needs and some other resources to back it up.  working so far.... but I'm praying to find a good curriculum so I know that I'm not leaving gaps.

 Nicole - she's just plugging along.   We are also doing some purging of what I don't like and working to find a better fit in a few areas, but so far she's just plowing through.   We just started a new writing curriculum and I'm hoping that will be a better fit for both girls.

Another first.... their first homeschool class!  The girls went to their first homeschool science/nature class at a local nature center.  And they loved it!!!!!

And I'll leave you to what they chose to do in their free time after class..... a little more art!

And a biggie for my baby.... she had her first American Heritage Girls meeting.  She's so excited to earn some badges!

Our slice of life....  some days it's sweet.... some days it's got some sour in it....  But I'll take every bite!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


38 days..... we were gone for 38 days!
That said - it was a great trip.  We were all glad to be home and back in our own beds, but we would all agree it was totally worth the time away and would do it again, in a heartbeat.

We made it back in time for Talk Like A Pirate Day at Krispy Kreme!

And jumped back into our studies!

 And Nicole was super excited about making it back in time for church on Sunday when she was given her 1st grade Bible at church.

So - we unpacked our bags and life goes on.

Final day in South Dakota - Badlands and Wall

Our last day in South Dakota was a fabulous day in the Badlands!  On the way east, we stopped off in Wall, SD to the home of the infamous Wall Drugs.

So, I don't know what exactly I expected from Wall Drugs.... a huge store maybe, with "free water" (that's what they are known for), and such.  But wow - it's really a little town inside the town of Wall.  I mean I stopped counting how many separate stores were inside Wall Drug.  I will, however, recommend the fudge shop.  :)  It was fun walking through the history of westward expansion at Wall.

 We even ran into Buffalo Bill Cody....

And my unrealized life long dream was granted... I got to ride a "jack-a-lope!"

 It was a funny little stop, but a nice diversion in the drive.  And just a short drive outside Wall was the North entrance to Badlands National Park.

So - I think I had about 400 pictures on my camera from this day.  It was just an amazing scene.  And all the while my mind kept thinking about how "hardy" the early settlers must have been.  Because, I would've pulled my wagon up to this.....   And been like, "OK - lets go back a ways to where we were, because I am NOT crossing that!"

Once again, we saw lots of prairie dogs!!!!

Even the girls were impressed with how amazing this area was.
 Hours of this amazing view.....

We found a neat picnic area - and were thankful for the shade because once the sun came out, it was quite toasty.

This area used to be a watering hole.  They are continually uncovering skeletal remains - they even have a procedure to follow if you "happen upon" fossils because they are so plentiful.

This area is known for it's colorful striations - the area in yellow used to be under salt water.  This is an area where a lot of ocean fossils have been found.

 OK - so in the picture below - the butte that is in the middle of the shot, as far away as you can see - that's 30 miles away.

The landforms are amazing!

 After getting lost once, ending up on a dirt road and accidently driving out of the park on the west side - we finally made it to the visitors center (which is at the western entrance).

 And the girls got to work on their Junior Ranger books.

 That was our 7th and final Junior Ranger badge on this trip.
If you keeping up with that count, so far we have JR badges from..... (1) Knife River Indian Village, (2) Theodore Roosevelt National Park, (3) Little Bighorn National Battlefield, (4)Yellowstone, (5) Jewel Cave, (6) Mount Rushmore, and (7) Badlands National Park

The Every Kid in a Park program starts on September 1st during your 4th grade year of school.  So from Sept 1st - 18th - we earned 7 badges..... That some serious homeschool science, social studies, and history that we've learned!

But as we left the park - the fun didn't stop there.  Once off National Land, we happened upon a little store with a giant prairie dog statue.  We stopped and low and behold, you could buy food and feed the little guys in their prairie dog town.
 Let me just put in my "mom clause" here... this scared the daylights out of me.  I was envisioning rabies shots because someone got bitten, or the bubonic plague from fleas (some people got that from squirrel fleas last year somewhere... I remember reading it), or something.... but they were super cute and friendly and we did it.....

Sadly, our phones died so those are the only pictures we got.  We didn't even get the giant prairie dog photo that we stopped for originally.  Well I can tell you - this was one of the girls favorite parts of the trip - and it was totally unplanned and unexpected.  And.... it's on the list of things to do when we go back again.