Sunday, August 30, 2015

An Unusual Sunday

Last weekend, my husband was called in to work on Saturday.  Ugh.  We had plans to go to a special Norfolk Tides double header, and we had to be there early at 4:30 because Steve was supposed to lead Holden’s little league team onto the field during the National Anthem…his team won the Field of Dreams again this year.  Holden was really excited.  Steve works over an hour away in Newport News, so it wasn’t looking good.  But he managed to get them to let him off early so he could make it in time.  Afterwards, there were fireworks over the harbor.  It was great!  Steve got to relax and have a nice time, too, which was good.

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Then he had to work on Sunday, too.  That meant I’d have to teach the kids’ bible study class.  No big deal, but it meant I couldn’t go to class myself.  Bummer.  But then there was another unexpected turn of events.  On Sunday morning, the preacher contacted everyone to say that he was dizzy and having balance issues and nausea, so that meant there were no men to give a sermon, so we’d have to find someplace else to worship that morning!  Ugh!  Initially, I thought I’d try out the Princess Anne Church of Christ that’s so close to my house.  But then I had a thought…why not go over to our old church, Harpersville Church of Christ in Newport News, and say hello to old friends?  I figured we could make a day of it and visit the Virginia Air & Space Center before we headed home.  So that’s what we did.

Well, I hadn’t been back to Harpersville since we started Southside Church of Christ back in October of 2004.  It’s been 11 years!  Most of the faces have changed, being a largely military congregation.  But there were a handful of old familiar faces.  And it felt so good to sit there in the place where I was married and baptized, among faces of people who were there for both major milestone events in my life.  It was just neat.  And while it’s still small, it’s a much larger congregation than ours, so the a cappella singing was so uplifting!  Thankfully, my kids were well behaved, and we enjoyed visiting with old friends for quite a while afterwards.  I was surprised by how many of them still look just the same as I remembered them, even after all this time!

Steve told us they had plenty of pizza left from lunch the day before, and that it would be okay if we came by his office to eat with him and have a quick tour of his office.  That was pretty cool!  In all the years he’s worked there, both this time around and many years ago when he worked there the first time around, I’ve never been inside that building.  So it felt like quite a privilege to be invited in.  I finally got to see his cubicle where he spends his day.  That was pretty neat.

Then we changed our clothes and headed off to the Virginia Air & Space Center.  They had some new exhibits that we hadn’t seen yet, and we ended up staying until they closed at 5 PM!  I had a great time building a big fort with the kids using huge foam blocks they had. 

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So it was a very impromptu, unusual Sunday for us, but we had a great time and got to worship with old friends.  That’s always a good thing.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 28, 2015

REVIEW: Roman Town (iOS App) from Dig-It! Games

My teenager and I had the opportunity to review the Roman Town (iOS App) from Dig-It! Games.



Roman Town is an immersive mystery game that combines history and puzzle solving in order to exercise your students’ skills in strategic thinking, spatial reasoning, memory, logic, math, and more.  They will also learn about ancient games, Roman history, and daily life in this historic civilization.

While solving mini-games and puzzles along the way, players will be trying to track a thief named Ladrone and gathering clues.

This game is targeted for ages 9-11, as it meets Common Core standards for grades 5-8.  However, I think anyone 9 and up who enjoys history-based video games and puzzles would enjoy this type of adventure game.

Roman Town is designed for iOS devices and can be downloaded from the iTunes store.




Hayden just turned 16 during this review, and although he’s above the target age range for the game, he’s not above interest in it.  He’s always enjoyed history-based video games, and he really enjoyed reviewing Mayan Mysteries (also by Dig-It Games) a couple of years ago.  And although he’s in public school now after being homeschooled through 8th grade, he was free for the summer and jumped at the chance to give this a try.

I believe this game is designed for about 4 hours of game play in order to complete the entire game, but it only took Hayden about 2.5 hours of intensely dedicated play time.  He loves mini-games within a game, so this was right up his alley.  This game includes 35 unique, replayable puzzles.

At the start of the game, the characters explain the circumstances and decide to begin exploring Pompeii and where Ladrone may have gone.  You choose which character you want to play as, but you can switch characters at any time.  There are four different locations you visit with each character in order to reach the fifth location. 

As you reach a mini-game, you are given random historical facts about the area you’re visiting.  Then you are asked to solve some sort of puzzle  There are 10 types of mini-games.  They include Artifact Identification, Calculi, Dots and Boxes, Roman Numerals, Concentration, Knucklebones, Code Breaker, Jigsaw, Pipes, and Maze.

  • Artifact Identification:  Set to a timer, you race to match the names of artifacts with their pictures.  Hayden initially enjoyed this game but wished that there was less repetition of the same items within the game. 
  • Calculi:  This was a popular Roman board game.  This game looks a lot like a checkerboard but plays like Connect Four (only it’s connect five!).  Hayden said this game was super fun.  He likes strategy games, and he felt that playing against the computer was still fairly challenging.  He enjoys this type of game and didn’t tire of playing it.
  • Dots and Boxes:  Playing against the computer, you take turns drawing lines in an attempt to draw a complete box.  If you are successful, you take another turn.  At the end, whoever has the most boxes wins the game.  Hayden found this game to be particularly frustrating and was the only mini-game that he truly did not enjoy at all.  It took an unusually long time to get past this game.  He said it took him 4 or 5 tries each time the game was played to win.  He said he didn’t know if he was just really bad at it or if the computer was just too “smart” to play against, but it made the game not enjoyable at all, and he was anxious to get past it.
  • Roman Numerals:  In this game, you simply had to translate Roman Numerals into numbers within a time limit.  Hayden thought this was really fun and a good refresher for him!  If a player is unfamiliar with Roman Numerals or has forgotten the rules for using them, the details are explained on the left-hand side during game play.
  • Concentration:  Just like any other concentration game you’ve played, there 3 rows of tiles that you had to flip over and try to match pairs.  The images were artifacts from the time period, which made it more interesting.  Hayden really enjoyed this.
  • Knucklebones:  This is like a dice game (similar to Yahtzee) but using bones instead of dice.  It is a game of chance.  Hayden said it was fun, but because there was less strategy and more luck involved, he had to repeat it quite a few times in order to win.
  • Code Breaker:  This game has you try to figure out a 4-digit code to unlock a safe, which revealed a clue.  Hayden said this game was his favorite one of all!  He played it a lot just because he liked it.  He went back several times to play it again.  This was the first game he talked to me about, so I know he really enjoyed it!
  • Jigsaw:  In this game, you had to assemble the jigsaw pieces in order to complete a picture.  It might be an image of an item used in this time period, a period painting, or a drawing.  No rotation of the jigsaw pieces is required…just moving them into place.  Hayden said this game was really simple overall.  Some of them only had 8-9 pieces, but then others had quite a few pieces.  Overall, it wasn’t especially challenging.
  • Pipes:  Here, you had to put joints and pipe sections into place underground to continue the flow of water from one side to the other and back up to the surface.  Hayden said this could have been more fun if the pathway hadn’t been so obvious.  He was able to find the path within 5-6 seconds and place the pieces to complete the puzzle within 10 seconds.  He liked the concept of the game but wished it had been more challenging.
  • Maze:  Tilting the device to move a ball through a maze, you had to try to put the ball in a hole on the other side.  Hayden thought the maze was very simple, but he thought it would be somewhat more challenging for a 9-10 year old but not especially difficult.

Each time Hayden completed a region with both characters, he received a portion of a letter.  This led him to a slide puzzle which he had to complete.  He said he wasn’t very good at the slide puzzles and got rather frustrated.  He spent the bulk of his playtime trying to get past these puzzles.  He actually got his sister’s help at one point! 

Once he’d completed all 4 of the slide puzzles, he then had the complete letter.  This led him to the 5th and final region.  Here, he had to make contact with various people until he found the one that told him the location of Ladrone.  Once he found Ladrone’s location, he received a postcard that gave him the impression there may be more to this adventure in the future!

Overall, he enjoyed the game for its historical value.  He said the random facts were very interesting and he even learned a few new tidbits.  He also enjoyed the educational content of the mini-games.  But he said each time a mini-game was repeated, the same facts were given, and he wished they had included new information instead.  He felt the content was appropriate for the target age range of 9-11, and he felt the mini-games spanned a broad range of easy to difficult so there’s something for different ages. 

Check out what other Crew members had to say about Roman Town and Mayan Mysteries by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Our Visit to Cape Henry Lighthouse

In all the years I’ve lived in Virginia Beach (since 1992), I’ve never taken a tour of the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse.  It’s located on Fort Story at the VB Oceanfront.  We’ve actually been to Fort Story on field trips a couple of times for Cape Henry historic summer programs, but it seemed I always had one child who was under 42 inches tall, and that’s the minimum requirement to tour the lighthouse itself. 

Then this spring, Groupon offered a deal to tour the lighthouse, and I got to thinking that this would be a neat thing to do with the kids this summer now that they are all grown up enough to do it!

To be honest, the summer has been pretty busy, and with planning the kids’ birthday party and celebrations, it kind of slipped my mind.  Then I got a reminder email from Groupon that our deal would expire soon, so I stepped up our plans to go on Friday at the beginning of our August break from school.  I kept an eye on the weather, and luckily, conditions were ideal!           

The thing about the lighthouse is that it gets very hot and is always humid up in the top, so in cases of extreme heat or thunderstorms, it closes.  It turned out to be a cooler day because the skies were very overcast, but fortunately, it didn’t rain.  So it was actually perfect!  I called before we left just to be sure, and then we were off.

I knew our vehicle would have to be searched because the lighthouse is on a military installation, so we left plenty of time for that.  What I didn’t realize, though, was that even children need I.D. if they are 16 or older.  Well, Hayden had *just* turned 16 the week before, and since he hasn’t gotten his learner’s permit yet, he didn’t have any kind of I.D.  Fortunately, the guard was understanding and said he’d follow the spirit of the law in this case and let us proceed.  Shew!  Crisis averted.

DSCF4396When we arrived, we saw that the actual working lighthouse that’s currently in use is just across from the historic one.  We took a look around the gift shop and then headed up the 191 steps to the top!  The whole thing is a steady, spiral metal staircase that’s very narrow.  It’s a bit awkward if people are coming down as you’re going up, so I wouldn’t want to go when it’s especially busy.  Unfortunately, Haylee is afraid of heights, and when she got about 5 steps from the top landing, she had a total panic attack, shaking and crying, and had to turn around and go back down.  You can somewhat see between the steps because they are metal, so it kind of freaked her out.  It’s too bad, because she was literally at the top and didn’t know it.  Then it was too late because she had already headed back down.  So unfortunately, she never got to see the incredible view from the top!  It was so beautiful, and there was a vent in one of the windows that allowed the steady ocean breeze to circulate inside.  The boys and I took lots of photos of both the ocean and the view to Town Center, which was clearly visible above the trees and was really neat to see and recognize.

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Then we headed back down and told Haylee all about it.  We stopped in the gift shop again on the way out and got one of those souvenir coins where you put a dollar in and watch the machine flatten a penny and stamp an image of the lighthouse on the face of it.  Neat!

The photo on the left is the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse, and the other photos are the views from the top of it, which show the working lighthouse on the other side.

Enjoy our photos!  If you’re ever in town, be sure and check it out. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Firstborn Is 16!

Say it isn’t so!  My, how the years have flown.  :(

After the big annual Burgess Birthday Bash last weekend, Hayden’s actual 16th birthday snuck up unassuming on Wednesday.  He started the day with cross-country practice at school, and then I dropped him off at the bowling alley to bowl with some friends from school while I finished up homeschooling the 2 younger kids for the day. 

Next I baked his favorite birthday cake…a pineapple upside down cake.  Every time he had a piece in the days to follow, he said he was reminded of why it’s always his first choice of birthday cake.  Yum!


I slipped out during the day and picked up his birthday gift from us.  Hayden’s a kid who never really asks for anything and even has a difficult time selecting what he wants when someone asks him to pick something out for this birthday.  What we got him was a torpedo skateboard, and it was the only thing he’d shown any interest in this summer.  Every time we went to Walmart or Target, he managed to go down the sporting goods aisle and ride on this skateboard.  He was totally surprised when I showed up with it in a big gift bag.

See him open it here.

Then for his birthday dinner, he chose to have my homemade chicken enchiladas with Southwestern rice and refried beans.  Everybody was happy with that choice, because it’s one of our favorite meals around here!  We love Mexican food. 


After dinner, we sung happy birthday to him and enjoyed the cake.  Yay! 

Watch here.

He ended the evening by chilling out in the new hexagon chair (which he absolutely loves) that he got for his birthday from friends at church and playing games on the Xbox 360.


Two days later when we were done with school for the week, we spent the day at Colonia Williamsburg exploring all the sights and historical building and demonstrations.  We tried to see all the things we didn’t see the first time we went many years ago when it was early spring and not much was going on.  We had such a good time this time around, and tickets were free for area residents!  That was a nice treat. 

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Hayden said he had a fabulous time walking around for 5 hours and taking in the sights.  It was really fun, but we were all exhausted.  We spent a total of about 5 hours in traffic round trip because the tunnel was backed up so badly both in the morning and at night.  We knew we were getting home really late, so we stopped at our favorite restaurant, Mi Casita, and had a big dinner and some Mexican fried ice cream as an extended birthday celebration for Hayden.  They even came out and sang to him in Spanish and put a sombrero on his head.  Fun!


We were worn out by the weekend and pretty much laid around.  Hayden even skipped cross-country practice on Saturday morning because he feet still hurt from our long adventure on Friday!  I certainly could relate. 

It seems we’re finally done with our semi-annual round of birthday celebrations, so we’re good now until after Christmas. 

See ya next week!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tea Party & the Annual Burgess Birthday Bash!

On Haylee’s actual birthday, she likes for me to take her to the English Rose Tea Room for a special girl’s afternoon tea as part of her birthday gift, and this year was no different!  Only this year, her girlfriends couldn’t go with us.  But luckily, my sister was in town, and we were able to gather family together to make it a special day for her!

So on Friday, July 31st as Haylee turned 11, my sister, Wendy, my niece, Katie and her two children, Izzy and Kaden, and my sister-in-law, Karen, all came over from the Peninsula to meet us at the tea room.  It was a beautiful day, and Haylee was so happy to have family around her for her special day. 

We had a wonderful time, and my sister and her family were able to come by and visit with the boys for a few minutes afterwards.  It was so nice to get to see her!  I hadn’t seen my sister in over 3 years, and we’re very close. 

After they left, I got busy baking Haylee’s requested chocolate birthday cake and her favorite birthday dinner, and we sung to her when Steve got home from work. 

I’ll let the pictures tell the story of her special day!


Then yesterday, we had the annual Burgess Birthday Bash for Hayden’s 16th and Haylee’s 11th birthday celebration.  It was great to get good friends and family together for a fun afternoon.  We did a German theme this year, so we had bratwurst and sauerkraut, homemade hot German potato salad, braunschweiger liverwurst with cheese and crackers, and homemade black forest filled cupcakes!  It was all so delicious.  The cupcakes were a huge hit.  I’m definitely keeping that recipe!


Hayden said he and his friends had a wonderful time at his party, and he was really happy.  The two of them convinced me to take them shopping after our guests left so they could look for goodies with their birthday money.  My feet were killing me by the time we made it home!  It was a great day, though, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  Hayden has such a nice group of friends from school, and I’m glad they were able to celebrate with him.  My sincerest thanks to everyone who came!

Hayden’s actual 16th birthday is this week on Wednesday, so I’ll be busy baking him his favorite pineapple upside down cake!  Yum.

Haylee and Holden will be back to homeschooling tomorrow after our 2-week break.  Ugh!  Summer is almost over.  There are still some adventures I’d like to take the kids on before Hayden starts back to school after Labor Day.  There are free tickets for residents this week to Colonial Williamsburg, so we’re hoping to do that on Friday.  We have old church friends passing through town on Tuesday on their way to Spain, so we’ll be picking them up to visit for a bit during their lengthy layover between flights.  I just have a couple of weeks left to use the tickets I bought for the Cape Henry Lighthouse Tour, and I need to take the kids bowling a couple of times before summer is over.  So we still have some fun days to fit in somewhere!  Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Over 400 FREE History Videos for Kids!!!

History Videos for KidsIn clicking around on the internet this week, I stumbled upon this wonderful resource for over 400 FREE history videos for kids from Brookdale House! 

Pretty cool!  And they are catalogued by time periods, so it’s easy to find just what you’re looking for.  This could be a great way to supplement your history studies! 

The categories include:

  • Ancient History
  • Medieval History
  • Early Modern History
  • Modern History

Thank you, Brookdale House! 

I’ll be adding this free resource to my Homeschooling on a Dime blog post.  If you haven’t checked that out, it’s a master list of all the free homeschooling resources I’ve gathered over my 12 years of homeschooling.