Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

It's the Little Things That Help Get You Through

Things have been a bit upside down in our family for the past few weeks with it seeming like everyone in the family was taking turns coming down with the flu.

First, it was EJ and me during the last few days of our visit to Nevada. Sadly it caused us to cancel visits with friends and some of our sightseeing plans but we got through it with the help of a wonderful hubby/papa who made sure we were never without crackers, ginger ale, and tea during our worst days.

A treat of hot chocolate is even
better with whipped cream
No matter how miserable we felt, it was nothing compared to finding out my mother-in-law had taken a fall in her apartment that required a trip to the hospital. Thankfully she wasn't too badly hurt aside from a couple of stitches on her finger and a bruise on her cheek but there was more to come. 

Then, only two days later, she came down with the flu (even though she'd had her flu shot as she does every year.) As with many folks her age (she's 98), my tiny mother-in-law easily becomes dehydrated when faced with this type of illness, and this time was no different. Our daughter took one look at her and realized she would need medical treatment. We were still on the road in Utah, heading home so she called and let us know what was going on.

I have to say we are so fortunate to have responsible daughters who step in and take responsibility when they are needed. Thankfully, her husband was home to care for the baby while she headed up to the hospital with her grandma. Her eldest sister joined her there as soon as she could get someone to cover her shift at work. (And her employer arranged for a driver to get her there.)

Thankfully things were a bit more under control by the time we arrived home but there was still much to do. Since MIL had a room to herself we were able to bring her little Christmas tree in to brighten things up. 

Now that she was allowed visitors some of her friends and neighbors came by for a cup of tea (hubby kept her well supplied from Tim Hortons downstairs at the hospital, much nicer than the "hospital food" tea!) 

Her friends convinced her to allow us to turn on the TV set for her as well (she had been worried about disturbing others with the sound no matter how many times we assured her it would be fine.)

One of her neighbors brought MIL
eye drops when she ran out
Once she had other visitors, hubby was able to take a bit of a break and get out of the hospital for a real meal. It had fallen to him to do hospital duty since he still had vacation time and everyone else either had work and/or childcare responsibilities.

We had another unexpected circle of support, our friends, and contacts on social media. It may seem like a small thing but a little note of encouragement or the sharing of tips on how to get a senior to eat when they don't like (the aforementioned) hospital food really helped bolster our spirits. (FYI "sneaking in" a treat from McDonald's is a popular option and worked for us!)

EJ is happy his great-grandma
is coming home this week
So we are now well past the crisis. My mother-in-law is heading home to her tiny apartment this week. Homecare and house cleaners will begin their regular visits once again and she can get back to her knitting and to tending her houseplants (we managed to keep them alive while she was in hospital!) Life is back to (our) normal but with a difference.

I've been reminded of how important the little things can be, a kind word, a listening ear, sharing the burden even if only the tiniest bit.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

A Pre-Christmas Family Visit to Las Vegas - Part One

I can't tell you how many times I've had friends comment to me that they had never thought of Las Vegas as a family-friendly vacation spot. One, in particular, was amazed to see our vacation photos from Death Valley National Park and Red Rock Canyon. She is an avid hiker and had never thought of the southern Nevada area as an area that she would enjoy.

We have other friends who like to keep Las Vegas to themselves, a weekend getaway spot for the grown-ups. I can understand that. Hubby and I like to escape the cold and head to Vegas ourselves. We aren't big gamblers but we love the variety of restaurants and entertainment we find there.

We decided to take our grandson for a pre-Christmas visit this year. It gave him an opportunity to visit with friends (their mom has known his mom since they were little) and to check out some of the many holiday activities and displays the area has to offer. We also planned museum visits that fit in with our homeschool lessons.

Even though we tried to limit our books this trip we still needed
two luggage carts to carry everything up to our room
We arrived at the Best Western in Henderson to find we'd been upgraded to a suite. This is always a pleasant surprise since it gives us much more room to spread out. The hotel was located just off the St. Rose Parkway so it was handy and quieter than staying closer to the Strip. Henderson is also closer to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, very handy for sightseeing.

Day one saw us sticking close to our room doing our lessons. It was nice after three days in the car and helped us organize things for the rest of our stay. We did take a break to visit the pool and visit one of our favorite restaurants, Lindo Michoacan (the La Loma location was only a short drive from our hotel and offers a great view of Las Vegas and The Strip).

Who can resist sharing a delicious dessert
Hubby and I discovered this restaurant on a visit a few years ago and have added it as a must do whenever we are in the area. The only drawback is that there are so many choices I have a tough time figuring out what to order! (For my meal that is, dessert is always Mexican Fried Ice Cream!)

After speaking to some folks at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum, we decided to stay in Boulder City for the weekend so we could attend their Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa Claus Parade the next night. We were able to adjust our reservation and moved to the Best Western in Boulder City for the two nights. It was the perfect location, walking distance to the tree lighting and the parade passed right in front of the hotel. It's an older property but our room was nice and clean and they have an indoor pool.

EJ had fun watching and taking pictures of the parade
Boulder City is a great location for family travel. Close to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, this location is perfect as a base for outdoor activities. Arriving early on Friday, we visited Lake Mead where EJ learned about the history and environment of the area as he earned his Junior Ranger Badge. (We like to incorporate the junior ranger booklets with our lessons since they cover a lot of good information about the area we are visiting.)

Learning about the ecosystem of the Lake Mead area
After leaving the Visitor Center, we decided to have a picnic on the edge of the lake. There were very few people out that day and all of the picnic areas were quite far from the water so we improvised...our dashboard served the purpose!

Peanut butter and jam is good
The weather was sunny and warm, perfect for a walk along the water's edge. Although the water level rose slightly from 2016, the "bathtub ring" shows clearly just how far it has fallen through many years of drought in the area.

Spending a sunny afternoon at the beach

It's amazing how different things look now than when we visited Lake Mead on our honeymoon in 1980 when it was at almost full capacity (about twice as much as today I believe).

Heading back to hotel EJ had a ton of questions about why the water is so low now and what could be done to help it fill again. Travel is a great way to ignite a child's interest in learning!

We arrived back at our hotel in time for the Christmas Tree lighting at the park nearby and then decided to bring Jack-in-the-Box back to our room for supper (we don't have this at home in Canada so it's a treat when we travel).

Next morning we had time for some math and spelling work before heading off to the railway museum. Hubby had arranged for he and EJ to ride up in the engine on the Santa Train (he's a locomotive engineer) so we wanted to arrive in plenty of time.

EJ didn't suspect a thing although he was wondering why we weren't lining up to board the train. His papa kept him busy explaining how the wheels and breaks worked on the engine. Much more fun than reading about it in a book :)

When the conductor called "All aboard!" EJ got his surprise as the engineer invited him to climb up on the engine. He was super excited and trying to take everything in at once.

Riding the engine on the Santa Train
The guys had a great time running the train through the desert terrain (so different from the Rocky Mountain run hubby has a home) and speaking with the crew. It sounds like the train run will be getting longer once all the road construction is done in the area but the distance didn't dampen our young man's enthusiasm one bit. He came bounding down the steps, asking if I had heard the bells ringing - "That was me! I got to blow the horn too!"

The Nevada Southern Railway Museum is definitely worth the stop if you have any train fans in your family. We spent some time checking out some of the other cars and the shop area before heading off for lunch and an afternoon swim back at the hotel. 

The guys wanted to be sure of a good spot for Santa's Electric Night Parade so they grabbed blankets and snacks and found a place for us on the planter wall in front of the hotel. By the time I came down from the room the streets were filled with families waiting for the first set of lights signaling the start of the parade. 

I was surprised at how many entries there were in the parade, including the fan favorite Star Wars Speeder. Note the kids having fun joining in with their lightsabers on the side of the street!

There was time for a quick supper and a call home before bed since we planned an early start for Hoover Dam the next morning.

Hoover Dam and the new bypass highway
Sadly, we arrived at the dam to find out they were having trouble with the elevators so there were no tours that day so we had to settle for a walk across instead (parking is still free in spots on the Arizona side).

Since we finished early at the dam we decided to stop for brunch at one of the local diners we had heard about in Boulder City. 

The Southwest Diner is a tiny place and we expected a wait but were lucky and found a table right away. It was tough to decide on what to order as we watched heaping plates pass by our table (the pancakes are enormous!) but I finally settled on my staple clubhouse sandwich (I was torn between it and the Avocado BLT). I order these everywhere we go and everyone has their own take on it. Les' Club was fairly standard but boasted a generous portion of roasted turkey breast along with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. A definite will order this again sandwich.

Les' Club and fries
EJ was happy with his breakfast from the kid's menu and hubby's only complaint was the large portion of corned beef hash was too large to finish. This diner is worth a visit.

Our visit to Boulder City was at an end. We headed back to Henderson for the remainder of our visit and more pre-Christmas fun that I'll share with you in part two of my post.

The Southwest Diner in Boulder City Nevada

Monday, 8 January 2018 Review

This post contains affiliate links.

2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year. I recently joined The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew where I will get to try out homeschool products and share my thoughts about them with you. I rely on reviews by other homeschool moms when I am considering new purchases so I'm happy to have this opportunity to make your decisions a little easier.

My first review is of the Yearly Membership for I had heard about this site in the past but didn't know a lot about it so I was happy to get the opportunity to give it a try.

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {}

A Yearly Subscription to provides you access to a variety of curriculums from preschool to high school that covers both basics and electives. These are delivered through online classes, downloadable lesson plans, printables, videos and audio seminars so it is easy to find the best option to match your child's style of learning.

Readers of my blog will know that I am careful about committing to online resources since we don't always have access to the Internet (living in a rural area where our only access is through mobile data, expensive, plus travel that includes camping does create challenges) so I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to download most of what you need to complete the lessons. We simply organize our days to take advantage of the video library when we are connected. All of the videos are gathered in the library so it's easy to find the titles you are looking for whether using them for a class or just watching for interest. I like the handy quick links at the bottom of the page that take you right to the subject area you are looking for. It was great for finding Christmas videos a few weeks ago!

The more I ventured into SchoolhouseTeachers, the more I discovered to love about this well laid out site. I easily found the fifth-grade curriculum I was looking for; clearly organized by subject.

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {}
Easy to navigate course catalogue can be searched by subject or grade

I don't know about you but in our house, we're always on the look-out for lessons and activities that will either work with what we are using now or (in cases where what we've been using hasn't been working well) something to replace it. One of these areas is language arts, particularly grammar and spelling. It can be tough to find lessons that keep a child with ADHD who is also dyslexic interested and moving forward.

EJ and I had a look through the courses on SchoolhouseTeachers and found a couple of titles we decided to try. The first, Daily Grammar, is a series of 180 daily lessons that cover the core grammar for a fifth-grade child. This series begins with daily lessons for second to fifth grades and changes to weekly lessons from sixth to ninth grades. They can be used as a whole year of grammar or, as in our case, used for practice and review. 

EJ practicing his copy work
The second language arts course we checked out is the Charlotte Mason Upper Elementary spelling. I like the copywork aspect of this spelling course as it helps EJ with his cursive writing while he is practicing his vocabulary and spelling. He is much happier practicing his handwriting when it is connected to one of the subjects he is working on, rather than doing it as a standalone. EJ likes the variety of copywork as well, it includes Scripture, classic literature and famous speeches so he never gets bored with them. (For families who prefer a secular curriculum, it is easy to change out the lessons that are based on Scripture.)

Schoolhouse Spelling includes curriculum for preschoolers all the way to 9th grade that include both Charlotte Mason style or Phonics based lessons. These can be used in order or adapted to suit your family's needs. I can see us using both throughout the year since the Phonics based lessons include ones specific to holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas plus has several weekly lessons that focus on spelling rules (always a good thing to know.)

While he was looking through the various titles, EJ found something called the Multiplication Workshop. The workshop is made up of many worksheets that focus on the concept of multiplication and learning the 1-12 times tables. He decided to complete the worksheet questions on his whiteboard and told me he loves it when he can have fun doing schoolwork! The step-by-step style of this workshop works well for him since he likes things to be organized and clear so he doesn't have to spend a lot of time figuring out the instructions before he can even get started.

Learning about the tides in the Bay of Fundy
We were having so much fun checking out the different options for math and LA that we hadn't even gotten to the young man's favorite topic; science. SchoolhouseTeachers has many options in this area so we decided to have a look at Daily Discoveries. This elective science study for elementary to middle school students is set out in monthly sections on Pond Life, Seashore, Forest Life, and Desert Life. Taking a look at the individual lessons, I can see there are activities that will be easier to complete outdoors when the weather is nicer but there is plenty to keep the boy busy and interested indoors as well.

Since we travel a lot, I am always on the look-out for lessons that lend themselves to being done in different locations and this science course certainly fits the bill. The section on desert life would be perfect for our visits to Tucson and the seashore great for our visits to the ocean. EJ is certain we have to visit Nova Scotia again so he can experience the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy! (I have and they are amazing!)

I love it when lessons get kids engaged and wanting to learn more and there are plenty in SchoolhouseTeachers that do this. 

EJ was excited to learn that our membership also includes to the World Book online encyclopedia. He spent quite a bit of time exploring one of his favorite topics, railroads and was happy to find articles, pictures, videos, and games all about them and other forms of transportation. (He was pretty pleased to find a picture of a freight train traveling through the Rocky Mountains since his papa is an engineer and runs them along those tracks all the time!)

Photo from World Book Kids Articles

The last area I'd like to touch on is the Preschool Playground. Although our youngest grandson is less than a year old, he loves listening to songs and being read to. The Preschool Playground has tons of resources for little ones. We explored the classic area and found nursery rhymes, songs, and classic stories. (MJ was quite fond of Humpty Dumpty and Old King Cole 😄) I am so looking forward to doing some of the fun activities with him as he gets a little older.

I think you can see from my review that we were very happy to have the opportunity to try out the Yearly Membership of I could never have imagined just how many resources we could find there or how easy and convenient this curriculum would be to use. They even provide free planners to help keep your homeschool lesson plans organized plus a scope and sequence tool that can help if you aren't sure what you should be teaching for a particular grade or area of study.

And all of this is on sale until January 31st making it even more affordable for your family. I've included a link at the bottom of this post where you can find more reviews from members of the crew. 

Homeschool Curriculum for Everybody - { Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Throwback Thursday: A Village of Christmas Past at the Clark County Museum

I have a tree just like this at home
We're heading home for Christmas now from our road trip to Las Vegas and Boulder City and starting to see snow on the mountain tops and on the sides of the road. This does NOT make me a happy camper. 

No, although I was born in Calgary, Alberta, in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this girl has never been a fan of snow, ice, or any of those sports you would play in them.

Snow at Zion National Park - Pretty as long as I'm in a nice warm car
Don't get me wrong, I love where we live and Iove celebrating Christmas where there is snow. The few times I have been in a warm climate on Christmas day have seemed odd (which is sort of weird for me since I'm pretty sure there was no snow around the stable at the first Christmas.)

Anyway, I love to see the snow from the inside of our snug livingroom and I don't even mind going out in it to visit friends and family. I just don't like being cold!

Almost every year hubby and I travel south for two or three weeks during his annual vacation and one of our favorite stops is Las Vegas. As our 10-year-old grandson says, "it's surprisingly Christmassy there."

We manage to take in the light display at the Speedway and the Conservatory at Bellagio plus many others but one of my personal favorites is our (almost) annual visit to the Clark County Museum in Henderson (the south end of Vegas.)

Santa greeting visitors outside the Goumond House - 1931
I love walking through their Heritage Street where there are homes from important periods in local history are decorated for the holidays in period style.

This year we attended the Heritage Holidays event where EJ enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies and was able to make a vintage style Christmas tree ornament to take home.

EJ wore his winter coat because he said he was getting used to the
Las Vegas heat so he was cold that night
The little motor court and canned-ham style trailer were decked out in fine style for the evening. I could just imagine hauling it along that stretch of Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman - now that would be some drive!

There was a line-up to get inside of the little travel trailer
I love seeing how the houses are set up each year. Hubby doesn't notice but I have photos from several years and can see the changes. 

This year, the family greeted us in the livingroom of the 1941 house
(wish we didn't have to look through glass at the displays)
The museum has quite a collection of vintage Christmas ornaments that they use on the various trees. They remind me of my gramma's tree from when I was little.

And then there are the tables all done up for the festivities.

Ready for punch or Tom and Jerry (spiked eggnog)
Tea and cookies anyone?
And finally, what Christmas celebration would be complete without music. I can see clearly in my mind's eye, family and friends gathered around this beautiful piano, singing Christmas carols and sharing the joy of the season!

If you're a fan of vintage homes and find yourself with a couple of hours free, take the short drive out to the museum, especially during the holidays. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Visit to the Magical Forest

This is my first attempt at a blog post for Wordless Wednesday so not sure how much I should say about these photos except that they were taken as we visited the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village in Las Vegas last week. Enjoy, we did!