Happy Minion Birthday Party!

Minion Birthday Party

I have to admit that when we started planning my son’s 5th birthday party a couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t even on my radar that the Minions movie was coming out. Nevertheless, it came about that we had a Minion Birthday Party!

First, my daughter found some cupcakes on a Youtube video she said she wanted to make–and they were Minions.

Then, my kids bought my son a Minion hat as a present.

Then, my husband bought a Minion balloon for the party.

And, then he received a couple of other Minion presents!

Enjoy the pictures of my youngest son’s 5th Minion Birthday Party!


The adorable Minion cupcakes! My 11-year-old daughter made these all by herself.

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The Star Pinata:

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If I had planned ahead I would have gotten a Minion pinata.

Fun twistable balloons my kids made as party favors:

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Some other awesome presents:

Color Wonder Mess-Free Fingerpaints:

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Minion Jacket and Minion Hat!  It’s so funny how he’s wearing both at the same time. :)

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Minion jacket


And, finally, he received a Build-a-Minion, which reminds me of Mr. Potato Head.

What fun themes of birthday parties have you had?

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

Road Trip to Niagara Falls area: Tips and Recommendations

Road Trip to Niagara Falls area

We took an awesome road trip to Niagara Falls and surrounding area a few weeks ago. I’m happy to share today about this trip–where we went, what we did, where we stayed and ate, and tips on what you should do if you get a chance to go there!

I have also shared about other adventures that we took on this long road trip: to Quebec City, Maine post #1, and Maine post #2.

We live near Chicago, so we started our drive at 6:30 a.m. and stopped for lunch in Ann Arbor, MI. Whenever we go through a college town we try to drive by the university there–our easy way to do a “college visit” for the kids. :)  It was our 3-year-old daughter’s birthday so we had a nice lunch at Chili’s.  I’ve often heard about Detroit and the devastation economically there, but it was shocking to see large buildings falling in ruins. We crossed the border at the bridge there.  I was thankful that I got passport cards for the kids, because even though it was an extra expense and hassle to get them, it made the border crossings a breeze.

As we were heading toward Niagara Falls, I pulled out our Jonathan Park audio dramas. My favorite set is Jonathan Park Volume V: The Explorers Society
–and the first episode is about Niagara Falls!

We arrived in Niagara Falls, Ontario at 7 p.m. that evening. After checking into our hotel Holiday Inn and resting a bit, we took a short walk over to the falls. We got there when it was dusk and had some great pictures taken.  Then, as dark struck, colored lights shone on the falls, which were beautiful!

Be sure to go to both sides of the Falls; you get unique views from each side. (You’ll need passports to pass over the border–so plan ahead!)

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American and Bridal Falls:

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Horseshoe Falls:

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We were pretty hungry by this point, but it was 9 p.m. and every restaurant we walked by was closed. We headed back to our hotel and found that their restaurant was open.  It turned out to be a very nice meal and not very expensive, since we had gotten some “kids eat free” coupons when we checked in.

The next morning we made a huge mistake by going to IHOP, way overpriced–don’t go there in Niagara Falls!  The following morning we went to Tim Horton’s — much cheaper!

We then drove over to New York to go on the Maid of the Mist boat ride which takes you directly into the spray of Horseshoe Falls.  Incredible!  They gave everyone a blue slicker, but my 5-year-old didn’t want to wear it. There was also a group of Amish people on the boat who didn’t wear the slickers.  I felt sorry for them-they got soaked!  I highly recommend doing this great boat ride.

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After that I took some of the kids one direction as my husband took them another. If we had had more time (and energy for walking) we would have walked over to the Goat Island.  By the way, look at the grassy area in the picture just below. My oldest son was wondering who actually goes out there to mow it.  I said he should get hazard pay for that job.

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I’m afraid of heights and can’t believe I actually stood at the top of this tower and overhang!

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Our oldest son talked us into driving into Buffalo, NY to get buffalo wings!

We found a great restaurant that I’d love to recommend: Duff’s.  The meal was delish and fun!

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After we got back into the car, there was a big downpour. It rained most of the way while we drove to the quaint little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was back in Canada.  We got there just as Fort George was closing; otherwise we would have gone there. They re-enact the War of 1812.  I love history stuff like that!

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We walked into the town and got some ice cream at place called Cows.

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We had fun looking in an Irish shop, where I bought a beautiful framed quote.  We really liked this little town. There is a theater and lots of bed-and-breakfasts–would be perfect for a romantic giveaway.

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We drove back to the Holiday Inn and the kids had a ball swimming.  The hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool, but it was too chilly for the outdoor pool.  I was really grateful for the indoor pool!

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We ate leftover wings for dinner and headed to bed.  Then, we heard the fireworks that they were doing over the Falls.  We looked out the window, but couldn’t see them.  So, be sure to look into that if you go for a visit. I wish we had seen them!

A few other things I’d like to do if we ever get back there: Journey Behind the Falls, the tall tower on the Canadian side, and the walk over to Goat Island.

Here’s a journal entry from my 6-year-old daughter:

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If you enjoyed reading about this trip, be sure to read about some of our other road trip adventures: MontereySan Francisco, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Legoland California, Pennsylvania, Smoky Mountains.

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

And now I’m happy to introduce you to the Summer Road Trip Series. Visit all these other bloggers and enjoy some more great Road Trip adventures and tips!


Summer Road Trip Ideas from Around the World


Bar Harbor, Maine at Playground Parkbench

DC to NY Baseball Trip at Sunny Day Family

Indianapolis, Indiana at Mom Inspired Life

Upstate NY / Finger Lakes at My Joy-Filled Life

Sandusky/Put in Bay at Something 2 Offer

Charlotte NC at Beauty in the Mess

Newport, RI at Be Fed Again

Philadelphia, PA at The Fraggle Momma

Frankfort, Michigan at Purposeful Homemaking


Northumberland, England at Peakle Pie

Scotland at Witty Hoots

North Norfolk Coast at Travelled So Far


Melbourne Australia at Every Bed of Roses


Grand Bend Beach and Bayfield at HEN Family

Algonquin Park, Ontario at Kitchen Counter Chronicles

Niagara Falls (New York & Ontario) at I Choose Joy!


Santander to Girona at In The Playroom

Road Trip Through Maine: Boat Tour and Pemaquid post #2

Road Trip Maine Pemaquid Point

If you missed our first Maine post, check out Road Trip Through Maine: Acadia and Bar Harbor post #1 here.  Today I’m sharing about the third day we were in Maine.  Since the first two days didn’t work out to go on our boat tour in the harbor off of Mount Desert Island, we decided to stay a little longer in the Bar Harbor area and go at 10 a.m. in the morning. I’m so glad we did! We were really happy with the Acadian Nature Cruise.    Our tour guide and boat captain were great!

Here are some of the things we saw:

Bar Harbor shoreline buildings, cottages and mansions, Porcupine Islands and Bar Island, Egg Rock Lighthouse, seals, eagles, and other sea birds.  We decided not to go further out, even though I would have really loved to see whales and puffins, because I was worried that some of us would get seasick.

There are beautiful mansions on the island overlooking the sea.

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If you look closely in this next picture, you’ll see a man on the rocks with an easel. He was painting the house in the previous picture.

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Egg Rock Lighthouse (according to our tour guide) has been voted Maine’s ugliest lighthouse. I thought it was kind of cute.

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There were lots of harbor seals in the water around this tiny island.

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Not what I expected as a boat captain. :)

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We saw lobster buoys everywhere in the water. Each lobsterman has his own “colors” so they can be told apart.

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After the boat tour we headed down the coast of Maine toward our destination of Boston.  Originally, I had a great scenic tour planned for the entire day where we would see quite a number of lighthouses. (There are six lighthouses in the Portland area alone!)

A book I love to take along with us on road trips is Most Scenic Drives in America: 120 Spectacular Road Trips.  We have been blessed to do many of the drives!

But since we got started so late after the boat tour we only went to Pemaquid Point and then a quick drive through Kennebunkport.  Pemaquid Point is absolutely beautiful. Go there if you can!  We also got to go up inside the lighthouse, which was really cool.

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They also had a small museum. The little guys weren’t allowed to go up inside the lighthouse, so they got to ring this bell instead.

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Next, I’ll be sharing about the first part of our trip– to Niagara Falls (U. S. and Canada) and the surrounding area!

You’ll also want to read about our visit to Quebec City.


(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

Road Trip Through Maine: Acadia and Bar Harbor post #1

Road Trip Through Maine


We had a totally awesome road trip this year!  We headed from Chicago through Michigan and to Niagara Falls. Then we went through Canada to Quebec City. Next we drove through Maine to Acadia National Park and down along the coast. Finally, we spent a day in Boston. I’m happy to share today about our road trip through Maine, part 1. I had never been there before; I love Maine!!!

We entered Maine from Canada. It was our 4th time to go through the border crossing.  My husband and I have passports and earlier this year we got passport cards for the kids.  It made the crossings very simple. They just asked a few questions and then looked at each person’s face matching it with the card or passport.  At this crossing the border patrolman said he wishes he would be blessed with 8 kids like we are, but it’s “not in His plan.” I have since prayed often for that young man. Will you pray for him, too?

He also warned us to be careful of moose crossing for the next 100 miles. I so wanted to see a moose! But we didn’t.  But the scenery was gorgeous.

Maine roadside view

We stopped at a road-side diner and had a nice dinner before heading to Ellsworth where we planned to stay the next 3 nights.  I made a huge mistake with that hotel choice. No pool!  But it did have free breakfast, which we hadn’t had in Niagara Falls or Quebec City.

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The next morning we drove across to Mount Desert Island, much of which is Acadia National Park. After a quick stop at the visitor center, we started on the scenic drive around the island.

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One of the stops was Sand Beach. The kids didn’t have swim suits (of course!) but didn’t get too wet.  We did, thankfully, have beach towels in the car.

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This one is my favorite!

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The kids had fun getting to walk around the rocks.

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After the morning drive, we headed into the cutesy, touristy town of Bar Harbor for lunch. The oldest males had some lobster.  Then we walked around the town (I got a lighthouse souvenir ornament.) We went to the harbor to see if we could get on a boat ride that afternoon, but they weren’t running until the next morning.  (It ended up being rainy the next morning, so we postponed it for the day after that.)  We decided to drive around the island some more and go see one of the lighthouses- the Bass Harbor light.

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I loved the beautiful lupine that we saw all over.

Lupine Road Trip Through Maine

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We went back to the hotel and found that it was right next store to the L.L. Bean outlet store, so the girls and I went shopping!  We got take-in sub sandwiches and watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup!

Since it was so rainy the next morning, we decided to go to an oceanarium and lobster hatchery that was on Mount Desert Island.  It turned out to be a very cool adventure, very fun and educational.

This is a blue lobster, which occurs in about one in every million!

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This was a real lobster boat that was in the building.

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My daughter is sitting on a chair made of a lobster trap.

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We absolutely loved the presentation by this gentleman, who had been a lobster fisherman.  All 3 presenters made references to God and his creation, which was so refreshing!  There was also Scripture on the wall in one of the rooms. This first man taught us all about lobster fishing.

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The next room was the lobster hatchery.  The man in there told us about their mission. They get these pregnant lobsters from fisherman who catch them by accident.  See the thousands of black eggs on her?

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They hatch the eggs, and keep the lobsters through their first 4 stages of development. When they are about 1/2 an inch long, they go out on one of the lobster boats and put they baby lobsters back in the ocean.

The final room had a touch tank where the kids got to touch quite a few ocean creatures: sea squirt, sea cucumber, horseshoe crab, sea star, and moon snail.


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It was still very foggy, but we decided to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We headed back to the hotel and my oldest went to the next-store music store because he was having guitar-playing withdrawal.  Then, we drove to the town of Castine to see a second lighthouse: Dyce (or Dice) Head light.

When we drove around Maine, we totally enjoyed the beautiful churches and other buildings.

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Maine Harbor

That evening my husband took the older boys out for a lobster dinner.  I wasn’t interested. :)

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Join us next time for Part 2 of the Maine adventure–out on the boat in the harbor and down the coast, including a visit to Pemaquid Lighthouse!

Blessings this Independence Day

Independence Day

I pray blessings for you and your family this Independence Day.  May the Lord continue to guide our country.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. Psalm 33:12

We have been listening to  For God and Country (Adventures in Odyssey) and learning about how God has been our Lord in the past. I highly recommend these to you this 4th of July!


(This post contains affiliate links.)

Road Trip to Canada & Maine: Quebec City

Visiting Quebec City

We have recently returned from our annual road trip, 8 kids, 2 parents in a 12-passenger van!  This year we traveled from Illinois through Michigan to Niagara Falls across Canada through Toronto and Montreal to Quebec City.  (We then traveled through Maine to Boston and back across to Illinois.) I will return in a couple of weeks with a special post on our Niagara Falls adventure. Today I’ll share about our time in Quebec City.

We arrived in Quebec City, quite late in the evening. Once we got into the province of Quebec, we noticed that the signs were no longer bilingual, just in French.  We got some carry-out pizza at a local pizza parlor in the downtown area where we were staying.  My husband brought the pizza back to his hungering brood at the hotel, and we all piled in the boys’ room to watch the Blackhawks win game 5!  Later, he asked the hotel manager when Quebec will split off from Canada and form their own country.  He said, “Soon, I hope.”

We checked out of the hotel the next morning and packed the van before heading out on our Quebec City tour.  We had a walking map of the city and also received some help from a very nice local man who seemed to walk the streets looking for tourists to assist!  We walked to a wonderful restaurant called Benedictine and had a delicious breakfast: crepes, eggs benedict, and fancy fruit.  The kids especially liked the goose made of apples.

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We then continued our walk to the old city, which was packed with people.

What a neat place! I really felt like I was in an old town in Europe.  First, we walked through part of the old city wall. We went into a couple of cathedrals (it was Sunday morning and they were holding services).  There were shops galore.  Over by the waterfront was a boardwalk.  If we had had more time, we would have studied more about what we were seeing and spent more time exploring certain sites and buildings. I highly recommend a visit to old Quebec City if you ever get the chance.


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The city wall:

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La Boutique de Noel

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St. Lawrence River

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When we returned to our van at about 1 p.m. It was time to drive to Maine.  Join us next time for: Maine!

(Post contains affiliate links.)

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”

My oldest 5 kids are performing in Spotlight Youth Theater’s Production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” this weekend and next.  We went to see it this morning, and it’s fabulous!  So fun and colorful and sweet.

I’m so proud of my oldest son who is playing Charlie Brown in the “older” kid cast.  They also cast the leads with a “younger” cast for this production.

Enjoy the Promo Video here:

My favorite parts of the show were the dancing blankets with Linus, the acting out of the Red Baron vs. Snoopy scene, the baseball game, and seeing the Peanuts comic strips coming to life!  Did you know that Charles Schulz wrote about 18,000 strips and published Peanuts for 50 years?  Such an American icon.  This show will just make you smile! :)

Here are some pictures:

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My little Woodstock is on the left in this picture.

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The Red Baron plane with M and J. (Photo credits to Welsh Studios http://www.welsh-studios.com).

Some pictures from rehearsal:

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My youngest daughter loves Linus–or does she love his blanket?

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To God Be the Glory!

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Come see the show if you’re in the area.


Vacation Scrapbook: Visiting Hollywood

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I thought I had finished all the vacation posts of our California trip last summer, but I forgot Hollywood!

One afternoon, we drove around to see the different parts of the Los Angeles area–Bellaire and Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and Hollywood.  We drove by Grauman’s Chinese Theater, saw some Hollywood stars, and ate lunch at an outdoor Chick-Fil-A with sprinklers spraying water.

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I wanted so much to see the famous Hollywood sign, but no matter where we looked we couldn’t see it.  I never realized how hilly it is around there. Finally, we decided to follow the Google Maps directions even though they seemed to take us a very strange way. It worked. We drove up on the mountain and jumped out at the Observatory to take a quick picture since there were no parking places available.

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See our other California Vacation posts here:

If you’d like to read about our other summer vacation posts see here:

Here We Come (San Francisco and Sacramento)

Visiting My Sister’s family (and Mom’s funeral)


Legoland California

Los Angeles

Vacation Scrapbook: Visiting Los Angeles

imageWell, better late than never!  I’m finally finishing up our Vacation Scrapbook of our California vacation last summer.  The final leg took us from Monterey, CA to Los Angeles.

We had a very interesting drive through some very different types of towns.  I have never seen so many grapevines in my life!  Once we got to LA the kids wanted to go to the beach, but we didn’t have any towels.  (My sister had provided the ones we used in Monterey and had taken them back with her.)  So, we went to a resale shop and picked some up.  I had expected that we could just leave them at the hotel if we couldn’t fit them in our luggage.

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I loved the sailboats we saw!

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One day we spent at Legoland California, which I have a whole post dedicated to:

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The other day we visited The Getty Villa: the ancient world of Greece and Rome.  In addition to the amazing old artifacts and artwork, there were some fun things for the kids to do.

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The world’s first laptop!

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If you’d like to read about our other summer vacation posts see here:

Here We Come (San Francisco and Sacramento)

Visiting My Sister’s family (and Mom’s funeral)


Legoland California




Field Trip to Adler Planetarium

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It’s field trip season!  I love it when the long winter ends and we can finally get out to do things again.

We finished our study of Exploring Creation With Astronomy

Exploring Creation With Astronomy

by Apologia (with my elementary students), so it was definitely time to visit the planetarium.  Below are some pictures of our visit to Adler Planetarium in Chicago.  We saw two of the six shows and had time to explore some of the exhibits as well.  We got a membership (usually the cheapest way to go to museums with my family!), so I hope to return within a year so we can see what we missed.

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To learn more about how we’ve studied astronomy in our homeschool, see this post:

Outer Space Lapbook


“The Passenger” field trip to Chicago Lyric Opera

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My two oldest sons and I, along with a group from our Tapestry of Grace Fellowship Group (a homeschool co-op where we study history and literature together) went to the Chicago Lyric Opera’s production of The Passenger opera last week.

The Passenger is a moving 20th Century opera about the horrors of Auschwitz and the lingering effects on both a prisoner and guard who had been in it.  You never know what to expect from music written in the 20th Century–it’s all over the spectrum.  (I definitely know because I’ve been teaching a 20th Century music history/appreciation course this year.)  So, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be too “weird” to be enjoyable.  It wasn’t.  It was beautiful.

It certainly helped that it was performed by the world class Chicago Lyric Opera.  The singers and orchestra were fabulous.  But the set and lighting was also amazing.


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Here is a photo (of a photo that was hanging in the lobby) of one of the final scenes of the opera.  You can see both the modern day (early 1960s) ship on top.  I loved how it was all in white–the set and the costumes.  Below was the Auschwitz prison from the 1940s.  The story is that a former SS prison guard, a woman, is on board a ship taking her and her husband to their new post in Brazil where he is a German diplomat.  She sees a woman on board the ship that she thinks was a former inmate of Auschwitz.  She has never told her husband about her past.  So, as she tells him the story, it is played out below.

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The stage had train tracks which were used to move the set pieces around.  Some of the lights were part of the prison–as search lights.  It was fascinating how the set was manipulated.  They had a scale model of it in the lobby, so here are a few pictures:

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The most moving part of the story was getting to know the prisoners and their stories.  They were from all over–Poland, France, Russia, Czechoslovakia and not all were Jews.  There was a man and a woman who were engaged, and he had an amazing musical talent for playing the violin.  The heart-breaking line was, “Will anyone remember us in the future? Will they know what we went through while we were here?”  That certainly was the reason the opera was written, to remember them.

Sadly, it wasn’t to show forgiveness for the guards, repentance of the guards, or any reconciliation.  And, also sadly, the one character who had such strong faith in God seemed to lose it at the end.

But I do recommend seeing this performance if it’s ever performed in your area.  We must remember what happened, and never let it happen again.


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Here is a beautiful tapestry that hangs in front of the stage.

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In front of the Chicago River.

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“The Children of Space” – A Movie my Son is in!

Film class

Three times a year my kids participate in a drama, dance, or singing class provided by Spotlight Youth Theater. They have such a variety of classes, and the showcases they put on at the end of each session are such fun! This last session my second son was in a film acting class, and here is his movie, written and directed by Sean Anderson.  They learned how acting for film is different from acting live on stage.  They did all of the filming at a church with a green screen, and then Sean spent countless hours editing and adding special effects!  Since the filming took place over a period of three months, the kids had to wear the same clothes to class each time–including having their hair the same.  I was so happy to finally have my son’s hair cut when they were done!

Here is what Sean says about the film “The Children of Space”:

“In the future, we sent our children to the stars. This is their story.

The Children of Space is an homage to low budget B-movies and Toho science fiction films of the 1960s. ”


Here is a video of the bloopers!  I had fun watching this because it gave me more of an idea of how they actually filmed it.

Christmas Pictures 2014!

Enjoy some pictures from our Christmas this year:

Sledding down the hill:

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Mumsy in the kitchen:

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Poppy reading:

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Playing pool:

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The Tree!

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Working puzzles (and my music is on the piano):

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Performing at Christmas Eve service:

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Opening presents:

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All the cousins!

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The lovely yard display my husband made years ago:


Merry Christmas 2014!

imageMay the wonder of Christmas be yours this season!

May you know the Peace and Joy that only comes through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Twenties PhotoHave a very Merry Christmas from the Mayo Family!
(Photo Credit: Kenneth Smith Photography 847-845-5549)


10 Gifts to Buy for the Men in Your Life

Ten Top Gifts for the Men in Your Life

Men and older boys can be difficult to buy gifts for, huh?  I’ve been brainstorming some ideas for Christmas presents for these guys (and asking some friends for their ideas). Here are a few gifts that you might be able to get for those wonderful men and older boys in your life!

Gifts for Men:

1. Phone and Tablet Cases

2. Season Tickets (or just one ticket!) to a sport or musical activity they enjoy

3. An Experience they can enjoy with a child, like registration to a Father-Son Camp or Father-Daughter Dance.

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4. Clothing Items they don’t like to buy–like socks or thermal underwear!

5.  Tools (even for teens–they can save them to use for the rest of their lives!)

6. Golf Gift Certificates

7.  A Book or gift card for books or ebooks

8.  An Accessory for a Hobby they enjoy, like this smartphone mount for a bicycle or motorcycle

9.  Candy from the year they were born

10.  Grilling Accessories, like these great Grilling Gloves


And now for the awesome giveaway!

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I’m so excited that we will have 2 winners for this giveaway.  The first place winner gets $500 Paypal Cash, and the second place winner gets a $100 Amazon gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Check out some other great gift guides here:


(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

Come See “Oklahoma” the Musical! (And a New Hairstyle)

We are about to enter Tech Week for the new Spotlight Youth Theater musical my kids are in:  Oklahoma!  It’s the first time it’s been performed with Spotlight, and we are so excited to be involved in it!

My oldest has a small lead this time.  He’s Ike Skidmore.  My 2nd son (not pictured) is working backstage.  The next three kids are in it as well!  My husband is working Tech.  And I’m the ticket-seller!

Please get your tickets today to see “Oklahoma” at Spotlight.  The show runs November 6-16 in Zion, IL. And credit a Mayo kid!

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It’s my 8-year-old son’s first show!  He’s the youngest of 86 kids kids in the cast.  The kids range from 8-18 (or just turned 19).

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Below is one of their stage moves:

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Just imagine them with their hair and make-up done–and cowboy hats!  The dancing is awesome. And the leads are so talented.  If you are in the area, you don’t want to miss it!

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On another note, my 2-year-old daughter had her first haircut this week.  Unfortunately, it was not cut by me.  It wasn’t even sanctioned by me.  Let me just say that we were having a WONDERFUL morning of homeschooling my 6 oldest kids Monday morning.  I was just thinking how nicely (and quietly) my 4-year-old and 2-year-old were playing together in the basement.  Then, she came up looking like this.  And her brother was the guilty culprit!  I cried.  Her older sisters cried.  But, now it’s kind of growing on us.  It’s funny how he left the one long piece on the right side of her head.  I’m calling it her “Kate Gosselin” hair-do.  My husband calls her the punk rocker!

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Weekly Wrap-up: Baptism, Birthdays, and Astronomy

Weekly Wrap-up?  Ok, to be honest, it has been so long that I’ve done one of these posts that it’s really going to cover the last 2 months!

Hope you enjoy!

On August 30 my 4th child was baptized by her father in a nearby lake.  I’m so proud of her for making the decision to follow Jesus and identify with him in baptism!

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Is this little girl cute or what!  She has now decided she doesn’t need an afternoon nap anymore.  I’m not ready for that!

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Three brothers:


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Worship in the Park:

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Our family supporting her baptism day:

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My kids with a young lady who was heading off to college:

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We’ve been studying astronomy with the elementary kids.  Here are my meager attempts at photos of the recent lunar eclipse:



And a few other projects we’ve done for astronomy.  Balloons representing the sun and planets:

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Solar eclipse.  We were shining a flashlight toward the earth with the moon in between.

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A salt dough model of Mercury which has been hit with many asteroids (it doesn’t have an atmosphere):

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Dropping “asteroids” onto the surface of a “planet”:

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In September and October we have several celebrations.  My husband and I have been married 16 years!



This pretty one is six:

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This sweet boy is 8:

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And here is our new 11-year-old:

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Check out my 2-year-old singing “Happy Birthday.”  She’s getting pretty good at it!

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And, last but not least, Dad!  (With the biggest cake fail ever.):

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My two oldest sons presented speeches for their Young Speakers Guild assignments (part of the Institute for Cultural Communicators).  Here is “The History of Musical Theater.”

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And a recitation of  “The Remarkable Farkle McBride” by John Lithgow:

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I love this baseball painting that my daughter made at our Tapestry of Grace Fellowship Group (co-op).  It has a quote by Babe Ruth:

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Here is my loving 4-year-old:

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And this is what I’m looking like these days:

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I’m having a ball teaching the toddlers music at Tapestry:

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My oldest daughter has made some dresses for her doll:

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And we’re taking advantage of the great weather to play in the park each week while my oldest takes his saxophone lesson:

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My second son has started a few projects:  taking Nerf guns apart, repainting them, and changing them:



Next week is the Showcase for the theater classes my kids started back in August.  My two oldest girls have LOVED their theater makup class!


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And a brand new hairstyle for the girls!

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Please leave me a comment letting me know your favorite part of our “Weekly” Wrap-up!


(Linked to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Hip Homeschool Moms, My Week in Review at Home to 4 Kiddos, Fellowship Friday, Whole-Hearted Home


Sfzorzando String Camp (Morton Arboretum & Naper Settlement)

A couple of weeks ago my violinists partcipated in their first string camp. I also had 2 of my little ones who haven’t played yet be in the Pre-Twinkles program. It was a great Christian camp called Sfzorzando String Camp. It was about an hour from our house–so that was the hardest part of it for me. Also, since I had kids in all 5 different levels, they finished at 5 different times of the day. So, we hung out a lot at the church–at the playground, in the nursery, in the gym, and in the van!

They had a pretty strict dress code. I had to do quite a bit of shopping to prepare for the camp! I found some at the resale shop and made the girls’ black skirts. It was nice to see the kids looking so pretty and spiffy! I also loved that my older kids got to play in orchestras for the first time. The directors were really fine. The older kids also had choir, theory class, composition class, and chapel. My oldest son played in a chamber group (trio) as well as the orchestra. sfz camp and morton arboretum 052 sfz camp and morton arboretum 051 sfz camp and morton arboretum 045 sfz camp and morton arboretum 042

One of the neatest pieces the kids played was called a “wrap-around” piece because the three lower orchestras stood around the auditorium (with cellists in the middle) while the advanced orchestra was on the stage.

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I really loved that my kids got to participate in a choir.

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Here is the advanced orchestra playing hymns by ear.

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The Pre-Twinkles class was fun for my 4-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.  My son was the youngest kid and the only boy.  He almost dropped his violin during the final performance!

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He sure is adorable, isn’t he?

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The Advanced orchestra:

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Intermediate orchestra:

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The Beginning orchestra:

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I also took advantage of the location to go on a couple of field trips with the younger kids in the afternoons when the intermediate and advanced orchestras were still practicing.  Here is the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum:

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And going back to the “Little House on the Prairie” days at Naper Settlement:

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Vacation Scrapbook: Visiting Monterey, California

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After we finished our time at my sister’s house (including my Mom’s funeral), we headed out to Monterey, CA for a fun vacation time!  There were 10 in our van and 6 in my sister’s car.  I counted to 12 (the kids) over and over and over during our time there.  And there always seemed to be someone missing that we had to search for!

It was Father’s Day when we left town, so we stopped at a Father’s Day adventure for the kids to explore the planes, helicopters, and trucks.  My brother-in-law is a forest fire fighter, so he gave us a lot of first-hand information.  Here is one of the helicopters he flies in.

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And here is the heavy backpack that he carries when on duty.

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One of the things my husband and I loved about driving around California were the wonderful orchards, fields of fruits and vegetables, and grapevines all over.  We stopped at a luscious farm stand where we bought pistachios, cherries, and blackberries that lasted us for rest of the trip!

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After arriving at Monterey and settling in to the KOA cabins in Salinas (which I do NOT recommend), we slept and got up early the next morning to explore.  Our first adventure was to drive out to Big Sur and then do a little hike at the State Park there.

The drive along Hwy. 1 is so beautiful.

We had the ultimate tour guides in my sister and her husband.  They were constantly texting us to give us information about the places we were driving by.  Occasionally, they even pulled over and came back to our van to tell a story.  Below is a picture of a military compound.  During World War II they used this spot to search the ocean for Japanese submarines.

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At the Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park, we walked over on this trail to see this pretty waterfall going into the ocean.  A couple had built a house during the early 1900’s that had this view out their bedroom window.  Pretty, huh?

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Then, not too far away in the same park was a redwood forest!

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Next we drove over to the beach in Monterey to let the kids explore the waves and sand.  Of course, they got completely into the water.  Here my sister and I are discussing why we didn’t have them change into their swimsuits first–which we had in the car!

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Playing football in the water:

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Getting buried in the sand–because it was pretty cold out there!

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We headed back to the cabins for a quick dip in the pool and then to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

The next morning it worked out perfectly that low-tide was about an hour before the aquarium opened.  My sister and her husband knew an awesome spot to go tide-pooling.  It was such a wonderful place to explore!

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Then it was time to head over to the Monterey Aquarium.  It made more financial sense for my family to buy a membership, even though we won’t be able to make it back there within a year and they don’t have any reciprocal memberships.  The total amount is tax-deductible, though.

The Monterey Aquarium was wonderful.  If you’re ever in the area, you’ll have to go there!

First, you can see all these seals sunning themselves right outside the building:

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Here the kids are sitting under a wave which simulates the tides.  (An extra child snuck in on the far right!)

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My mom loved puffins.  We had seen them in their own habitat when we lived in Alaska.  So, it was special to me to see this puffin exhibit here at the aquarium.

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We went at feeding time to the deep sea exhibit.  A lady was explaining to us how they feed the different types of fish in there.  For some of them, they just drop cut up pieces of food in.  For others, they use a tool to get the fish to swim up to the top of the tank and they feed them up there.  There is also a huge school of sardines that just swarm around the tank.  They are supposed to stay away while the mahi-mahi are feeding.  Right at the end of the presentation, one sardine was suddenly left all alone.  The lady said, “I hope he makes it.”  And right then a mahi-mahi chomped him right down as everyone was watching!

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Next we walked out to another beach for them to explore.  They didn’t get too wet this time.  Then we got some ice cream.

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Here are the Twelve!

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We decided to do one more touristy thing and visit the Mission in Carmel before getting pizza for dinner.

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Later that night we headed back to the beach to watch the sunset.  A perfect ending to our Monterey vacation!

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Stay tuned for the last leg of our vacation scrapbook: Los Angeles.  And check out our Legoland California post, too!

Vacation Scrapbook: Visiting My Sister’s Family

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One of the most wonderful parts of our California vacation was getting to spend time — five full days — with my sister and her family.  It has been four years since we last saw them.  We had never met her two adopted kids, and they hadn’t met my two youngest.

They live in a beautiful community in the mountains about an hour from Reno, Nevada.  It was very pretty there.  The dads and kids spent a lot of time exploring nature while my sister and I went through some of my mom’s things.

The cousins (12 of them ranging in age from 2-13) got along so well!

They have a zipline and trampoline on their property.

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And they have chickens!

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The girls doing their nails:

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My sister and I going through old pictures:

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Exploring nature:

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My brother-in-law is a forest fire fighter.  His son created this sign that was put up as a billboard!  Here he is posing with it:

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This was my Mom’s wedding dress.  My daughter is modeling it here:

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This is the trailer where my Mom lived, right next to my sister’s house.

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Here is a display that we had at my Mom’s memorial service.  My family (with nieces and nephews) sang “Come to Jesus” by Chris Rice.  We sang some great hymns that my Mom loved.  Some friends of hers sang another beautiful song as well.  My sister shared some wonderful words.  It was a great blessing to meet some of her friends and to hear how she had affected their lives.

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And lest you think my kids are little angels–here they are after the funeral.  My niece really didn’t want to wear this dress because she said it made her feel like she was in jail.  :)  My son wet his pants, and all I could find for him was a diaper in the church nursery.  And I think my 2-year-old decided to roll in the dirt.

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My daughter LOVED their dog!


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Some more wonderful pictures of our time there:

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Join me next time when I share about our travels to Monterey, CA!

Here is California Post #1–San Francisco and Sacramento

Here are my Money-Saving tips to Legoland California

Visiting My Sister’s family (and Mom’s funeral)

Los Angeles