Road Trip Wrap-Up in the Time of COVID-19

Our travels this summer might not yet be back to what they were in pre-COVID times, but we did actually go somewhere this year! Since we weren’t quite as busy as we have been on previous vacations, I’m just going to take a look at the whole trip instead of going day-by-day.

On Monday, we left for a short trip to Bowling Green, KY. Any visit to Bowling Green includes a meal from Zaxby’s. Fortunately, we have always done carryout, so that wasn’t even any different from our usual dinner.

On Tuesday morning, we drove into Nashville to visit Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and see the Nature Pop! Lego exhibition by Sean Kenney. Both the sculptures and the estate were breathtaking!

We also drove down to the Cumberland riverfront to get a look at the Nashville skyline.

We were going to get lunch at Hattie B’s, one of the locations in Nashville known for hot chicken, but the line was unbelievably long, so we went to Chaney’s Dairy Barn and had ice cream for lunch instead!

Our day ended with a beautiful double rainbow!

On Wednesday, Bunny and I went with her grandparents to tour Western Kentucky University, where she is planning on attending after she finishes at community college:

And on Thursday, we visited the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, where we saw not only an authorized replica of Marine One, but also an aircraft flown by every astronaut who walked on the moon!

We also had an early birthday celebration for Bunny that night:

We were up early on Friday morning to head home, but we did stop for donuts at the Donut Bank on the way:

It was a little challenging coming up with fun things to do outside in the summer heat, (I wanted to go to a Bowling Green Hot Rods game, but between the temperatures and the fact that I’m still a little hesitant to be in a big crowd, even outdoors, made me table that for the time being), but we found something to do every day, and it was so nice to get away for a bit!

2020-21 School Year–Week Thirty-Four

Hymn of the Week–“Go, My Children, with My Blessing” (Lutheran Service Book #922)

This is the final wrap-up for the 2020-21 school year!

On Sunday, we visited the Missouri Botanical Garden…not really a field trip, but we’ve gone so few places in the last 15 months, I thought it deserved a mention.

As for the school week, we just worked on finishing everything up. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug submitted their final final papers…I was very impressed with the wide range of topics they chose (Turkey looked at the character of Frank Burns from M*A*S*H and why he’s no longer a caricature and thus no longer funny, Bunny wrote about whether Benedict Arnold was a hero or villain, and Ladybug discussed major events of WWII). Moose finished up his year of distance learning…it certainly wasn’t an easy way to experience his first year of high school, but he did a great job! Turkey, Bunny Ladybug, and Chickadee all finished their final science chapters. Ladybug and Chickadee were also excited to take a look at the crystals they’ve been growing:

And then the day I’ve been dreading all year…Turkey’s and Bunny’s graduation day. I’m so proud of them, but I can’t believe I’m losing half of my students at once!

As always, we ended the year with a Lego set…this time, the Medieval Blacksmith. It’s a really cool set…I especially love the color scheme!

One last time…my students:

This year has been, at times, impossibly difficult, and I wasn’t always sure how we’d make it through. Now that it’s over, though, I find that I’m sad to see it go. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime situation, with all five children learning at home all year. While I hope never to live through a pandemic again, we definitely made a lot of memories, and there are things I will definitely miss.

To end the school year, I will leave you with some wise thoughts from Wade:

2020-21 School Year–Week Thirty-Three

Hymn of the Week–“Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise” (Lutheran Service Book #917)

The penultimate week of the 2020-21 school year (and the penultimate week of Turkey’s and Bunny’s high school careers!) is complete!

Turkey and Bunny really don’t have a ton of work left, but they did fly through the chapter on the urinary system in advanced biology. They also continued their poetry study, covering classics like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” “Sonnet 43,” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” We also discussed some of the complexities of the Vietnam War in our study of US Geography and Culture.

Ladybug continued to review in algebra to prepare for the final exam. She and Chickadee started our fun, end-of-the-year study of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in history. In science, she learned about rocks and minerals, and we started “growing” a new batch of crystals:

Chickadee also did review in math. We finished reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. She learned about grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids in science. In grammar, she learned about contractions (even though she discovered that she actually already knew them!).

Since we’ve had so few field trips in the last year-plus, I splurged on a private tour of Grant’s Farm, something we did years ago before Chickadee was born. It was a fun experience, and so nice to visit again after almost two years!

We also stopped by the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, White Haven. We’ve driven past it every time we’ve visited Grant’s Farm, but never actually went in. We weren’t up for the house tour yet, but we did enjoy walking around the grounds!

Next week is it, and I’m not sure that I’m ready prepared…I think it’s going to be a very emotional week!

They Grow Up So Fast!

Last week on the way out of church, we noticed a bird sitting on a nest in a tree, and we even saw a little wing peeking out from underneath her. Yesterday, we walked by the same nest, and were shocked at how much the two baby birds had grown in just a week…they hardly even fit in the nest anymore!

I’m also a little shocked at how fast my children have grown up…time certainly does fly!

2020-21 School Year–Week Thirty-One

Hymn of the Week–“Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven” (Lutheran Service Book #502)

Fun things first…on Wednesday, we actually left the house for a little field trip when we visited the St. Louis Zoo for the first time in almost two years! The weather was not supposed to cooperate, and while it did pour on us at one point, most of the time we were there it was actually quite pleasant out!

As for the rest of the week…Turkey and Bunny completed their final calculus lesson, where they put many of the concepts they’ve learned this year together to solve some real-world problems. We took another look at WWI in American culture and geography. In advanced biology, they continued to learn about the respiratory system…the slide of lung tissue they looked at under the microscope was really cool! They submitted the topics for their final term paper…I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to say!

Ladybug used what she learned about the Pythagorean Theorem to solve problems using the distance formula, as well as the midpoint formula, in algebra. She learned about magnets in science. In writing, she wrote a review of a book (that happened to be written by her big sister!). Since she’s finished with literature studies for the year, she’s reading a favorite book from my childhood, Henry Reed’s Journey.

Chickadee worked on subtracting while rounding in math. In science, she learned about different kinds of beetles, including scarab beetles and fireflies. We started reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. In history, she and Ladybug read about the Chernobyl disaster and the fall of the USSR.

Three more weeks to go!

2020-21 School Year–Week Thirty

Hymn of the Week–“Jesus Christ is Risen Today” (Lutheran Service Book #457)

We actually went somewhere and did something! On Sunday, we visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It’s a really cool exhibition, and we’re already looking forward to going back…it definitely fits in with our postponed-from-last-year Japan-themed summer school!

As for school…things are starting to wrap up. Turkey and Bunny finished the second-to-last chapter in their calculus text. They made it through the last chapter in their study of psychology. They’re still working on finishing up 1984. We started a chapter on the respiratory system in advanced biology.

Ladybug (and Moose, by coincidence), learned the Pythagorean Theorem in algebra. I think this is the first time all school year that their lessons actually lined up! She learned about electricity in science, and we got to make an electroscope that actually worked! She finished reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer…I gave her a few options of books she can read to finish out the school year since her official literature studies are done.

Chickadee worked on drawing lines of symmetry in math. She learned about antonyms in grammar. In science, she read about wasps and termites. We finished reading The Boxcar Children. She and Ladybug learned about conflicts between Iran and Iraq as well as between India and Pakistan in history.

I finally did the math, and now I know we only have four weeks of school left to go!

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!

Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:

We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:

On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:

On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!

We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!

After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:

We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:

And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:

It was a beautiful morning!

I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:

Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:

Our new church is beautiful!

After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!

I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:

We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:

And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:

For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:

No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

Christmas in the Time of COVID-19

Time for a look at this year’s scaled-back Christmas celebration. Some things were the same, like starting Christmas Eve with a bowl of Christmas Crunch:

Some things were different…but not necessarily because of COVID-19. I had a fun time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and helping Jingle deliver his gifts yesterday morning:

The Fab Five finished this year’s Advent project, Lego Diagon Alley:

And I played Animal Crossing some more:

Our Christmas Eve dinner was different this year…I ordered tamales from Portillo’s, and we had them before church.

I always take pictures before church. This year, I took two sets. One with the year’s hottest accessory:

And one without:

This year, we attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold, so we weren’t too sad it was short (although I missed all off the familiar Christmas hymns!). We did chuckle when a helicopter flew over during “Silent Night,” drowning out the singing!

We drove through the Way of Lights on the way home:

For Jesus’ birthday cake this year, I made a peppermint chocolate cake with two kinds of frosting (white chocolate peppermint buttercream inside, and an Italian buttercream outside). I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!

Of course there were new Christmas jammies:

We skipped playing Ticket to Ride on Christmas Eve, so I just had to fill the stockings and set up the nativity scene under the tree before bed:

We didn’t have to get up early, so we enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake a little later than usual (but not much):

And since we didn’t have a Christmas Day service to go to (probably the biggest disappointment of the holiday for me), we opened presents in the morning, which was very strange!

We had our traditional Christmas Eve “pick out dinner” for Christmas Day lunch…and dinner (we’re saving our fancy Christmas feast for Sunday…stay tuned!). Here’s a look at some of the things we had:

We spent the afternoon watching Christmas movies, including my very favorite, White Christmas. We played our annual Christmas Eve game of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries tonight. And since we were a day late, we also played the new Ticket to Ride game Ryan gave me, the 15th anniversary edition with clear trains, which I love! Everything is different this year…we might as well embrace it!

“Hail, O everlasting morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!'”

Merry Christmas!

2020-21 School Year–Christmas School

Hymn of the Week–“Where Shepherds Lately Knelt” (Lutheran Service Book #369)

It’s been a long time since we’ve dedicated a week to “Christmas School,” but if ever a year needed it, it’s 2020. So this week was spent making ornaments, baking cookies, reading Christmas stories, and watching different versions of The Nutcracker.

I was especially excited about the ornaments. I had originally planned for the children to make them two years ago, but that was the year I broke my ankle, and I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it. Last year I found ornament kits that I really wanted to make, so these beautiful sequin ornaments got pushed back one more year. We had lots of options for colors and sizes:

They were definitely worth the wait (and the seed beads that may be rolling around the kitchen forever!), because they are beautiful!

We also decorated gingerbread houses, something we have done in the past, but it’s been a few years, and I’ve never had a house for each child (the mansion was a group project).

Speaking of gingerbread houses, we did get out of the house to see the gingerbread creations in the store windows on Main Street. We might not have been able to do most of the Christmas activities I had planned this year, but it was nice to do one familiar thing!

This was also “Cookie Week.” I decided we should bake a different kind of cookie every day, and they should all be cookies we don’t usually bake. On Monday, we made eggnog blossoms, Tuesday was chocolate crinkles, Wednesday we baked kolacky, Thursday we made both Madelines and palmiers, and today we baked spritz.

We did a lot of reading this week, too. We finished A Christmas Carol, and made it through most of Letters from Father Christmas (I plan on finishing that next week). We also read a bunch of storybooks:

  • Lucia Morning in Sweden
  • Lucia: Saint of Light
  • The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Jackie’s Gift
  • The Carpenter’s Gift
  • Fear Not Joseph
  • Madeline’s Christmas
  • The 12 Days of Christmas
  • The Three Wise Women of Christmas
  • The Nativity

It was also “Nutcracker Week.” This is not totally unheard of for us, although this year we were supposed to see a live production. We watched a different version every day:

  • Monday: Ballet Company of The National Opera of Ukraine
  • Tuesday: Dutch National Ballet
  • Wednesday: Wiener Staatsballett
  • Thursday: The Royal Ballet
  • Friday: The Bolshoi Ballet

We saved our favorite, the San Francisco Ballet production, to watch tomorrow. If we have time next week, we’ll watch the Berlin Nutcracker, too…that’s the only one we have on disc that we didn’t schedule for this week.

This was a really fun week of school, but I’m looking forward to taking a break for a few weeks. Merry Christmas!

2020-21 School Year–Week Fourteen

Hymn of the Week–“Now Thank We All Our God” (Lutheran Service Book #895)

I always enjoy the week before Thanksgiving in school, because not only do we read all of our favorite Thanksgiving books, this is also usually the week we visit Cahokia Mounds, which we did on Wednesday. It was a beautiful, clear, chilly day, and we had most of the trail to ourselves, which made our masks pretty unnecessary. I’m extra thankful for the few traditions we can continue to do in this very strange year!

As for the rest of the week…Turkey and Bunny continued to work with derivatives in calculus…I guess that’s pretty much all they’ll be doing for the near future. They started reading A Tale of Two Cities…I think the themes of the book are going to very timely and appropriate. They read about Yankeedom and New Netherland in American Nations.

Ladybug multiplied binomials by trinomials in algebra. She finished the first section of Treasure Island. In science, she read about cohesion, adhesion, and surface tension. She and Chickadee learned about the Russo-Japanese War and the Treaty of Portsmouth in history.

Chickadee continued to practice division in math. She finished the chapter on birds’ nests in science. Instead of starting a new book right before Thanksgiving, we read some extra Thanksgiving stories together. She learned about conjunctions in grammar.

Next week will be a super short week of school because of Thanksgiving, so I’ll save my next wrap-up for two weeks from now…have a happy Thanksgiving!