Thursday, December 26, 2013

At the Aquarium

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What have we been doing in December at the Thorpe house?

Home schooling project: Absorption

Art "class" crafts: Christmas trees & Snowmen

Every kid's favorite: Legos

Learning to be grateful: making thank-you cards with stickers

Entertaining our new baby brother: Madoc

Grandchildren are truly a blessing from The Lord!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Homeschooling from Nani's perspective

I am a trained elementary school teacher. In the past I have enjoyed teaching 4th, 7th, and 8th graders, mostly in a Christian school environment. I did teach 6th grade in a public school when we were first married, many years ago. Because of this background I was a bit sceptical when my daughter decided to home school her two oldest boys; 4 and 6. For one thing I know how much organization and planning teaching entails and with her new baby and her husband about to be deployed with the army for 6 months how was she to manage a family, a house, AND teach?? 
She assured me both her and Steve had prayed about it and felt God's call in this area. After reading Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview by Israel Wayne and seeing her "in action" I am confident she has made the best decision!
This quote from the book sums up why Christians should home school:
"If our children are going to be able to stand against the thoughts and ideas of the 21st Century and be able to defend their faith, we must be teaching, equipping, and preparing them now. Nothing is of greater importance. All of life should be understood from the Christian world view." David and Shirley Quine

Here are some reasons for home schooling:

Learning in a relaxed atmosphere with Mom teaching lessons and being able to incorporate the Bible in every lesson!

Extending study (about the octopus and other sea creatures) into snack and lunch times.

Researching together on the computer all about sea animals and enjoying varioius videos.

Making home made Christmas gifts after a morning of reading/math. Home school allows lots of extra time since school work is accomplished basically one on one in a shortened time period. 

Home school is, so far, working at the Thorpe household and Nani couldn't be happier!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Baby, biscotti, and the Bible

What do these three have in common?

They are all "incrediibly sweet" and we take pleasure in them!

Psalms 119:16 
"I take pleasure in your laws (God's  Word), your commands I will not forget."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 14 in Sicily

We arrived early afternoon into the town of Monreale, the ending point for our 10 day bike ride through western Sicily. This morning the sun again shown bright and the temps warm as we peddled through the country, with a couple of steep climbs that always reward us with spectacular views. In general the afternoon was downhill but challenging as there were several dark tunnels to go through, a variety of bridges to cross, rough pavement patches, (even 1/2 a road missing), and directions that involved a multitude of turns through this busy city. But we are here and our B&B is spacious. After spending 2 hours disassembling the tandem and packing it into its two suitcases we showered and took a walk through this famous town. It is widely known as the "home" of the Monreale Cathedral, with its breathe taking mosaics! They truly are camera worthy! Our stomachs began to growl but too early at 5:30 p.m. for dinner in Italy. But with a bakery near our hotel we indulged in crusty bread and fruit to tide us over until 7:30 p.m. when an inviting pizzeria says it will begin serving. Why not enjoy true Sicilian pizza for our last night in Sicily! 
We are both sad to say, "The ride is done and we must now leave this wonderful island". This has been one of those "vacations of a life time"! For us that translates into interesting adventures, taking some risks, challenging our bodies, trying new foods, testing our wills and sometimes pushing them to the limit. It also builds our marriage as we ride down the road on the tandem talking, laughing, and sometimes even "arguing" or shall I say discussing which direction to go. We are blessed that God joined our lives together and we share a passion for travel and biking!
I hope you have enjoyed reading these blogs of our trip and I pray God is daily blessing you with passions in life!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 13 in Sicily

 There are some valuable items we are glad we brought along on this trip. Our Italian cell phone is one of them. We have had to use it when we couldn't get to the airport on time for our pick-up last week, called the company's contact when our luggage didn't show up after our first day's ride, called to discuss some bad directions and get some reassurance we could trust the future direction sheets, and finally we have been in touch with our daughter who will deliver our 8th grandchild any day! (We are all praying the baby waits to arrive until we return from Sicily on Wednesday!)
Another crucial item we brought is our odometer. Since the company's daily directions depend on kilometers traveled our odometer is necessary! To pair with the odometer is our handheld GPS with it's European road maps. When our provided directions don't match the roads, signs, or landmarks (which has been almost 50% of the time!) we pull out the GPS and make necessary adjustments. Honestly, without this devise we would have been totally lost in Sicily at least three times!!
Finally, an item we hope never to use but so glad we have it along is our pepper spray. Today we came as close as we ever had to using it. There are many dogs in Sicily, mostly for protection of property and for herding sheep in the country. Our information packet from the biking company suggested we always get off our bikes and walk past any dogs. In Sicily they are not accustomed to bikers, as they are on the main land of Italy, and a tandem is especially foreign to them. We have faithfully followed this policy and found the dogs to be very friendly and mostly just curious. But that is not the case with one particular dog today. We were traveling in the country and had just come down a gentle slope of the road when this vicious dog came racing down the lane. We immediately jumped off the bike and Hunter yelled at him to "go home", which is his customary response to a barking dog and it has always worked in the past but not this time. The dog bared his teeth, barked, growled and continued his approach. Our adrenaline was running high. Hunter had me behind him and the tandem between us and the dog. He had also disengaged the pepper spray from its holder and held it ready. (The problem with our little pepper spray is that the dog has to be VERY close before it reaches him and you have to be very accurate.) We began backing down the hill, past this dog's property, continually yelling at the dog. He followed us for quite a distance before he retreated home. We then quickly mounted the bike and peddled away, only to stop about a mile down the road to sit and rest after quite a scare. (I was bit once years ago by a dog while we were biking and I don't relish a repeat "performance"!) We are glad we had the pepper spray but Hunter would rather have had a gun! 
It was a very hilly ride today and that combined with the dog insident results in two extremely tired bikers who will go to bed early IF we can have our evening meal BEFORE the middle of the night!

Day 12 in Sicily

This was a tough day! Although the mileage was only around 30+ miles the elevation grade was almost equal to the climb on Wednesday! Today we also experienced some rough roads, as shown in the photos below!

Our B & B tonight is located basically on top of a mountain- no kidding! 

While riding this morning, before I had to simply concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other or pushing down slowly on one pedal after the other out of shere exhaustion, God showed me His glory in the surrounding countryside.
In the umbrella tree I saw Him as a God of protection, covering us with His "umbrella" of love. 

In the olive tree I saw His eternal nature. Did you know that in southern Italy there still exist olive trees that date back to the time of Christ? Basically an olive tree never dies except if destroyed by a disease or man but keeps on producing indefinitely? 

In the vineyard this time of year I saw God's mercy in the pruning process in our lives. The vineyards look dead now but really they are waiting for the "vine dresser" to cut off all the old growth so in the spring the new growth will produce fresh grapes. Isn't that just what God does in our lives? When we get "ugly looking" on the inside He prunes us so we will once again produce fruit for His kingdom.

And in the beauty of the valleys I saw God's creative nature displayed in all it's glory.

So even though I'm tired from a hard bike ride I feel so blessed to have "seen" God all day long!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 11 in Sicily

Can you identify this plant? It is all over Sicily. Yes, you "kings"of the garden, it is an aloevira plant. They are used for decoration and grow wild along the roadway. Other "crops" we have seen are olive groves by the acres, vineyards,(not as abundant as on the mainland), prickly pear cactus plants planted in rows, fields of egg plant, yellow melons, and a vegetable which is a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. We have also seen little white potatoes, small, firm and incredibly sweet pears, plums, and large green grapes. The grapes take some adjustment since they are NOT seedless, in other words, they have not been "hybriidtized". Can we say natural food in Sicily? Maybe the states needs to learn a lesson or two from Sicily. Did you know GMO wheat and soy beans are not allowed in Sicily? No wonder my stomach problems are much less here!

Today was another sunshine filled day and a beautiful bike ride through the countryside and by the coast. We did had an opportunity to visit an old archeology spot with the remains of an impressive Greek temple. Not certain about the historical details because we didn't take the pricey narrated tour but did walk around the massive and impressive structure.
Our evening is at another beautiful agriturismo, with a quaint room and delicious food. There is only one chage we would make in these lovely establishments-an earlier evening meal! After bike riding all day we are ready for bed at 7:00 p.m. but dinner is not served until 8:00p.m.! Thank goodness for internet, otherwise we'd be asleep and miss the wonderful evening "fare"!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 10 in Sicily

"A walk in the park, a breeze, a piece of cake, a snap of your fingers" or whatever cliche you might use to describe something that is easy is how I'd classify today's ride of approximately 55 miles along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The directions were "spot on" and the morning hills so much lower than our climb yesterday that to describe them as hills is a misnomer.
 I was reminded today of the Biblical principle that trials are allowed by God to strengthen you and Paul encourages Christians to persevere, run the race, finish the "fight" to win the prize-eternal life. In  2 
Corinthians Paul writes that Jesus says, "My strength is made perfect through your weakness". I share all this to remind myself that yesterday's "trials"-persevering when the bike climb was tough-served to encourage me and give me confidence in my physical ability similar to what God does for us as we trust in His leading no matter what life experiences we travel through.
I took many photos today ranging from the Sicilian countryside and the salt flats, to the shimmering, diamond studded waters of the Med. Truly God's handwork displayed for our pleasure! 
Tonight we are staying in the town of Mazara del Vall, which is reported to be the biggest fishing port in all so Sicily. Can you guess what will be on my dinner plate this evening?