Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Which My Daughter is Attacked By a Lorikeet . . .

. . . And in which I post entirely too many pictures.

Well, maybe, so maybe my daughter wasn't actually attacked by a lorikeet. But saying "pecked" wouldn't make for a very exciting headline, would it?

I'll start at the beginning. Last week, our sweet four-year-old became a sweet five-year-old, so we celebrated by taking a zoo trip. We even convinced my parents that a day walking up and down hills with eight children would be a fun way to spend their Monday!

Last time we were at the zoo, she called those pink birds, "Flingos". 
But now she actually says flamingos. Growing up . . . 

Cotton candy at the zoo that she didn't have to share with her six year old brother? Now that's an unforgettable birthday gift from Grandma and Grandpa!

Actually, though, I think she ended up sharing some with her siblings since she discovered that a large tub of pink cotton candy was a bit more than she could manage.

The Dallas Zoo is one of our favorite family field trips but it was extra-special this time to have Grandma and Grandpa along!

We saw the usual zoo critters -- cheetahs, warthogs (that reddish pile of fur in the background) . . .

Wallabies . . .

Or are those kangaroos . . . 

Emus . . . 

More emus (the Australian section was popular this time) . . . 

And . . . ten year old girls?!

Here's an even less frequently seen sight --

A picture of me with my beautiful mother! (No rude comments on my hair - it was a fairly cold day (at least by Texas standards) and it was warmer to wear my hair down!)

The Australian section led us to a new exhibit during which you could actually walk into the lorikeet enclosure and they landed on you, and, apparently had one lorikeet was a little too interested in my 14 year old daughter's ear. It actually drew blood, but how many people can claim they have a lorikeet scar on their ear?!

No, I did not join my family when they went in with the lorikeets. I've always had this thing about birds flying around my head. It possibly stems from our very old garage when I was little that always had sparrows flying around in it, but my dad always made me go in there to get the dog food anyway. Traumatic, as you can imagine. (actually, I'd make my kids do the same thing . . . while I stood safely in the house).

What does that story have to do with the zoo trip? Not much.

So now another zoo trip is done. My four year old is five, but just as sweet and smiley as ever. 

Our family zoo pass has expired for the year . . .

But Grandpa got his fill of pictures . . . 

And we all got plenty of exercise . . . 

And some great pictures of grandparents and grandkids.

There were two important lessons learned at the zoo on that day.

The first one, by my twelve year old: 

Don't insist that you can still fit between the same two poles that you did last year. Your family will try to help you prove your point!

And the second important lesson learned at the zoo:

If you're our good friends from Illinois who happen to be in Dallas without letting us know, make sure we don't catch you at the Zoo! (It was great fun to see you, Ashley and Becca!)

Y'all have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Showers of Blessings

You know how some parents are really particular about their kids staying neat and clean and only playing on playgrounds and such that are perfectly "safe" for children?

I don't really fit in well with that kind of a parent . . .

Last night it was pouring rain and hailing - nearly golf-ball sized hailstones . . .

But when the rain stopped - the Toliver kids' fun began --

Even the dogs were having fun racing through the puddles and mud!

Have you ever wondered what a pure white Great Pyrenees soaked with mud looks like?

Pardon the freaky eyes.

(And I'm so glad our dogs are only outside animals!!)

It was fun until it came time to clean out the clogged ditches and culverts.

When it rains here (and that's somewhat rare!) the first thing the kids always ask is, "Are the ditches flowing?"

Sometimes happy childhood memories are more important than clean clothes. And clean floors.


Would anyone like to guess what the first thing John always says when it rains?

I knew he was going to say it before he even opened his mouth -- "Maybe I need to do some more excavating with the tractor in that (north/south/west/east) ditch."

It's true - having fun playing in the mud really has no age limit . . .

Have a great Tuesday enjoying your family!

**Note - If you're reading the blog from your iPhone, iPad, etc, take the time to read the disclaimer on the previous post about pictures occasionally being upside down when I've taken them with my phone. :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Homeschool Co-ops

**Note: Some of the pictures in the following post were taken with my phone. I have been informed that this results in them appearing upside down to people viewing my blog from their Apple devices. If so, please take a moment to perform this highly technical task: lean over as far as you can and read the blog upside down.

Any pictures that do not appear upside down to Apple users can be attributed to the fact that my father took them with an actual camera. For these pictures, Apple users may keep their heads in the usual upright position. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Sincerely, Your Occasionally Sarcastic Blogging Friend**

It wasn't until we moved to Texas that I started looking into joining a homeschool co-op. "Good friends for our kids" was at the top of our prayer list as we went through the big Illinois to Texas move and so I had some specific thoughts behind what I wanted in a homeschool co-op:

1. Not just Christian in name, but truly Christian in how the families live and how the leadership operates. This was important as I considered that co-op would probably provide friends for our children.

2. Laid-back. While some co-ops are very rigorous academically, I really wanted something fairly relaxed that would just supplement what we do at home.

Since we knew very few homeschoolers in our area at the time, I went with the old standby: Internet search. While I came up with a big list, one jumped out at me as a possibility and that ended up being the one we've attended for nearly 3 years now.

Ironically, our homeschool co-op doesn't do any advertising, so I think our co-op leaders are still a little suspicious of how I found them.

Our co-op is Mom-taught, which means you don't just drop off your kids and pay tutors. While there are some good classes that have really benefited my kids academically and developmentally - Latin, Great Empires, Chess Club, and such - it's more of a social benefit for our family. We have about 25 families in the co-op and overall it has worked really well for our family. My kids all have good, Christian friends within the group. Interestingly enough, I have developed some very dear friendships with some moms too and that has been a blessing I hadn't expected!

It lasts for a few hours once a week and that's the perfect amount of time commitment for our family.

This is from the Oregon Trail class I taught this semester ---

And Boys' PE -

Texan style with longhorn cattle looking on in the background!

From the drama class my older four were involved in this semester --

They recently performed the play "Once Upon a Woods" - my kids were the Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, Little Bear, and Hansel.

So tell me - Have you been involved in a homeschool co-op? How does yours work?

(And have a wonderful Easter weekend celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior!)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bark Park: Children's Book Review

The rhyming title of Bark Park draws you in first - I love creative titles. Bark Park was written and illustrated by Karen Gray Ruelle. The lyrical text makes it fun and fast to read.

My country kids hadn't even realized that some people actually take their canines to a place like Bark Park to walk their dogs every day. Don't all people let their dogs run loose all the time?

With the fast-paced text, Ruelle covers all sorts of dogs:

Small dog, tall dog, down the street.
Dashing, splashing, old friends meet.
Hot dog, dot dog, in the park.
Fat dog, rat dog.
Bark! Bark! Bark!

A two-page spread at the center of the book is full of onomatopoeia - all the pants, grrrs, woofs, yips, and more that must make a visit to Bark Park a rather noisy event.

The drawings are almost cartoon-style and the odd proportions add to the humor of the book. The little ones had fun pointing to their favorite dogs on each page and laughing at their antics. There was one slightly crude reference (why? I always have to ask) but other than that, Bark Park is a happy, rhyming picture book that your preschoolers will enjoy.

Peachtree Publishers is the place to find Bark Park and many other delightful picture books.

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