Chicka Chicka 123 and Apple Week

We took a break from Five in a Row this week to do some activities with apples, Johnny Appleseed, and work on our Ivy Kids box which featured Chicka Chicka 123 by Bill Martin.  Each month the box includes activities and all materials needed to complete a short unit study on a picture book.  We’ve been getting subscription boxes from Ivy Kids for about six month and I’ve really liked them.   It’s so nice to have everything planned and prepared when you’re in a pinch.


We played an apple picking game where I threw pompom apples all over the floor and they raced to pick them up with tweezers and counted what we picked by 1’s and 5’s.



We studied the life cycle of an apple tree, read a lot about Johnny Appleseed, and examined the parts of an apple


We had a tasting party.  The BX doesn’t offer too many choices, but we sampled what we could.  Benny’s favorite was the Granny Smith – Clara’s the red delicious.  20170926-DSC0183020170926-DSC0183220170926-DSC01831

After tasting different varieties, we used the apple chunks to build structures.


Benny made a digger truck

We made a Chicka Chicka apple tree.  I loved how Benjamin thought to put 100 at the top of his tree – just like in the story.


We painted apples.  Benjamin is starting to be a little more careful with his designs.  Clara is still loves using all colors at once! Ben loved to try his hand at color mixing when his apple was finished.


We tried matching and filling in missing letters with stickers.


In our nature study we observed how the force of wind is able to move things.  We created our own wind with the fan and blowdryer.  Who knew this could be so amusing?  We predicted which objects could and could not be moved by the wind.


I made a pendulum and the kids built towers to knock down with a  wrecking ball.


This was Benjamin’s creation with his Keva blocks.  He was so proud of it and spent hours working on it.  He said the tunnel was the Autostrada.


We also joined the base homeschool group for a field trip on base.  They visited the base weather tower. They explained some of the tools they use to predict the weather and let them go up the lookout tower.  Much of it was a bit too advanced for them, but the loved the tower and looking at the computer monitors.




The Yellow Ball

We read The Yellow Ball by Molly Bang for Five in a Row this week.  There are many similarities to My Blue Boat, but the journey belongs to a child’s yellow ball that gets lost at sea for a time.


Monday is our laundry day, so we usually try to take some stories and read while the clothes are washing.  After we read the story, the kids had fun swatting yellow balloons around with a (clean) fly swatter.


We found the oceans, learned a song about them by Dr. Jean and spent a lot of time comparing The Yellow Ball to My Blue Boat.  The past two weeks we have read many stories about the sea, dolphins, and whales.  We made list of things we might spot at the beach.


In The Yellow Ball, the ball is shown from many different perspectives — under, above, far away, up close, behind.  We played a game practicing positional words with a  ball and cup.  They had a hard time with this.  It is no wonder that they can’t find things when I tell them where they are.


We recreated the cover  of the book with watercolor and cotton balls.  It didn’t work very well because the paper got too soggy, but they enjoyed squirting from the pipettes anyway.


We locked ourselves in the playroom and bounced many bouncy balls at one time.  Benjamin LOVED this! It was a little scary, but we somehow escaped without any injuries.


We played many ball games.  Unfortunately I had ordered a yellow beach ball, but it didn’t arrive in time —  one of the joys of living over seas (sigh).  We substituted with Benny’s basketball.  We practiced catching, kicking, and passing, tossing, and throwing.


We had fun with a yellow splat.  Benjamin’s exploded fairly quickly and I believe Clara’s splat it still stuck to the ceiling somewhere.


In the story, the yellow ball weathers a storm and arrives safely on shore when the storm calms.  We related this to Luke 8:22-25 and discussed having faith and how Jesus also went through a storm, calmed the winds, and arrived safely on the other side.

We read a lot about thunderstorms this week and tried some experiments.  This one was somewhat of a fail, but they loved it anyway.  I’ll try it again someday with more blue in the  ice.  It is supposed to show how a thunderstorm is created.  We were watching to see what happens when a cold air front runs into a warm air front. The cold air forces the warm air up causing unstable air, thus creating a thunderstorm.


When the ice began to melt, you could see the red water rise and the blue sink to the bottom.


We tried to create the sound of thunder from WeatherWiz Kids .They explain it like this:  hitting the bag causes the air to compress so quickly that the air rushes out and pushes the outside air away.  The air continues to move forward in a wave. When the moving air reaches your  ear, you hear the sound.  When lighting strikes, the air is heated so quickly and expands producing waves of air resulting in thunder.


For teatime this week, we had yellow ball sea theme.  We sipped yellow lemonade, ate lemon Oreos, and made a jello sea complete with swimming fish.  After teatime, we ventured outside to put those water balloons to good use.


Neither one of them liked the jello and went fishing for Swedish fish instead, so I cooked up the rest of the boxes and turned into a sensory bin.  I think they would have loved this, but it wasn’t a very hot day (despite the boy in underpants) and the jello was cold.  Next time I’ll bring it to room temperature.


It was a fun week!  Apple week is next!

Fall Fun

It was far too beautiful a day to stay inside and do school so we went to Lago di Barcis for a picnic and a nature study.  We tried to find a place to eat, but this guy wouldn’t leave us alone.  He followed us everywhere!  He would stand there looking around for us and then he’d come flying on over.


We couldn’t find safe place to eat, so we picnicked in the trunk.  They probably enjoyed this more!IMG_7842IMG_7844

Even after we finished eating and started our hike around the lake, he continued to swim along side us for half of the length of the lake. In the end, we grew quite affectionate toward him until he glided upon some fellow ducks and decided they were better company.


We stopped to throw rocks in the water.

Love his backwards shorts!


Benjamin is looking so grown up.  This is the “cool bridge”.


We hiked around the entire lake.  It turned out to be a much longer walk than I had anticipated. I don’t know why I thought it would be a quick walk…this is the only bridge and it’s on the very edge of the lake!

We found the coolest mushrooms I’ve ever seen.  We loved studying them.


This was our favorite!


The view of Barcis from the other side of the lake.

These two were so cuddly today 


The base had an event for Fire Prevention week.  They offered grilled burgers and lots of fun for the kids.  It made for a great day!

We got to watch them put out a fire in a burning car.


They had an obstacle course for the kids. Her favorite part of the day was spraying the fire hose on the burning fire.  It was really cute.

The cutest firemen ever!


You can see Clara spraying the hose on the left

We got to check out the fire engines. Ben is still obsessed with big trucks.  They also had a smoking trailer for the kids.  It was smoky inside and they had to find their way to the balcony and climb the ladder down.  I guess I failed to get pictures.   We had to drag Benjamin out of there.


We also made it to our first Boy Scout activity this weekend.  It was the Fall Boy Scout campout.  It was a great little campsite at a large park just about 30 minutes from our home.  The boys went crazy on the playground and thoroughly investigated the forest.

They had a three-legged race to find rocks…

This was hilarious to watch!


Walked a tight rope…


And learned to start fires…  He had SO much fun with all of those boys.  And the great thing is that most of them are also involved with the homeschool group, so he will be able to get to know them pretty well.  IMG_7905IMG_7904

The best part was that I got to  home alone and Derek, Benjamin, and Clara stayed up in the tent overnight.  It was quite glorious to have the evening to myself though I didn’t sleep anyway because I was worried about the kids being too cold. Oh well…suppose I’m quite used to being “nocturnal” as Benjamin would say.

Clara flipped over the sleeping bag and tent!

My Blue Boat

This week we rowed My Blue Boat by Chris L. Demarest.  A child’s imagination takes his sailboat on an adventure from his bathtub to sailing through channels, past sleepy villages, into busy harbors, dancing with whales, steering through storms and much more.


We read Psalms 107 and brainstormed our own list of the Lord’s wondrous works.   We couldn’t quite get off of the sea theme, but that’s ok as there is plenty of wonder in the sea alone.

Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on mighty waters.  They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.  Palms 107:23-24                                                               

I loved Clara’s picture of “Jesus on the cross”

We observed how the illustrator showed movement in the picture and found similarities in Van Gogh paintings.  Benny said that it looked like the “eye of the storm” which happens to be the title of his favorite song at the moment and was quite fitting since several major hurricanes were brewing at the time.

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We danced like whales, played tag like dolphins and watched Raffi’s Baby Beluga.  We were all singing that song for weeks! We made our own blue boats and had our own bath time adventure.    IMG_7322 3IMG_7321 2IMG_7325 2

We ate sailboats for lunch.

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We read a story called Boats Float. It’s about all different kinds of boats used around the world; one of which was a sea plane as it becomes a boat when it lands on water.  After reading this Benny immediately ran off to construct his own sea plane.  Pretty darn good I thought.



We rowed our own boat out to sea, passing harbors and fishing fleets.  (Don’t mind the junky table in the background.  It’s mostly toys to donate, but donating is impossible in Italy…so there it sits).


Clara liked this for a bit.  Benny wanted like it, but I could see the wheels in his mind turning.  He finally jumped out of the boat and got busy building a bridge over the sea.  This kept them busy for quiet a long time.


I love how he added his Lego boats


We enjoyed making origami boats.


One day I could see Clara eyeing my bed and said:  “this looks like a great sea” and it certainly was! We spent at least two hours pretending to be whales, dolphins, and sharks; we waited to be rescued by Benny’s seaplane, searched for the beacon, and before I knew it I was getting lost in giant swells.


We sailed little blue ice boats outside in the sea.  Benny built a dock for the boats.


I was inspired by Julie Bogart, creator of Bravewriter, to introduce Poetry Teatime into our homeschool week.  I absolutely love the idea and hope to stay consistent with it.  The idea is that you set aside a special time each week to eat a snack, sip tea, and simply read poetry.


For our first teatime, we munched on little cakes and savored fruit punch.  Shel Silverstein has been their favorite thus far.  20170908-DSC0177320170908-DSC01775

In other events, Benny learned how to make egg-toast.  I had ordered some books from and they sent the wrong order.  One of the books they happened to send was a Betty Crocker children’s cookbook from the 50’s.  They told me to keep the books and they would send the correct order.  Benny flipped over the egg toast and was so proud to make it for himself.





We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

This year we are starting a program called Before Five in a Row.  It is literature based and has you “row” or read the story five days in a row completing an activity for a different subject each day.   I purchased this program a few years ago and am so excited to finally get started with it.  I chose “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”  by Michael Rosen for our first row.

We made maps and binoculars so that we would be ready for our own bear hunt.

Photo Aug 16, 3 50 53 PM Clara’s Koala Crate this month had a camping theme so we built a tent for camping, a campfire, and made a delicious “smores” snack to eat around the campfire before we reenacted the story throughout the house. I had also made a cave for the bear, but forgot to get a picture.  We must have gone on at least 20  bear hunts this day.

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We had fun reading the story while hanging out in our tent.

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We did some yoga through Cosmic Kids on YouTube where she narrates the storyline and takes them through a yoga routine.  They had a lot of fun with this and did it several times throughout the week.  We also watched the author’s read aloud of the story on YouTube.  They love this so much and still ask to watch it on occasion.


We took a hike through the woods to gather everything we’d need for a Lego bear hunt. Benny was in charge of scooping up dirt to make thick, oozy mud.  We would’ve liked to  hike longer, but Clara and I had gotten almost 40 mosquito bites within about 20 minutes — it was pure torture.  The itchiness almost brought me to tears.

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They had a blast reenacting the story with Legos. This kept them busy for a couple hours.

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Later in the week, we drove up to Dobbiaco (about 2 hours up the Dolomites) and happened upon a delightful park — it had everything we needed to do a bear hunt (aside from the snowstorm of course)!

Long, wavy grass…

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A deep, cold river…


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Part of the kniepps course at the park – Benny loved dunking his face

Thick, oozy mud…

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And a tall, dark forest…

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The kids had so much fun playing with this dam feature.  The top of the hill had a water pump and they could stop the water in various places.  Benny could’ve worked all day on this.

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Benny has quite a knack for finding caterpillars.  He finds them everywhere and I’m always stunned to see how small and camouflage they can be.

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Can you even spot this one???


We loved our first “row”!  Can’t wait for what’s ahead!

Soaring into a great year!

We got started on our first official day of school!  We sailed away in a hot air balloon and imagined all of the different places we can go this year.  We had fun flying around the world via google earth and made a tasty snack.



We made our own hot air balloons and reenacted Hot Air:  The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman.  They both think this book is hilarious.  Much of it is wordless and I loved hearing them put words of their own to the illustrations.


Benny should be starting kindergarten this year.  He has been in Italian school for the last two years and was supposed to start first grade in Italy.  I admit I am relieved to not have to worry about translating everything that comes home and always being in the dark when it comes to information.  I loved his little (blue) preschool, but didn’t feel first grade would be worth the effort.

We did a retake on this one.  Haha!


Slightly more natural (maybe)…


Clara barely turned 4 and I feel bad she went to school last year – I’m just not a believer in early childhood education.  I can’t count the days I had to force her into her class screaming.  I never felt good about it and couldn’t bear another year of it.  20170905-DSC01749



A Getaway to Naturno – The Sunny Side of the Alps

One thing I’ve discovered all over the Alpine Mountain is a collection of hotels called Kinderhotels; hotels specifically devoted to families traveling with children.  Everything in these hotels caters to the little ones — kids clubs, large playgrounds, and a weekly entertainment schedule.  Derek had a last minute work trip and so it was just the kids and me.  We stayed at the Familien Wellness Resort – otherwise known as the “blue water slide”.

What a wonderful week it was!  I started most days with a good hike around endless winding  trails while Benny and Clara played games with King Pipo in the kids club.


Some views from the hiking trail. Of course I couldn’t begin any physical exertion without enjoying a cappuccino (alone!).

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The hotel had the most amazing playground!

A mini ropes course
a castle


A “jumpy place”
a race track with many different tricycles


The sandpit was wonderful. It had a digger truck, a conveyer belt, and a water pump!  A total dream for Benny.


a beloved digger

They even offered some indoor fun.  We played some mean games of dodge ball in this little castle room every night.  I, of course, was the bad guy.


One morning I was feeling guilty for putting them in the kids club and thought they’d enjoy taking the cable car to the top of the mountain to do some short hikes (everyone told me it would be no problem for kids).  It ended up being a big mistake.  They were fine until we walked about 20 feet — just to the restaurant! We didn’t even get the hike started.  At least the playground (and the beautiful views) helped to salvage experience.  20160726-_DSC266820160726-_DSC267320160726-_DSC2679

Love the garden decorations.


Luckily there was a place to eat at the top.


I wanted to hike to this platform, but alas…


We passed this cute shop on the way home.  I wondered why my flowers never look like that.


Every afternoon we spent the time swimming and relaxing in the swings. The blue water slide!  I can’t count the times Benny  climbed the stairs to go down this thing.  I went down with Clara once and we had both had enough.


A basket we found in the city!

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There was a wonderful, shady park a short walk from the hotel.  We spent a lot of time here too — climbing up the hill and sliding back down…

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And digging in the dirt and making dams…

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I had this turkey salad almost every day for lunch after hiking.  I’m still shocked I found a  turkey salad to be so delicious and looked forward to it every day.  It’s so hard to find anything but heavy food where we live — and poultry is a rarity.

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I’m so happy when poultry is on the menu, but decided to take a risk on the steak one evening.  I was so glad that I did! One of the best steak salads I’ve ever had! A variety of sauces included made it especially glorious.  I get nervous when ordering beef in Italy because they tend to serve it pretty bloody.  Maybe I was just having a protein deficiency that week.

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When I couldn’t get the salad,  I tried something new — some kind of buckwheat dumpling.  It is a popular local specialty.  It was good, but didn’t compare to the turkey salad.

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One evening we were lucky enough to stumble upon a festival.  We danced in the street and sampled local pastries.

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This pastry is called Kirchtagskrapfen… it was kind of like a crisp puffed pastry with a  chocolate filling.  We all gave it a thumbs up.

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We tried out some miniature golf.  It wasn’t the fanciest course, but the we still had a great time.  We must have been the fastest golfers ever with the way Benny golfs.  He hit the ball it once and then placed it in the hole!

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I thought it would be fun to try out the hotels’s Bringo.  A poor decision on my part, it was much more difficult than I had remembered.  I did ok when the ground was completely flat, but any amount of incline made me hyper aware of how I have indulged in Italian cuisine for the past 7 months.  I tried so hard to get up this hill, but just couldn’t do it.  Then I found myself trying to push the Bringo into the (busy) intersection while relying on Benny’s  steering skills.  Embarrassing! It felt as if the whole world was watching this display.

This was the hill I died on…

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This is the Bringo…

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And this is proof that the kids still loved every minute…

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It was much needed getaway and the alps continue to be one of my most favorite places in the world. With delightful villages, delicious food,  an abundance of walking trails, and breathtaking views it truly is hard to beat. And to top it all off, there is really no fear of wildlife!  Dolomites…until next year…