Gearing Up for Civil War Days

This is how we study the Civil War. 🙂

Anna and I went and picked out dresses to borrow from the Wilder Pageant for our upcoming reenactment roles at Wasioja’s Civil War Days.  The dress I like best is apparently far too scandalous for the times since too much skin shows, so I may wear it for the ball (ladies were allowed to show more skin at night) or improvise something with a shawl and long gloves.  Or I might wear the more respectable dress.  We’ll see!

We’ve been to Pipestone’s Civil War days but this event is a new one for us.  Daryl will be playing old time music and the boys will be teaching children’s games like rolling hoops and the game of graces.  The girls and I are mostly “atmosphere girls” — our job is to make the scenes look that much more authentic.

That’s sort of what we did at Pipestone’s Civil War Days last summer.

(Speaking of which, I must go off on a tangent and rant for a moment!  See the fabulous hotel rooms we were in while we were in Pipestone?  That’s the historic Calumet Inn, which we fell in love with.  It’s got vintage furniture, sweeping staircases, period wallpaper, stories of hauntings and a blood red carpet throughout that just gives it so much character.  We found out today that the Calumet Inn is being featured on Gordon Ramsey’s hotels from hell show!  They’re filming this week and I will be horrified if they modernize that fantastic old place too much.  I’m very curious to see what the show looks like, since we absolutely love that place and the food is divine, which is quite rare in this part of Minnesota.  It’s possible that some of the other rooms were pretty dreadful.  We were in two rooms and one was certainly a lot more charming than the other.  Still, I hope they don’t change too much! Time will tell!)


We have two weeks to finish getting everything in order and get all the research we want done.  I’m going to find some good reading materials on the time to add to it, too.

It should be fun!

50 Things We Learned About in the Badlands

We’re back from a fabulous four days in the Badlands of South Dakota.

This was the first time the kids and I had ever been there, though Daryl was there years ago.

It was absolutely magical!  Not only is the landscape breathtaking, but it’s rife with educational opportunities and it’s all sorts of fun to climb and explore.

It will definitely be a regular vacation stop for us.

We all agreed that May seemed to be the perfect month to visit, too.  The weather was warm but not hot, the landscape was green and filled with the start of wildflowers, there weren’t many people yet, and hotel rates were cheaper since it was before Memorial Day.

Thank goodness we homeschool and can go on adventures all year, instead of waiting until school is out and the rates are highest.  🙂

badannabadboysThere were so many magical experiences…. watching thousands of prairie dogs running around and chirping at us, seeing our first burrowing owls (read “Hoot” to fall in love with these darling birds), having bighorn sheep crossing in front of us on the road, driving past grazing buffalo (no fences!) in the park, seeing spectacular views, climbing landscapes that felt like the surface of Mars…

bisonbadviewbadformbadpicbadhill badalex
badkidsAnd there were so many educational aspects too…. touring the Minuteman Missile museum (SD was once filled with missiles during the Cold War and you can still tour one site!), earning ranger badges at the parks, getting up close to animals we’d only seen in zoos like pronghorn antelopes that just lay in the grass as we drove by, learning how the Badlands were formed, seeing fossils preserved under glass at the site from animals that lived there millions of years ago, learning the Native American history of the area, stopping at educational sites along the way and so much more.

badeggbadsnakeHere are 50 fun subjects we learned about on our quick trip!

  1. burrowing owls
  2. prairie dogs
  3. bighorn sheep
  4. bull snakes
  5. The Cold War
  6. Minuteman missiles
  7. The Great Inland Sea
  8. black-footed ferrets
  9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  10. short, medium and tall grass prairies
  11. Wall Drug
  12. molting
  13. animal sounds (miss Fiona learned many!)
  14. new words (Fiona again — including vulture, buffalo and goat)
  15. Dr. Seuss and how his books were written to help children deal with fears of the Cold War and to diffuse politics
  16. Lewis and Clark
  17. long boats
  18. The Corn Palace
  19. pronghorn antelopes
  20. two-layered animal coats
  21. erosion
  22. soils, sand and dirt (components, how they’re made, etc.)
  23. fossils
  24. Native American names and how they’re given
  25. the meaning of Badlands
  26. outlaw history
  27. wagon trains
  28. The Wall Wildlife Museum
  29. baby prairie animals (Fiona)
  30. baby forest animals (Fiona)
  31. ghost towns (we explored one, Okaton)
  32. mesas
  33. buttes
  34. Pine Ridge Reservation
  35. vulture courtship
  36. Greek myths (on tape for the drive)
  37. baseball cards
  38. Lovecraft/Cthulhu (Victoria’s reading for the trip)
  39. Mt. Rushmore (we didn’t visit but we learned about it)
  40. vocabulary through Bananagrams at the hotel  🙂
  41. river bluffs and landscapes
  42. glaciers
  43. prehistoric animals
  44. magpies
  45. coyotes
  46. South Dakota geography and news
  47. distance (we drove across the Missouri River and found out it was exactly a mile even though it seemed small)
  48. paleontologists
  49. change, time and impermanence (Jack had a bit of an existential crisis at ten about how “someday this will all be gone” and we talked about how much it had changed and the vast amount of time it had all been there.)
  50. “Prairie Dogs Have Plague!”


It was a pretty magical trip!


Checking In

What a terrible blogger I’ve become!

I swear, there’s something about having five kids that is somehow ten times as busy-making as having four kids.  🙂  I love it, but my does it interfere with my productivity!

We’ve been busy bees around here…

  • The boys and I went to the Science and Nature Conference.
  • The whole lot of us went to a homeschool day at the petroglyphs, where we taught kids how to make their own atlatls and hunt the buffalo (the wind meant they had a rough go at it!).
  • We all went to a PBS screening of a show they produced about parks in our area, at a nearby historic theater.  It was fun seeing “our” parks featured and seeing them interviewing our friends from the park.
  • I’ve been busy planting my garden for the year.  In so far:  red and orange carrots, lots of lettuces, spinach, lots of kinds of peas, potatoes (which got overly wet and rotted so I have to replant), chard, turnips, dill, cilantro, nasturtiums, beets, lots of tomatoes (started indoors early), eggplants (ditto), basil, sunflowers, borage, and probably a few things I’ve forgotten!  And I’m not even a third of the way done….
  • We’re planning a trip to the Badlands next week.
  • Anna spent 5 days with family friends in Northern Minnesota.
  • Daryl and the girls have been doing a lot of birding.
  • Anna and Victoria have been doing lots of biking.
  • Victoria has been doing a lot of photography.
  • Daryl and the kids are in the Wilder Pageant again.  Toria is sitting out this year and Fiona will still be home with me, but the rest of them will be busy with rehearsals soon.
  • We’ve been enjoying the warm weather (at last!) with lots of time outside — playing in the sandbox, heading to the beach, climbing trees, riding Big Wheels, playing ball, going to the park, walking the dog, working in the yard, making mud pies, you name it.

I have a list of 100 things I want to learn/teach in our homeschool by the end of the summer.  We’re having fun working on it.  The kids helped make the list and I have no idea how many we’ll get done but it’s a fun goal.

We’ll be doing some Civil War reenacting next month and there’s all sorts of homeschool projects I want to get to and books I want to read with the kids.  My to-do list is several thousand items long, I think.  🙂

This year is so much better than last year at this time!  Some experiences really do keep you focusing on the big picture and counting your blessings.  I am so grateful to have last year that far behind us and Toria healthy and tentatively cancer-free.

I’m hoping it will be a pretty awesome summer.  I’ll do what I can to help make it happen!


Another Birthday Week Survived


We made it through another birthday week here.

Jack turned 10, Victoria turned 15, and Alex turned 6.

I made a lot of cakes and cupcakes.  🙂

Here’s a quick round-up of ten fun ways we played and learned during birthday week….

  1. Victoria chose books for birthday presents, and picked out an awesome assortment at Barnes and Noble (see pic above).  She also bought herself the Les Miserables soundtrack and we’ve been listening to a lot of French Revolutionary songs in the car.
  2. We’ve been doing a lot of bird watching. Daryl and the kids have spotted a white-faced ibis, an osprey, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, lots of song birds, vultures, many kinds of migrating ducks, returning pelicans and a fantastic battle between two hawks in the road this morning, along with a very determined crow dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk on a pole this afternoon.
  3. Victoria taught her younger siblings about Nihilism. Of course.  😉
  4. Anna has been writing poems and doing song rewrites. She has one about Corn and Snow (living in Minnesota) based on Carrie Underwood’s tornado song (I can’t remember the name now) and “I Knew You Were Homeschooled” instead of “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift.
  5. Jack graduated archery class and did an awesome job. We bought a family membership for the rest of the year so we can use the facility and the gear any time.
  6. Alex has been working on sight words. He knows about 30 now.  We have a goal of 50 by the end of the summer and I keep track in my journal.
  7. Anna has headed up to Bemidji for the week with family friends. She stays with Guy and Val once or twice a year.  They love getting to play parents and she loves getting to be an only child.  They also teach her about legal stuff (Val is a lawyer), computers and all of the many subjects they are so knowledgeable about.
  8. Victoria and Daryl went to a writers/actors/artists workshop. They learned about everything from collage to Taiko drumming to writing to charcoal and paint.  It was at a nearby college and Victoria made some cool new connections and they both had a great time.
  9. We have seedlings on all the windowsills and have started many gardens. We got a ton of snow on top of my freshly planted seeds, but they’re cold tolerant so hopefully they’ll fare okay.  Inside, I have heirloom tomatoes everywhere, along with some exotic eggplants and interesting cabbage.  I can’t wait for it to warm up enough to really get serious in the garden.
  10. Daryl, Anna and Jack auditioned for the Wilder Pageant. Victoria is sitting out this year (she has been in it every summer since she was 6), but Alex may join in as one of Daryl’s kids.  Daryl will probably be Reverend Alden and Elias Bedal (Walnut Grove’s first mayor) again.  We haven’t received official word about roles yet, but the cast photos are on Saturday so we’ll know this week.

We’ve also talked about… European travel, youth hostels, abortion, the Gosnell trial, townships, voting registration and more.  The kids have also been doing… finger knitting, Big Wheel riding, ball playing, tree climbing, drawing, Lego building, Wii playing, video chatting, hiking, bike riding, sticky ball tossing, solitaire playing, Free Rice earning, dog walking, cooking, chores, talking on the phone with friends, reading, reading, reading and a whole lot of playing.

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And now, I have one final cake to bake (Victoria would like a gluten-free Red Velvet Cake) so I’d better get to it.