Austria’s Monkey Mountain – Affenberg

Last week we had fun learning about monkeys while we rowed Caps for Sale.  We’ve read this book at least a  hundred times over the course of the last few years, but still had so much fun with it.  We were lucky enough to live within a short drive of Austria’s Monkey Mountain.

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The park is a protected area where approximately 160 Japanese macaque monkeys are able to run freely.  They are so entertaining and I could’ve spent all day watching them (as long as they don’t get too close).

From the parking lot, we had to cross a large pond.  We heard frogs and saw a few jumping amongst the lily pads.  Poor Benjamin kneeled into some type of stinging plant and his leg hurt for a while.  Luckily we found a water pump and the cold water relieved a bit of the pain.

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I’m not sure what kind of stinging metal this was, but his leg was pretty inflamed for a bit.LRG_DSC03494

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It was a beautiful overcast day — perfect for watching mischievous mimicking monkeys gallivanting around their environment.  The monkeys are free to run around and get so close that you could touch them. Of course they ask you not to… and who want to anyway? Monkeys are mean!

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I’m glad he wasn’t begging at my leg.  This was an employee, but I did spy a few monkeys doing this to visitors at different times.

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Isn’t this mama and baby the cutest???  The way she doted on him was so sweet.

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It was a joy to watch them frolicking around the forest.

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We watched them dive for treats in the pond.

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And do balancing acts on their “tight ropes”.

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This monkey climbed the tree to use the bathroom.  So glad we weren’t standing right under, though this proved to be the kids favorite moment of the entire experience!  Ha! I suppose they do not take my “potty humor” lectures to heart.

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Of course we couldn’t get out of there without a couple of pet monkeys.

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Such a pretty spring day.

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Next to monkey mountain was a castle and bird refuge.  We started the hike and were greeted with glorious views of the Austrian countryside.

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Now for the bummer… right when they got there the employees rattled off an announcement in german. We realized after the fact that they were announcing the last bird show of the day.  We missed the bird show, but enjoyed these guys flying around overhead nonetheless.

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We made up for missing the bird show by finding a horsey to ride — made Clara’s day!  Yeehaw!

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I guess this is the sign of a good day.  Both kids were passed out within a few minutes of heading for home.  So precious… I love these babies.

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Next up… I’m finally getting around to our last week of school.

 

Before Five in Row: Caps for Sale

“Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!”  We had fun with this 1940’s classic by Esphyr Slodbodkina this week. “A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business”.  I remember loving this story when I was little and it’s always fun to revisit a childhood favorite.

We’ve probably read this story a hundred times already and the kids already knew it quite well.  We began the week with some acting.   We practiced walking “slowly, slowly, so as not to upset his caps”.  We also talked about how having good posture helps us with balance.  Something I clearly need to work on for myself because when I demonstrated the meaning of  good posture, both kids burst out laughing! Haha!

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We fell asleep under a “tree” with our caps on…

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When we awoke… little monkeys had swiped our caps! LRG_DSC03401

We took turns being peddlers.  Isn’t this the cutest little peddler you’ve ever seen?!LRG_DSC03393LRG_DSC03391

They both preferred to be monkeys, so I spent most of the time peddling my wares.

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“You monkeys, you, … you give me back my caps!”

For Bible we learned Proverbs 29:11.  Umm… yeah… I had A LOT of conviction, confessing, and owning up to do with this one.  In fact, it was just a week later that I had one of the finest moments of my life when I shattered my phone in an angry rage — in front of my kids!   And they are not letting me forget it and are real quick to tell everyone about their “foolish mom”.  This is proof that I do not have it all together, nor do I care to pretend that I do.  But… this is why I love Jesus! Only He can take an outburst like that… and somehow work it for good.

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check.

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We made salt dough peddlers and stacked caps on his head.  Clara helped knead the dough and it was great for those little hands!

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The peddlers… I thought they were so cute.

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A monkey peddler! 

We read about coins and sorted them into like piles .

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We observed many ways in which we could make fifty cents.  This was way over their head, but exposure nonetheless. Benjamin was a bit more interested.

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Teatime was fun this week!  We sang variations of Five Little Monkeys, played Monkey see, Monkey do, ate chocolate covered bananas, and slurped root beer — a favorite for all of us.

On a side note, we read No Monkeys, No Chocolate,  and learned that monkeys have been the only way in which the cocoa bean was spread because they were the only thing in the rainforest able to crack the shell containing the seed. God is good!  His design never ceases to amaze me!
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This was a great week and I’ll be back to wrap it up… at “Monkey Mountain” in Austria!  This was the whole reason I chose to officially “row” this book.  Because… how often do you have access to real live mimicking monkeys running freely around their environment???  Stay tuned!

Skiing in Sappada

We went skiing in Sappada over the weekend.  Sappada is a cute little ski town in the Dolomites about 2 hours from us.  We always stay at the Hotel Haus Michaela.  The owner is so kind and helpful and the kids love her.  She  always gives them a bag of candy when we check-out and will customize their gelato order.  That is service!

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This was last year’s ski trip.  They’ve grown a lot!

Sappada has a perfect ski hill for kids.  I’m not sure if Clara will ever really take to it, but Benjamin is really flying now.  Wish I had pictures of him in action.

We also enjoyed Nevelandia – which translates to snow land.  It’s just a big snowy play land.  They have bounce houses, an ice skating rink, sledding and tubing, trampolines, and a lot of room for snow angels.  I wish I had taken more pictures, but picture taking with cold weather gear on is no small feat!

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Finally a legit snow angel!

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I went to look for Clara at one point and found her in this little cave.

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We were lucky and got about 4 inches of fresh snow the night we got there.

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I love the little alpine huts!

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This was Clara’s favorite ride ever!  I think she went around in this tube for 45 minutes. I thought she was going to sleep!

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We even got to play in a real igloo!

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We picked up this hand carved wooden mask at a local shop.  These masks are used for Carnevale and are typical of this area.

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I love this mask! The carver had even burned his name and date into the interior.

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We just happened to be in Sappada for Carnevale last year.  This is the full costume and a sample of more typical wooden masks.

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The Arctic and The Three Snow Bears

This week we learned about the Arctic and read The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett.  This story came from an Ivy Kids box and was perfect with our Arctic theme.  The story is a variation on Goldiocks and the Three Bears.  Both of the kids loved this story and we read it many times during the week.

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We read many books about polar bears and were supposed to make bears out of clay, but  they were more interested in making and drilling teeth with Clara’s dentist play-doh toy.

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We made cozy dens for our bears.

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We  did an experiment with Crisco to see how blubber keeps animals warm.  We dipped our hands in ice water and then wrapped our hands in Crisco.  It really worked!

When we were getting ready to leave the house a few days later, Clara says to me: “I have lot of blubber, so I don’t need a coat”.  Nice try!

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We did a paining of the “northern lights” with ice.

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We read Over and Under – a fun way to learn about what is happening under the snow during the winter.  We learned about animals that hibernate and animals that must continue foraging for food in the winter.

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I made them forage for their own lunch that day.  They loved this and begged me to keep hiding their lunch.

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We made igloos.

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Clara got so sad when she realized she didn’t have enough pieces for a roof.  She was fine until she saw how her brothers had turned out.  Benjamin was so sweet afterwards and gave his to her and said to her “I made this for you”.

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Look at that sad face! 

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Then they ran off to build an Eskimo village.

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We enjoyed playing in the Arctic ocean.  Wished we would have had more icebergs, but freezer space is a major issue right now.

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We did retellings of the story with character cards.  I was amazed at how many details Benjamin included in his retelling!

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We finished off the week by making bear dens with graham crackers.  They turned out cute!

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We also met the homeschool group at the gym for fun and games!

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I guess we had a couple of pajama days this week.  I wasn’t feeling great and had some bad nights so I’m amazed we accomplished as much as we did.

Before Five in a Row: If Jesus Came to My House

We started this story when we were at my Mom’s for the holidays.  I thought we’d do a lot more school while we were visiting but alas, we only managed to squeeze in one day.  We finally got around to finishing the book about a month later — it took us a long time to recover from jet lag and Christmas.

This was a very sweet story with a beautiful message… We can show our love for Jesus by serving others and treating them with love and kindness.

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We began by learning about the Golden Rule.  We made watercolor hearts.  They loved watching how the watercolors spread on the paper.  I even let them use my fancy Japanese watercolors which made it that much more exciting.  I didn’t get a picture of the final product, but we cut them into heart shapes and wrote the golden rule on it.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12

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We talked about the power of music and how it can make you feel certain emotions. We listened and danced to classical music selections from Play Kids Music and they explained how it made them feel and why.  They were definitely partial to the fast, loud, and exciting pieces.  We also discovered how music can make unpleasant tasks a lot more fun…  so we blasted music and tidied up the house.

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So do not fear, for I am with you

Isaiah 41:10

In the story the little boy is frightened by the shadows on his wall at night.  We discussed different kinds of fears we all face in life. Apparently Benjamin has no fear, but Clara stated she is afraid when she is outside in the dark without her mom or dad.  We read Isaiah 41:10 and reviewed that we shouldn’t be afraid because Jesus is always with us.

“Although I cannot see him, I still can feel him near to understand and hold my hand and drive away my fear.”

Since the boy in the story mentions shadows, we had lots of fun reading about how shadows are made.

We did a shadow puppet show.

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We traced, raced, and chased our shadows at the park…

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We watched our shadows swing.

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We combined teatime this week for The Snowy Day and If Jesus Came to My House. Benjamin decided we should serve snowball cookies, so we got baking.  I have to say this Tupperware chopper was amazing for chopping all of those pecans!

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rolling “snowballs”

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We looked for all of the ways in the story the little boy shows hospitality to Jesus and decided to invite some special visitors for teatime.

We greeted them at the door and invited them in…

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welcomed them to our table…

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and offered them something to eat…

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The kids did all of the decorating for teatime today.  I loved the snowflakes as coasters.  We enjoyed the snowball cookies and root beer and of course began teatime with My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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“And with my bricks I’d build for him a palace of his own, and he would be the little king and sit upon the throne”.

We made palaces for our guests.

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This one looked a bit more like a prison cell!

I was glad I went ahead and finished this story.  I wanted to make it more service centered, but living in a foreign country makes it difficult to find opportunities.  I also wanted them to find toys to donate, but since it ends up sitting on our train table it didn’t seem too effective in getting the point across.  Hopefully we can do more service projects after we move.

Prayer for a Child

We had a lighter week this week as we were getting ready to go home for Thanksgiving and had much to do.  Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field was the perfect book — a lovely illustrated prayer of rhyming couplets.

We talked a lot this week about what it means to be content — to be happy with what we have instead of always wanting more.  I thought this lesson went totally lost as both of their Christmas lists continued to grow, but it as it turns out, they are quick to point out when I  am not satisfied with what I have.   Now I am constantly reminded about being content when I want to buy new pens.  And truth be told, I am beginning to accumulate an astonishing number of pens.  Alas, I suppose we’re all hypocrites at heart!

We made praying hands to think of things in our own lives for which we could pray and be grateful.  Clara loved hers so much and had me read it to her many times throughout the week.  She even packed it in her suitcase for our trip back to the states.

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I was glad to see  “better attitude” on Benjamin’s.  And cactus juice??? Where did that come from?

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We learned the song Jesus Loves the Little Children and watched it on YouTube.  I loved hearing their voices caroling throughout the house all week.

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We read Children Just Like Me.  A story that spotlights the lives of children all over the world.  Although we discovered many differences —  types of shelter, languages, clothing, and traditions — we also found many similarities.  We learned that kids all over the world go to school and like to play with toys.  In countries where toys are scarce, the kids create their own.  We invented our own toys just like the kids in the book.  Benjamin made a sword out of a stick and his praying hands, and together, we made a ball out of old grocery bags.  We had fun playing games of tennis and soccer with our ball.

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In the story the girl spends some time gazing at the stars.  We read a few books on stars and learned about the big dipper.  We worked on making pinhole constellations.  We never had time to stargaze through a flashlight as intended, but they enjoyed poking holes in the paper anyway and I was happy because it was great for fine motor skills!

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And then Benny decided to make the Big Dipper with his bread.

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The prayer begins with ‘bless this milk and bless this bread.’  We watched a little video about dairy farming and wheat harvesting.  We also read Little Red Hen.  I didn’t even need to talk about the moral of story because that spoke for itself.   We baked some bread to practice being cheerful helpers.

Benny measured the flour while Clara made a tally mark for each cup.

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We learned how to knead the dough.  Clara tired quickly, so Benjamin did most of the kneading.  Clara got to grease the bowl for the dough.

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Ready to watch it rise!

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They loved working with the dough so much that they continued to “bake bread” with the play-doh.

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They loved checking in on the dough and watching it rise.  Purely magical!

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The finished product was excellent! We enjoyed the fruits of our labor all week!

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I love this sweet little face!

We had a special teatime for Thanksgiving this week and Dad could even join us because it fell on a Sunday!  We slurped hot apple cider, licked the frosting off of pumpkin spice cupcakes, and read stories about Thanksgiving.

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Our Thanksgiving tree is complete!  Though I regret not recording what they had said each day, I love how it turned out in the end!  One of my favorites from Benjamin was “turkeys in all of the land”.  I hope to make this a family tradition and will look forward to it every year.

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That pretty much sums up the week!  Now we are looking forward to a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving and holiday season with family in Utah and California.

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.

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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.

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We stopped to throw rocks in the water.

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Love his backwards shorts!

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

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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.

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This was our favorite!

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

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These two were so cuddly today 

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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.

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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.

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The cutest firemen ever!

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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.

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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…

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This was hilarious to watch!

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Walked a tight rope…

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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.

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Clara flipped over the sleeping bag and tent!

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.

 

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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.

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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!

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Slightly more natural (maybe)…

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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

 

 

Bessich Winery Festa

Bessich Wines, one of the local wineries, put on a big wine tasting event.  An event I couldn’t miss on such a beautiful spring day.

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They held a little “bread making” class for the kids.

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Love these pudgy little hands
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anxiously awaiting the final product

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Gotta love a room full of demijohns filled to the brim with vino!

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We enjoyed a local lunch of frico (a patty of fried Montasio cheese and potatoes) and polenta.  The kids finally got to do quality control on their baked good.

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We sipped some wine while all of the kids went crazy in the bounce house.

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They even had a “horsey ride” through the vineyard.

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It’s quite a beautiful backdrop for the vineyard.  The mountains here always remind me of home.

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This horse got in big trouble for stopping to eat the grape leaves. IMG_5331

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Blue skies, a rare appearance from the sun, lots of local wine, and happy kids = a most delightful day!  Arrividerci!

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Slovenia

We had a long weekend for Easter so we decided to check out Slovenia.  I can see why everybody raves about it.  It’s very clean, the people are friendly, and almost everybody speaks perfect English!

Ljubljana was our first stop — and this time  didn’t get lost or drive through a pedestrian zone!  Ljubljana is charismatic and picturesque.

The Franciscan Church was beautiful inside although we busted in on an Easter service.  Whoops! I would have enjoyed watching a little, but definitely not with the kids!

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Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

I’m always a sucker for accordion street performers. He looks delighted to be there! Haha!

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We stayed at the Union Hotel which was especially nice and with Preseren Square a few steps away, the location couldn’t have been better!

Benny and Clara loved the Dragons everywhere.

Next stop was the Ljubljana Castle.  We hiked to the top of the castle towering over the city. Why we were hiking when they provided a functioning funicular was beyond me.  I wasn’t prepared for it.   I was wearing flimsy ballet flats and carried Clara the entire time! It was pretty much straight up the mountain. Benny was a trooper.

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Reaching the top made for some fantastic shots of the city.

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We had fun wandering around the grounds and looking inside the castle.  The kids loved spying for bad guys.

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After the climb back down to town we were ready for an aperitivo!

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Next stop… Lake Bled! It was about a 45 minute drive from Ljubljana.

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When we arrived we took the boat ride out to the island. The kids love any boat ride and the views are breathtaking!

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We were greeted with this staircase upon our arrival to the island.

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After the trek up, we visited the Church of the Assumption (the only place to visit on the island).  The top brought gorgeous views of the mountains, a perfect place for an appetitive, and open grassy area perfect for rough housing!

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This looks a little daunting… but there is only one way down.

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And as always…there was a lot of crying and a lot of whining!

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So long Lake Bled. We’ll be back this summer!  There is so much more here than we had time for — including sampling the famous Bled cream cake.  I won’t rest until I’ve sampled it! We’re moving on to the ski town of Kranjska Gora.

Kranjska Gora was a charming little sleepy town in the Julian Alps.

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The kids and I loved these little Easter bunnies!

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The kids enjoyed digging in what was left of the snow.

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We stayed in a small, family-run motel called Hotel Kotnik.  I think only one man was in charge of the motel and the restaurant! He stayed busy!!  They had these little wooden benched carved outside of their door.

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And for some reason, the kids decided to put their shoes away (this is definitely a first)!

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We tried this awesome dessert.  I didn’t catch the name of it, but it was sort of like a warm cream puff served with ice cream.  One between the four of us did NOT cut it.

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We spent the next day skiing.  Benjamin had his first lesson.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much snow at the resort, but the hill was perfect for Benny.

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He was so excited to learn, but things went downhill fast when Derek tried to be his instructor.  I was fairly certain it could sour him on skiing forever.  He seemed to do much better with the actually instructor.

This is what I did while everyone was skiing… I was possibly the only one enjoying myself.

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I think Derek managed to get a few good runs in despite the fact the snow was minimal and the hill wasn’t the most exciting.  As for Benjamin … only time will tell if he’ll ever recover from his traumatic first lesson.