Tag Archives: travel/trips

Weekend Experience

Ever had one of those weekends that you know has just renewed your desires and strengthened your resolve? This weekend was one of those for me.

We attended the 2015 Lads to Leaders convention with our church family this year. I had attended another convention of a different type several years ago but it was very different from this.

What we saw this weekend at L2L was inspiring. We want our kids involved and we want to see this available at a high level to all of the young folks in our congregation, not just our girls and not just elementary aged students.

2015 L2L collageWe fell in love with the love of God and encouragement we saw among the youth at the convention. We found great encouragement in the encouraging they did with each other – not just our youth to each other but from youth to youth that didn’t even know each other. When someone was on stage and waiting for the announcement of winners, they were high fiving, hugging, and telling each other what a great job they did. There is nothing that can replicate that. Yes, they cared about placement but not nearly as much as the new friends they had made. One of our girls spent time chatting and braiding hair with another of the participants while they waited to be called back to the main participation room. Another of our girls made a friend that she was sad she didn’t get a phone number for. We sat down on the floor in the middle of everything and sang songs of praise to our God with 30 people. We didn’t know their names, may not see them again until next year, if then, yet we are family and had a bond of connection that made praising God together a joyous experience. L said that was her favorite part of the whole weekend – sitting and singing with others, lifting our praises to God together.

Seeing kids that didn’t know each other shake hands and encourage, seeing the help given when someone was struggling, seeing the smiles on faces when a young lady was struggling to get through a speech without tears, the pats on the back, and the camaraderie – we need to have our kids involved in that as often as possible. They need to see that the world of Christ is so much bigger than their Bible class, their congregation, their sight. They need to see that there are others across this nation and world who are striving along the same path they are and want them to succeed. Christ is so much bigger than they know and every opportunity they have to see and learn that is one that needs to be embraced.

We met another homeschooling family who lives 30 or so miles from us. Our girls now have new friends close by and we are in the process of making plans to go visit their farm and get to know them better. We met them during the final night of ceremonies and we chatted until the kids were running out the doors without us parents. We also attended Sunday morning worship with the L2L participants. A worship service with 1,000 people! That is not an every day experience for us and I hope it was an encouragement to the girls. It was a tremendous service hearing the young men lead singing and lead our minds in thoughts regarding the theme of ONE. What a wonderful way to close out the weekend.

At Home Dad and I are going to be doing a lot with our girls. We will be doing it, digging in deep, and helping them learn a lot. I encourage you to research Lads to Leaders and participate. Bring your children to a deeper love of the Lord and stronger knowledge of who He is and how to serve Him. We can do nothing better than to prepare our children for a life of service to God and what better time to start than now.

At Home.

F is for … Finding New Mexico

F finding NM

There is an ongoing joke amongst New Mexicans. Well, it is not really even a joke. But it can be heard in any number of different ways. But they often go something like this:

New Mexico? Isn’t that south of the border?
You’re from New Mexico? Can I see your green card (or visa)? (Seriously! I was asked that growing up!)

New Mexico is an amazing state that is, in fact, part of the United States of America. Since 1912. You can find it between Texas and Arizona. It is an amazing state and I am proud of having grown up there. I am thankful that I can travel home (my parents still live there) several times a year. It is always beautiful. It is always peaceful. It is always relaxing. There is just something different about New Mexico. It is enchanting. Thus it’s nickname: Land of Enchantment.

vacation 2013

When you are looking around, you will see amazing vistas. Mountains, plains, lakes, rivers, trees, grass, mesas, plateaus. It is all there. One of my favorite views is sitting on the porch at my parents house, a glass of iced tea in hand, no bugs bothering me, staring out at the mountains in the distance. Peaceful. Another favorite: driving across the plains but surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. It is just so beautiful.

I could talk forever about why I love New Mexico. But, you might quit reading. I’d rather you keep reading and find something interesting to do to help you find some of the enchantment that New Mexico holds.

Tradition is huge in New Mexico, especially this time of year. Last year we shared with you all some of our traditions, including luminarias and bizcochitos. Other traditions that you could study include any of the puebloan Indian tribes and their dances. Las Posadas is a tradition among many of the Spanish speaking people worth a study. It is fun and interesting. We read “The Night of Las Posadas” by Tomie dePaola every year and enjoy it each time.


There are tons of amazing foods from New Mexico. Christmas enchiladas make my mouth water just thinking about them. They aren’t really anything fancy but we call them Christmas enchiladas when we would like to have enchiladas served with both red AND green chili sauce. YUM! Anything made with chilis is good, if you ask me. I shared a recipe with you for Green Chili Goat Cheese Burritos. It isn’t a traditional recipe but it is one that is very New Mexican. Bizcochitos are a cookie that is traditionally made a Christmas time but, really, is good any day of the year.  (You can find a picture of us making these cookies in the post E is for Enchantment.)

We took the girls on a New Mexico vacation last year where we did some learning. We visited Carlsbad Caverns. We went to White Sands. We saw The Last Escape of Billy the Kid and walked through Lincoln. We studied the desert, its animals, and its plants. I shared a post with you about the vacation books that I made for the girls. It included lots of links and information so you can make your own or use the links to learn more about New Mexico.


Little footprints in White Sands


Other posts I have shared about New Mexico:

Vacation 2013 – New Mexico Desert – A synopsis of our vacation time in New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns – A beautiful place to visit with unique opportunities. From the amazing underground cavern to the mass exodus of bats at sunset, this is a stop that is worth making.

Smokey Bear – This is a must-stop place in my opinion. Of course, I grew up with Smokey so he is very closely associated with New Mexico for me.

E is for Enchantment – This is a book about New Mexico and I shared some ideas about things to do with the book. It has some little known information about New Mexico. It is not your typical ABC Book.


I hope you have found something fun and new to study about New Mexico. Thanks for stopping by as part of Learning through the 50 States, a link up hosted by AdenaF.com

 photo af476399-be9e-4d50-a2d2-1a3a7c3fe9dc.jpg

At Home.

Ticket To Ride: Texas State Railroad

Train TicketA few weeks ago, we heard that the Texas State Railroad ran an education special during the month of September. The girls had never ridden on a big train before so we decided it would be a fun day trip.

Train getting onAfter securing tickets, we headed that way on the morning of the ride. Our planned 3 hours for a trip that should have taken about 2 was a very good thing! It took us every bit of 3 hours to make the drive. They were waiting the train on us! (We technically had a couple of minutes to spare but since we were the last ones…they were waiting on us!)







Train girls


We rode in the open car. This meant that there was no glass in the windows. The breeze went through so nicely and the day wasn’t too hot. It had wooden bench seats and the back rest flipped so that you could be facing forward with whichever way the train went.




Train platform

We rode along and the girls took a trip to the back platform to look off the back end of the train and watch the rails go by. We sat back, talked about how blessed we are to be able to travel the way we do now and talked about various characters from books that we remembered that traveled by train. We wondered whether their experiences were very much like ours. We wondered who might have sat where we were sitting and what their lives would have been like. One of the girls observed that it wasn’t as fancy a car as others we had walked through so maybe this was for the poorer folks or slaves.




The folks with the railroad did a wonderful job of talking to the girls about the history of the train and railroading. And, after we had been going for about 30 or 40 minutes, we came to the turntable.

Train turntable use

This was a train turntable. It was designed to help turn trains around without a huge rail yard to do it in and is from the 1890s. They talked to the students about how it worked (compressed air, just like the engine), what it accomplished (turning the engine around so that it can continue to run forward), and the history of this particular turntable (moved from Paris, Texas). They talked the students through the process as they watched the engineers do through it. The train crew has to balance the engine on the turntable exactly right. It was really quite interesting and fun to see just how precise they had to be and how effective engineering was so many years ago.

Train engine

After the engine was turned around, it rehooked at the other end of the train and we made the return trip to the depot. On the return trip, the engine was hooked up to the open air car so when the whistle blew, it was LOUD! This time, the platform was looking down on the hinge where the engine was hooked so when the girls went up to look at it, they were looking at something completely different.

Train whistle

A very neat thing that the Texas State Railroad did for us was to give us a number of different lessons that we could use related to trains and safety. They handed us so much information, all printed out and ready to go. It was wonderful! And we used all of their lessons. I’ll be doing another post about those resources because they are worth knowing about.

Train picnic



After the train ride, we got our picnic lunch and sat down to eat. We enjoyed the nice breezes blowing off of the lake at the state park. After we were finished eating, the girls enjoyed exploring the edges of the lake a bit and feeding bits of bread to the minnows they saw.





This was such a fun trip. I cannot say enough about how much fun it was. I hope we are able to do it again another time. We are looking at whether we can manage to go for their Polar Express trains around Christmas time. Another train ride would be lots of fun and give us lots to talk about.

At Home.

T is for…Talking about Mammoths

T Talking About Mammoths

What do you know about mammoths? Recently, we visited the Waco Mammoth Site to talk about mammoths. The Waco Mammoth Site is an important paleontological site because it is the first and only site to have fossils of a nursery herd.

What is a nursery herd, you ask? If you have ever seen elephants defend the young, you will recall that the females adults of the herd tend to circle around the young elephants to protect them. When the dig began at the Waco site, they found a circle of adult female mammoths surrounding a group of young mammoths. The first ever nursery herd discovered.

T girls and Quincy T thigh bones

The mammoths at the Waco Mammoth Site are Columbian mammoths. They are much larger than the wooly mammoth, which is what we often think of when discussing mammoths. The Columbian mammoth bull that is being excavated, fondly known as Quincy, is estimated to be over 14 feet tall and weigh more than 20,000 pounds. The tooth of a Columbian mammoth is as big as shoe box for an adult’s shoe. The Columbian mammoth is believed to have six sets of teeth which get progressively bigger as the mammoth aged. The set of teeth in the mammoth’s mouth when it died is one of the ways that scientists can help guess the age of the animal. The Columbian mammoth’s tusks are a type of tooth, could grow up to 16 feet in length, and weigh up to 200 pounds each.

T pathway

The Waco Mammoth Site dates to the Ice Age. We don’t know exact dates for that since we believe what the Bible says about creation. This provides some difficulty when discussing the actual dates with the girls, especially when trying to be tactful during a tour. So, the exact date is unknown as far as we are concerned. We did, however, learn a lot about the Ice Age in Texas. Guess what? Many scientists actually believe we are in an Ice Age now! When you think about the Ice Age, you probably think of the same kinds of things that I do: glaciers, snow fall, packed snow, lots of wooly animals, etc.
T picture outside visitor center




Well, the Ice Age in Texas looked nothing like that! It looked much like it does today, without all the trees. (I know – you guys from true T T picture outside visitor centerpicture outside visitor centerforested lands – quit T picture outside visitor centerlaughing!) Really, though, Texas was believed to be a savannah and, during the Ice Age, to have high temperatures that were somewhere around 80-90 degrees. That makes these hundred degree temperatures seem even hotter if 90 was an Ice Age! This area that was a savannah was home to rabbits, white-tailed deer, birds, and more of what we see around here today. With a couple of big exceptions. And I do mean big! Giant sloths, which stood 20 feet tall when on their hind legs, lived in this area. Saber-toothed cats (we found out they don’t call them tigers anymore since they have determined they are not related to tigers in any way) lived and hunted here. And, of course, the Columbian mammoth lived here.

The dig site is terribly interesting and we were blessed to have Dava be our guide. She is the education coordinator for the Waco Mammoth Site so the girls got a wonderful, educational tour with lots of information. She asked plenty of thinking questions that the girls were anxious to answer and she allowed them to ask any questions they had. She encouraged them to continue to study and learn, which I always appreciate.

T QuincyA visit to the site will show you all that they are uncovering, though they are not digging currently. There is not a lab on site and the bones are extremely fragile and cannot be moved, even down the road to Baylor University, without extreme damage occurring. So, when you visit the dig shelter, you see all that they have uncovered to date. Dava talked to us about the animals that are currently exposed, including a couple of female mammoths, a bull mammoth, a juvenile mammoth, leg bones from yet another mammoth, a camel (yep you read that right – they believe that camels traveled with the matriarchal herds for protection), the tooth of a saber-tooth kitten, and a couple of bones from an unknown animal. These are in additional to the 20 or so other animals that have been excavated. It truly is an interesting site.

T fossils T female mammoth T camelT saber-tooth kitten tooth

Discovered in 1978, this site has been full of information for the scientific community. After a fund-raising campaign and building period, the site was turned into a municipal park and opened to the public in 2009. It is a wonderful experience and I highly recommend this field trip if you are in the Waco, TX, area or will be traveling through sometime.

T field journal

Join us later this week for part 2 of T is for…Talking about Mammoths. (Here is the link to Part 2.) I’ll share with you some of the worksheets and activities the girls have done with a mammoth theme, many of which are found on the Waco Mammoth Site’s web page under the education tab. At Home.


Linking up with Benandme.com for ABC Blogging.

Ben and Me

S is for…Searching for Sauropods

S Searching for Sauropods

Ever go searching for a sauropod? We hadn’t either and felt that it was about time to do so. In order to accomplish this, we took a day trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park. It is about an hour and a half drive away. I can’t believe we hadn’t gone before. It was so much fun and I think we all learned a lot.

S dinosaur tracks from Dinosaur Valley

S tripod track


At Dinosaur Valley, we found trackways and prints from theropods (three toed dinosaurs, thought to be carnivorous) and sauropods (very large, plant eating dinosaurs). It is believed that the theropods were probably Acrocanthosaurus, a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. This dinosaur probably ran on two legs and was 20 to 30 feet long. The tracks from Acrocanthosaurus ranged rom 12 to 24 inches long and 9 to 17 inches wide. J’s whole foot fits down inside of these tracks. These tracks were first found in 1909, a year after the river flooded, probably exposing these tracks.




S dino tracksThe sauropod tracks are probably from a dinosaur species, Paluxysaurus jonesi, that was named in 2007, after a find in Hood County in 1996. Hood County is upriver from Dinosaur Valley and they believe that the sauropod tracks were made by the Paluxysaurus jonesi because the bones seem to fit the tracks. This dinosaur is believe to have been about 20 tons, standing 60 to 70 feet long and 6 feet wide at the shoulder. It had a 26 foot long neck! This species was named the official dinosaur of Texas in 2009. These tracks were so large that sometimes you wondered if you were looking at a track or just a large hole.



S checking out the ledge

S track


We climbed up and down the river bed, searching for tracks. We found out that the river was fairly low and a number of tracks were exposed that might not have been at other times. It was hot but what would you expect at the beginning of September in central Texas? In the shade and down by the river, it wasn’t too bad. We learned about the history of this site – from the native tribes that used this area to the current use as a state park and historical site.


S prints in water


We got there around 10:30 and paid the entrance fee (only $7 per adult, no charge for the girls). We hiked for about an hour, studying various tracks in the river bed. Then we sat under the shade and ate a picnic lunch, which you should definitely take with you since the park is a couple of miles from town. After lunch and a lot of water, we hiked for about 2 more hours, seeing a lot of tracks and having fun.



S studying the riverWe found ourselves in the riverbed, the girls jumping from rock to rock, playing with the minnows and exclaiming every time a they saw another dinosaur print. When we were ready to go, we had to work to find the trail and then it ended up going up and heading back the way we came. So, we decided to be adventurous and go rock climbing. We found a ledge that wasn’t too far from the top and just took turns scrambling up it and helping the girls up. It was fun to hear them exclaim their surprise when they stood at the top and looked straight down the side of the canyon we had just come up.

S scrambling up


I definitely recommend a trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. I would like to go back when it is a bit cooler and spend more time on some of the longer trails, maybe taking the binoculars with me so I can search for some of the birds that have been spotted there. It was fun going searching for sauropods and theropods. At Home.


Linking up with ABC Blogging at Benandme.com.

Ben and Me


O is for “Only You”

  O is for Only You“Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”

O Smokey face

I’ll bet you have heard that before. And, I know, it is now “Only you can prevent wildfires” but this is how I learned it when I was little. It is a welcome, homecoming type of message for me. I grew up in Smokey Bear country and anything Smokey Bear makes me smile. I remember doing Smokey Bear coloring contests in elementary and marching the Smokey Bear Stampede parade during junior high and high school. We would visit the museum and play at the park. Now, we visit every few years to take the girls and keep them connected to that part of my childhood. You see, my dad use to work for the Forest Service and one of my favorite pictures is him dressed as Smokey holding me.

It is only natural that we do something related to Smokey Bear and fire safety every year. We haven’t done anything recently but this year (actually this Friday) is Smokey’s 70th birthday. Smokey was created as a cartoon to help promote fire safety in the forests. A few years later, a small black bear cub was burned during a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains of NM. After he was rescued and healed, he was adopted as a live symbol for forest fire safety and flown to Washington, D.C., where he lived in the National Zoo.

In honor of Smokey’s 70th birthday, I am sharing a few fun activities that you can do to help promote forest fire (and wildfire) safety.

O Smokey song


“With a ranger’s hat and shovel and a pair of dungarees, you can find him in the forest always sniffing at the breeze…”

A fun, cheerful song that we sing often here at our house, it is actually pretty easy to learn. If you search on YouTube, you will find a bundle of options for learning the song. Some of my favorite options for learning the song include:



The story of Smokey Bear is, of course, very familiar to me. In order for it to be something the girls know as well, we have copies of the comic book story titled “The True Story of Smokey Bear”. It stays on our non-fiction shelf and the girls pull it out every once in a while. You can download a copy of it from the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Our library has an easy children’s book available titled The Smokey Bear Story, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I haven’t actually seen this one but we will check it out to see what it is like. Perhaps your library has one as well.

O promotional slogans

Educational Materials:

  • Smokey Bear has his own educational website. You can find it at http://www.smokeybear.com/. You will find all sorts of downloadable educational information and links to additional resources. There are two levels of materials for students: K-2 and 6-8. The materials are pretty adaptable, though, especially when paired with some of the other links. On SmokeyBear.com you will also find copies of all of the promotional materials from 1944 to present day. There are lots of neat things to look at there.
  • The West Virginia Division of Forestry has a lot of different links for activities, as well. This is the place where I had found the song and comic book easiest to access. (See the links above for those.)
  • The Special Collections of the USDA has a page with some images of Smokey, his campaigns, and real-life photos. These are interesting to see the different progressions of the promotions and to help reinforce with students that this was a real animal affected by a forest fire.
  • There are a number of links on the site for Smokey Bear Historical Park, including a link to the plaque on his grave site, Frequently Asked Questions, and fun pages (including one that has a pumpkin stencil).
  • My dad got each of the girls a series of 15 posters (8×10) that depict a number of the different creatures and plants that you can come across in the forest. They are terribly interesting and we will be using them a lot this coming year. They are Forest Service materials and it says on them that they are from Your State Foresters. Perhaps a visit to your local Forest Service may garner you some?

O posters

Planning a Visit:

There is a museum, a nature park, and a gift shop (which is the original museum building) at Smokey Bear Historical Park, in Capitan, NM. It is an interesting place to visit and will take you an hour or two to go through.

O Smokey Bear Historical Park

These pictures are from our 2007 visit to the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, NM.


O Smokey in truck

Smokey Bear in a parade in Capitan, NM. 2007

Smokey Bear Days occurs every year the first Friday and Saturday of May. So, it is a bit late to make a trip for this year but if you are planning for the future, this could be a good time to go.

The New Mexico Legends page (part of the Legends of America page) is another resource for some information on the Smokey Bear Historical Park.


Sign Smokey’s Birthday Card:

Head over to Facebook and sign the birthday card for Smokey. Join others in wishing him a happy birthday. And stick with them, who knows what else you may find out or learn by following Smokey on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy learning about Smokey as I enjoy telling about him. At Home.


Linking up with ABC Blogging at Ben and Me.

Ben and Me






Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad vacation 2013 Ever been? If not, you should. It is an other-world type of experience. It is like no other. I have been in a few other caves before and this one is definitely the best. (I say that knowing I have never been truly spelunking before, though I did get to go through the New Cave at Carlsbad when I was a teen and it was a whole lot more difficult than the cavern.)

Start out by going the night before you plan to hike the cavern. Go visit the bats. It is free, but even if it weren’t, your ticket for the cavern is good for 3 days. There will be a ranger who will talk a bit about the bats and answer questions until the bats begin to come out. When they begin to move, the ranger turns off his microphone and everyone sits still and just watches and listens. The giggly girls, who are almost never still, sat still and quiet with grins on their faces. The night we were there it was a good exit. Some nights are better than others. We watched until there were almost no bats coming out. By then, most of the rest of the folks had gotten up and started moving around so the girls were a bit more restless.

We viewed the entrance to the cave and talked about going down the next morning. We chatted with a ranger a bit. And then – as we were turning to walk back – there was the tarantula. Big and hairy just walking down the path. The girls were mesmerized. Especially J. At 4, she loves bug and spiders and grasshoppers and all that. She kept wanting to get really close. Luckily, she didn’t learn about how painful the little hairs are that they release if you touch them or how much their bite hurts if you try to pick them up. She did have lots of questions, though. We may just have to do a study on spiders. (shivers are going up my spine but it is these teachable moments, right?)


big horn sheep – if you look close, you can see some coming down the hillside

The next day, we went back mid-morning to hike the cave. One of our perks heading out there that morning was to get to see a herd of big horn sheep coming down a hillside and grazing in a meadow. I had never seen that many together before and the girls had never seen them before. I love moments like that which cannot be planned or dreamed of. The wonder in their voices was sweet to hear.

The girls picked up junior ranger packets to fill out as they went along and we started off. The first part was lots of fun because they had seen it the night before. The enjoyed that part. When we got to the really steep part, J was already tired and it was hard to hike down the wet, steep path holding her in the semi-darkness. Every once in a while, she would pick up her head and see something and really enjoy it. L seemed to have the most fun and enjoy the formations the most. She was very alert, very Carlsbad vacation 2013observant. She held her own and enjoyed the time. E didn’t enjoy the hiking very much. I think she would have been happier had we ridden the elevator down to the big room and just seen that. All in all, I am glad we hiked it and saw all that we did. The girls did a good job, considering they hiked about 2 1/2 miles on rough terrain. To describe the cavern is just impossible. It is like nothing you can see at the surface. It is awe inspiring and majestic and beautiful. Our Lord made some pretty amazing things that you have to hike down a long way to see. Some of the highlights would be the Rock of Ages, Mirror Lake, and Fairyland. Of course, maybe that is just because that is what I can remember the names of. The whale’s mouth was pretty cool, too.

Junior Ranger badge from Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Junior Ranger badge from Carlsbad Caverns National Park

After we got done, we took the elevator back up to the surface and found some lunch there. While we ate, the girls finished their packets and we took them to the desk on our way out. The ranger checked them over to make sure they had completed the necessary activities. She filled out the certificate and gave the girls their patches. We grabbed some books for additional souvenirs and headed out. I found “Caves” and “Zipping Zapping Zooming Bats” for the girls and the biography of Jim White for Joe and I. (Jim White is the man who discovered and promoted Carlsbad Cavern.) This first field trip was successful, in my opinion. The girls learned quite a bit about caves and bats and the desert, I think, and got to see the deep down dark of a cavern. Their vacation books were beginning to fill up with observations and information. That makes me smile and I am enjoying looking at what they drew and wrote now that we are back. At Home.

%d bloggers like this: