Silver Springs

November 10, 2017

The Real Florida

What comes to your mind when you think of Florida?  Sunny beaches, theme parks, high priced T-shirts, Publix supermarkets?

How about alligators, turtles, cypress trees with diameters of fifteen feet, shimmering sunlight streaming through dissolved limestone particles in gushing spring water to give a silver blue tint to the crystal clear water?

This is Silver Springs

As the sign says (it’s the Florida State Parks logo) “the Real Florida!”

History is alive with the mementos of past years when numerous television shows and movies were made in the beautiful surroundings.

Tourists were riding on glass bottom boats in the 1870s – and if you want to feel like you are swimming with the critters without braving the cold springs water, you have to take the glass bottom boat ride!  (And you are safe too; the alligators, turtles, and snakes are outside the boat and your windows have bars!)

The Captain will say “this is 81 feet deep,” and you stare down at magical swirling waters pushing fish up in rising natural roller coasters.  (You can hear them squealing “weeeeeee” as they spiral up from the bottom with their tails wagging behind them.)

If you want to get even closer to the water wildlife, rent a canoe or kayak!  In one of these sleek craft, you can paddle down the beautiful river and feel like you are part of the unscathed beauty of nature.

There is a boardwalk through the swamp where you can get close to the huge trees and look down into the water.  Amazing birds are easy to hear but hard to catch on camera when your assistants are pretending the boardwalk is a drum for feet!

On the magnificent nature walks, you will see gigantic ancient trees and could possibly run into the wild monkey troupe!

(Or you may have your own wannabe monkey riding on you.)

Some of these trees have fallen and create amazing obstacle courses for the more adventurous in your group.  (You can play “don’t step on the ground” and jump from fallen log to fallen log – just be very careful not to fall off!)

Or you can sit at the top of a leaning stump where no one can reach you.  (Unless you are surrounded by wannabe monkeys who race to see who can reach you first!)

The cost to get in is only $2 a person!  It is extra to ride the glass bottom boats or rent a canoe.  This wild, historic destination is a perfect setting for a wedding among the wild flowers and rustic wooden arbor.  Research this gem at www.SilverSprings.com and check out the Real Florida any day of the year!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Birthday Day Off

October 26, 2017

Birthday Day Off

We are a homeschool family.   Sometimes this means we goof off and play games on birthdays instead of do bookwork.  But consider how much learning is crammed into everyday life!

Money skills: Today’s practicum included working and saving (racing around to do enough chores to raise the difference from their savings to whatever toy they wanted to buy for birthday sister), budgeting (oops, that pony figure is outside of my budget!),figuring tax, and checking change received.

Math and Science Lab: This included addition (1 cup milk + 1 cup milk = 2 cups milk), subtraction (Lucas dropped an egg!), fractions (1/2 cup sugar, please?), chemistry (solution versus compound, various states of matter, and a lengthy comical discussion of how the ingredients became a cake!), and even biology (answering our first-grader’s question of “does the sun help grow sugar?”).  Finally, our “home economics laboratory” produced a gluten-free chocolate cake with buttercream icing as requested.

They brought home the “best addition” to the cake – a miniature model of the Millennium Falcon, birthday girl’s favorite Star Wars ship.   (It’s her dream to have the Millennium Falcon Lego set – oddly enough, same one Mom wanted as a teen!)  We perched this on a good spot.

Language and Creative Writing: (each student wrote and colored a birthday card for Rebeccah).

Pyrotechnics and Fire Safety followed.  (This is otherwise known as lighting candles and hearing Mom’s 275th lecture on keeping hair away from flame!)

Music: (where everyone tries to get “…and many more” in the lowest baritone possible and the kazoos attempt to play some tune!)

Now for the guinea pigs to taste the experimental laboratory creation!  (A+ everyone lived!)  Creativity flowed during Art – the party hats turned into eye patches, unicorn horns, and noses.

Sometimes life takes over our classwork.  That’s okay.  We get a lot of practical work done on “days off!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Power of Music

October 15, 2017

Power of Music

Sometimes music is just the perfect thing to lift you up.  Today, I needed an energetic soundtrack for work.

I love how God seems to know exactly what to play and in what order.  It never matters what station: it’s always the right playlist!

So, my radio started with “That’s How You Change The World” by Newsboys.  (Absolutely perfect!   Skyrocket volume up, windows down!  I’m sure anyone outside on my road wondered if I was deaf.  My Daddy taught me to enjoy music by feeling it like a bass drum is your heartbeat.  Oh, I love that song too! Beckah Shae does it… But it wasn’t in the mix today.)

Just as that one is finished, I crawled to a halt at a red light and “The River” by Jordan Feliz started.   (Now in the middle of traffic, my hands stay on the wheel but my head is bobbing like a doggy on a dashboard so I’m pretty sure people think I’m crazy – but that’s perfectly fine for them to see me as I really am.)

This wonderful selection was finished with Britt Nicole’s “Amazing Life” (This one caused the volume to increase another notch) and “I Feel So Alive” by Capital Kings.  (Halfway through I had to turn this down to a manageable super-sensitive-ears-person-enjoying-music volume so I wouldn’t blow away my passenger.)

The power of music is to energize and refresh.  I love worship songs – I love songs I can make motions and signs to because that feels like dancing.  I imagine the music entering my body, refilling me with some kind of electron fuel, and exiting as a broad grin and my attempt at singing along. (At least, that’s what happens in a car… when my feet are free to dance?  “Shackles” by Mandisa; let the song do the talking!)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

“I am Lucas!”

October 9, 2017

“I Am Lucas!”

It had been a very hectic day!  As Christina and I sorted the folded clothes, I imagined how much money we would make if we designed a Roomba-type total-clothes robot.  You know, you would dump dirty clothes in a bin and this robot would suck them in, wash them, dry them, fold them, and put them away in the correct drawer.  (I was imagining coding for the brain and a lego technic body rolling around the house in an endless cycle – it would have to be powered by a rechargeable battery that plugged itself in at night so I wouldn’t forget to charge it.)

(With Christina’s cap!)

Lucas ran down the hall with lightning speed.  (On second thought, maybe I should just discover a way to harness 2-year-old energy to offset electric costs!)

He tapped Rebeccah’s knee.  “You are Becky!”  He screamed.  (He and his best buddy at church had amused themselves by yelling “I AM…” *insert toy, like BIG TRUCK, BLUE CAR, LITTLE PUPPY, etc.* This was the first “You are…” I had heard.)

Rebeccah, Kimberly, and Christina applauded.  Lucas loves attention even though he plays shy.  He ran into Kimberly doing dishes.  “You are Kay!”  (This is the sometimes-nickname the girls use for Kimberly.)

“He knows my name!” Kimberly laughed.

Jaquline stopped with an armful of clothes to be put away, “who am I, Lukie?”

Lucas got that crooked boyish grin. (She had said Lukie instead of Lucas!)  “You are BECKY!”

Jillian stopped gathering Lucas’ army of trucks that lined the hallway and laughed, “am I Becky too?”

“You are Prim!”  (This is Christina’s dog!)

Christina and Rebeccah laughed.

Jillian thought this was hilarious.  She started nudging trucks with her nose and yipped as Lucas raced past.  Lucas ignored the newly-discovered doggie and ran full steam back through the house.

He called out names as he touched or ran into people, “You are Ki-tina!”  (Best version of Christina so far.)   “You are Mommy!”  (Can’t really get that wrong; he’s been saying it correctly for a year and a half.)  “You are Becky!  You are Kay!  You are Jaqu-line!  You are Jillian!” This continued until the clothes were put away.  (The energizer bunny would run out of power before Lucas slowed down!)

Christina laughed, “who are you?”

Lucas giggled and yelled, “I AM LUCAS!”  This sound echoed off the hallway walls as he raced back into the playroom.

There is one little guy who knows who he is!  (Some of his energy does actually leak out to us; he can race through and brighten the mood of a whole room!)

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Level Up!

October 2, 2017

Leveling Up

On this nice warm day Jillian, Lucas, and I sat playing a video game on the couch.

We like to play this game together because Lucas can push the buttons (he thinks this is super) and Jillian narrates (this is Mommy getting creative about reading practice).   Some monkey bandits approach and Lucas tosses the controller to my lap. (I get to fight the battles.)

Afterward, Jillian reads “Alena has increased!”  She adds, “I like it when they level up.”

“Why?” I ask.  Lucas is walking the character around again.

“Because they learn new stuff.”

“I’m about to level up,” laughs Christina from the kitchen table.  (How is she following our conversation when she’s nose deep in chemistry?)

“In your game?” Jillian asks.  (Everyone has a saved game for this game; it’s a family competition.)

“No,” Christina laughs, “in real life.  I’m about to enter level 14.”

“Oh,” Jillian says thoughtfully.  She grins like Davy Crockett and starts bouncing (she does this when she figures something out), “you mean your birthday!  I love birthdays!  So I really love leveling up in real life.”

This made me smile.

It also made me think:

Our lives are quite like a game.  We go through “stages” in life that change as we grow.  Sometimes entering a new “level” is challenging, and we need help to get through this trying time (aka handing the controller off to mom).  Sometimes we are perfectly happy with the level we are at and don’t want it to change (Why can’t we stay in this land?).  Just like our goal in games is to “level up” by moving into new territory with new challenges, our goal in life is to “level up” by continuously learning, growing, and moving beyond complacency.

This also means we enjoy the journey as we go.  (Who would play a video game they didn’t enjoy?)  We find something fun in any situation and depend on God for direction, strength, and the wisdom to meet all challenges.  There’s even a guidebook!

The goal of our game is to make good choices and collect enough skills to win at the end.  In life, since being with Jesus in heaven forever is our end (we already know we will win!), our life choices should be made with this goal in mind.   (Being careful that what we do and say reflects Jesus is a good start!)

I never thought video games could be such good parodies of real life!  Oops, I’ve got to go get a “level up” cake ready for tomorrow!

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Summer Storms

September 13, 2017

Summer Storms

We are an outdoor thrill-seeking kind of family.  So, what do we do when the winds die down and there is water everywhere?  (And the kids are stir-crazy because it’s been thundering for most of the outside-time hours?)

We go outside…

In our bathing suits…

And get muddy.

Sometimes we ride boogie boards on flooded lawns. (Last year we “boogied” where hurricane Matthew created a pool in our front yard that reached 10 inches deep!)  Sometimes we march through the trough of water in the driveway. (This year, new place, new storm, new water adventures.)

The screams of “I found a real pool!” happen when a puddle is more than 3 inches deep.

The big girls make a funny Lego video about Hurricane Irma preparedness.  (My favorite part was the guy in line behind the mini-cooper!)

The most fun after the storm  is discovering the unique toys in the yard (Like the two felled trees that became “teepees” covered in branches shed by other trees.)  and the new “swing.” (A grape vine attached to the maple tree but hanging enticingly low enough and sturdy enough to be used as a temporary swing.)

After a storm, especially a major one, I always try to help everyone focus on the positive.

Bored?  We can help the lady next door by cleaning her yard.

An oak tree is gone.  But it became a teepee! 

The chinaberry tree, a favorite climbing tree, split and fell.  But the leaves make a great mulch for the chicken yard and help reduce odor. 

The power was out for two days.  But we had plenty of maple and oak wood to grill yummy meats and tin foil to bake sweet potatoes!  And we had good no-see-um screens & strong, cool breezes!

We couldn’t get out of our street to go to work because of three big trees blocking the roads.  But that meant we could stay home and play every board game in the house!  (We shifted to the backlit electronics like Scrabble Twist and Catch Phrase once the sun went down.)

We thank God for family, for the opportunities to help others as they presented themselves, for teaching us to find joy in any situation, and for keeping us safe through all summer storms.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Ghost Town

September 10, 2017

Ghost Town

Walking through our town, we felt like we were in a ghost town.   The streets, normally flooded with tourists, were instead empty.

In between the bands of rain, what started as gentle winds of about 15 miles an hour began building strength.  By the time we walked from the Village Inn to the Fort, the winds were tossing waves over the seawall and shooting spray and rain into our faces like atomic arrows.

At the wooden walkway at the north edge of the Fort, we stopped to watch the ocean beat against the seawall.

Lucas spied every vehicle that slowly drove down the small river that used to be Avenida Menendez and squealed “Big truck!” or “Police truck!” (Sport utility vehicles are trucks to Lucas.)  Three or four big jacked-up trucks moved through the river.  A police SUV appeared to be patrolling.

The girls raced up the Fort’s hill.  The walkway was underwater!

We didn’t check the depth, but the people behind us with the cute black and brown dogs were wading along the walkway up to their knees!

 

We stood on the Fort hill and surveyed the area of downtown in our sight.  Outside of those few vehicles, there were only a handful of scattered walkers.  (Our party of 8 made up about 50% of the walkers.)  The beautiful city was boarded up and sandbagged.  Colorful tape blocked the few windows that didn’t have boards or shutters.

After spying water in the moat, the girls decided not to roll down the hill because of the giant “lake” of water.

So off we went toward St George Street. (Back toward the car, because now the icicle raindrops were “too hard.”  This also meant no more pictures as our camera isn’t waterproof.)

On our way back home, Rebeccah said, “Mom, that was like a real ghost tour through a ghost town.”  With that began the ideas for what will soon  be released as another in the Five Alive: Funny Sisters series!  Gale at the Ghost Town

We left praying for those who would be affected as the flooding we observed was over 12 hours before the storm’s highest winds and storm surge were to reach us – and our city wouldn’t be the hardest hit.  Hurricanes display such raw, natural power that a mere human can only stand in awe.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

The Shelly Seashore

September 4, 2017

The Shelly Seashore

In Sisters at the Seashore, the Funny Sisters, Tina, Becky, Kim, Ellen, and Jill visit the seashore with Mom and Daddy.

Like the Funny Sisters’ home, this seashore is actually a real place!

As a family, we end up meeting our family at this specific beach because it’s closer to most of them.  It isn’t the girls’ favorite beach because of the tiny broken shells that replace sand as the shoreline.  They have a special nickname for it: “the shelly beach.”

Whenever we go there, these shells get everywhere!  They get stuck in between toes, in bathing suits, and I think they even use the salt as a glue to attach themselves to human bodies.  Oh, there’s a beautiful stretch of pretty white sand up to the waterline, but past that are tiny shell fragments that carpet the beach even out into the water.  One must carefully step so as not to cut the bottom of one’s feet.  The good news is that, just like a carpet, the shell blanket is not very deep.  Usually, someone has already shuffled their feet through the shells like a bulldozer to make a thin shell-free sandy path into the water.  We look diligently for these tiny safe-foot-paths.  If we can’t spy one, we make one.

The water here is slightly greenish and usually clear enough to see various sea life in the shallows.  Often as the tide changes the younger girls will dig for various mollusks and crabs.  These tiny creatures are usually less than a quarter of an inch in length!

Once, though, we saw a giant conch!

Rebeccah loves to collect very small complete shells; these you have to uncover in the sand as the water grounds them to fragments quickly.

This is the beach that the Funny Sisters visit.  We have many fun cousin-time days here!  Because of the unique properties that make this one of my favorite beaches to play at, North Vilano Beach at the walkover has become “the beach” for the Five Alive series!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

A Storm and Chicken Story

August 26, 2017

A Storm and Chicken Story

One day we were playing outside and a storm came up.  Not a cute little Pooh bear thundercloud with a few raindrops, but a giant, hurricane-wind, flash-lightning-fireworks-in-the-sky, shake-the-whole-house-thunder, all-people-hide-inside kind of thunderstorm.  (Okay, it was a simple, everyday, Florida thunderstorm.)  The winds were swirling chicken feathers and fluffing them out like towel-dried cats.  Smaller chickens were hop-flying to stabilize themselves as they fought for the safety of the henhouse.

After drying off from the first wave of rain, the girls peeked outside and giggled at the chickens until the raindrops were so large we couldn’t see the henhouse anymore.  The late summer winds blew the tree limbs around like strong autumn breezes scatter just-raked leaf piles.

“Mom, can you tell us a story with a storm?” Asked Rebeccah.

“A Long Tail story!” yipped Kimberly.  She was five, and she loved Long Tail.

So we snuggled on the couch with lightning flashes illuminating the room through the big windows and started what would become “Long Tail and the Big Storm.”

The chickens of the yard were ruled by Long Tail, the great yellow chief, and guarded by Long Tail and Alfredo, the white rooster imported some time ago.  Under this rooster team, the hens and pullets scratched and gossiped and laid eggs all day with no worries.

On one autumn day the bright sky darkened with angry clouds.  The sun hid.  The birds in the woods started crying warnings and flying away.  Two small humans who were playing in the henhouse with the baby biddies, heard a booming crack of thunder and jumped!  They put the baby biddies back in the safe brooder and left the henhouse.

“Look at those little humans!” cawed Alfredo, laughing, “running like rabbits!”

A giant bolt of lightning lit up the sky just behind the woods and a cannon-loud BOOM of thunder shattered the air.  Alfredo scrambled into the henhouse and hid under the brooder.

All the hens laughed at the silly rooster.

Even Red Feathers and Golden Eye, two of the youngest pullets, laughed at him.

Long Tail strutted by, “when the water falls from the sky, we come in.” Long Tail was not afraid.

A big wind shrieked through the henhouse.  It blew the people door open!

Can Long Tail save his flock?  Be sure to check out Long Tail and the Big Storm to see just how this courageous rooster accomplishes this brave feat!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Eclipse Adventure

August 25, 2017

Eclipse Adventure

This story all started about six months ago.

We discovered that there was to be a full solar eclipse!  Since the viewing area where we could see the totality of the eclipse was only a four hour drive away, we decided to take a road trip.

At just after midnight, in the wee hours of August 21, 2017, we loaded the last of the snacks, water, and spare clothes into the van and began our journey.

About 5:30am we pulled into a truck stop next to a Shoneys and woke everyone up in turns.  Lucas was already up, racing around the van expelling some magical two-year-old energy.  Mommy took Lucas and Jillian to the potty where, on the way out, Lucas spotted a policecar and shrieked “Wow!  Police car!  Cool car!”

Owner of said car (a tall, probable ex-football linebacker) growled playfully, “you noticing my car, buddy?”

Lucas played shy for a few seconds, then said, “Policecar, where green men?”  (This almost stumped me… until I realized this officer had a black uniform and our St Johns County officers wear green!) So I told Lucas this policeman wore black clothes instead of green, and yes, it was his car.  Lucas grinned at the officer, “police car!”

“High five for my cool car?” The officer grinned.  Lucas screamed “High five!  CAR!”  This made everyone laugh.

Since we were less than 5 miles from Santee State Park, our original destination, we found star constellations, played guessing games, and chatted about the science behind eclipses.

Finally, tummies growling like we had swallowed starving lions, we joined the small mob that entered the Shoneys as the sweet hostess unlocked the doors.  Even Lucas’ policeman friend had mentioned that it was a great spot for breakfast.

Breakfast was yummy!  Lucas’ new food word is “disgusting!” (Lucas was eating an apple and someone said “don’t eat the seeds, they are disgusting” so Lucas has this new word on continual repeat.)  Lucas would taste something, say “dis-gust-ing!” and chow down on said food item.  Lucas seems to think “disgusting” means “yummy.”  (Our waitress caught this two or three times and tried not to let everyone see she was giggling.)

Sip of chocolate milk.  “DISGUSTING!” Big grin and he drained the cup.  A mouthful of bacon.  “DISGUSTING!” and the rest of the bacon vanished from his plate, Christina’s plate, and Mommy’s plate. (We were his left and right neighbors.)  The girls would say “Mmmm!  Yummy!” in an attempt to make Lucas follow their example.  But Lucas is at the stuck-on-one-word-for-weeks stage.  Finally he heard the vroom of a big truck.  “BIG TRUCK” and that was the end of “disgusting” for a while.

We ended up in a huge parking lot next to a giant waterslide and pool complex about a mile from the Dollar General and Food Lion down a lovely sidewalk bordered with assorted wildflowers, quaint houses and yards, and huge pine trees.  There were a few scattered vehicles with others camping out in the wide open space.  The city hall had a much larger audience (an entire field of cars!) as they were doing music and entertainment leading up to the eclipse.

Including finding this almost 4 inch insect!

After a full morning of games, exploring, and resting, the moon began to slowly cover the sun!  Lucas napped up to the last ten minutes before totality.  It was amazing!  At first, we could barely tell through our dark glasses that anything was different, but within the next few glances, the girls cried out things like “it looks like a pac-man!” and “it’s an eye from the science book!”  We had read legends from various places and their favorite was one where the sky dragon swallows the sun but it burns the dragon up and reappears.

Through the glasses, half of the sun was gone.  Everyone jumped up to look again.  Between peeks, we hid from the ninety-seven-degree heat by ducking into the van with all the windows open, explaining and discussing the phenomena as it was happening.  Then it happened.  The air began to cool.  The colors of the cars and grass lost their vibrancy.  We grabbed our glasses. This glance was a few minutes before the total eclipse.  All of the sun was shadowed except for a sliver of a crescent.  The dark came.  Lucas had finally woken up and was playing with rocks.  All the girls and Mommy and Daddy got him to look at the sun – he was hooked!  He pointed out the stars (two visible planets in the sky) and the fireworks (lightning in the distance) and “Puppies!” (three or more dogs howling and whining)  For what seemed like an eternity, we listened to birds and insects who perceived it was night time.  Everyone was excited but quiet.  Then the shadow started to ease off.  The entire parking lot exploded in applause, whistles, and exclamations – praise, thanking God for letting the light come back.  Children danced!

We loaded up our van and headed out.  We excitedly replayed our video recordings, discovered stars in our photos of the total eclipse, sang fun songs, and chatted on and on about the fun experiences of the day.  Everyone agreed seeing the total eclipse was well worth the half-day drive.  We even started making plans to road trip to the next one!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart