Our home in a dome – the inside scoop

It has now been exactly one full month since we started moving into our geodome home (click to read if you missed that post). After several weeks of enduring the stress of packing, moving, unpacking, allowing way too many occurrences of My Little Pony watching on Netflix, and too frequently asking the question, “What? We are already through that 12 pack and box of wine?” (you can see that we didn’t weather this long drawn out month of transition well), AND still trying to accomplish the many other tasks that already existed on our daily plate of to-dos), things are finally starting to feel more settled. The craziness has slowed a bit and so I was able to make a little time to post some details about our new abode.

To help you gain a little more perspective of what things are like inside this odd shaped living structure, I thought I would use this post to share the floor plan layout of our two floors.

When you enter in the only door on the first floor, you have a bit of a landing area to step onto. Then you can decide whether to go down a few steps into the living area, or go up the stairs into the loft.

The total downstairs area is 1,100 square feet. However, you will notice that in each of the rooms the walls come together at extremely acute angles. While the word, ‘acute’ might be a good thing if you are describing one’s intellect. When you are talking about corners in homes we now know it is hip to be square! Those very narrow corners seriously reduce the usable space on the main floor, and much is wasted. Concerning the space under the stairs that go up to the loft, you can imagine that the combination of the sloping low ceiling height, the wood burning stove, and the closet all make that area a tricky one to utilize as well. But we are making it work, and those pictures will follow soon.

The upstairs loft area is for the master suite. It feels like a nice grand space when you come up and there is a door out to a patio with a lovely view of the mountains. But the main negative (and why we refer to it as a loft and not a true bedroom) is that much of the area is open to the downstairs. You can see from the picture that there is a half-wall (shown by the dashed-line) at the top of the stairs and you can also see that the railing (shown by the dotted lines) is open to the living area below. There are NO doors up there (not even for the potty), NO closet to hang clothes, and NO walls to separate the shower from the rest of the room. And that also means NO PRIVACY. Fortunately I married Rob, the builder and thus a wall and a closet were quickly constructed over the Christmas break before we moved in (those pictures will follow soon too). Hopefully this little bit allows you to see and appreciate some of the challenges we had/still have in making this space work for our family of five.

These layouts were the before drawings of how the dome looked when we purchased it. There have been many modifications Rob made while we were moving in. In posts to come I will show those and include how we placed our furniture. And of course I will share some of the fun pictures that capture our very unique space. Stay tuned….

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The beginning of our GeoDome adventure!

So this is kind of crazy. Are you ready for this exciting news??

The Van Vleets are home owners again!!

But this is not just any kind of home. We purchased a geodome! “A what???”, you might be asking (and it would be a valid question if you did). The term is short for geodesic dome and wikipedia defines it as this. “A spherical or partial-spherical shell structure or lattice shell based on a network of great circles (geodesics) on the surface of a sphere. The geodesics intersect to form triangular elements that have local triangular rigidity and also distribute the stress across the structure. When completed to form a complete sphere, it is a geodesic sphere.”

Doesn’t that just radiate mathematical awesomeness!

Anyways, here is a picture of our soon-to-be residence.

And because the next question that usually follows after the ‘what is it’ inquiry seems to be another very valid, “why would you do that????” question.

For some fun, how about I let you make some guesses as to our why of doing such a thing. Here are three possible rationales.

1) We are huge J.R.R. Tolkien fans and have always dreamed of living in something that resembles a hobbit hole.

2) I was a math major, so any house whose structure can be described using words like polyhedron, sphere, involve a geeky Greek letter, “ν” (nu), and a cool formula such as this η = 2 sin (θ /2) is a must have in my mind.

3) Location! Location! Location!!

If you answered all of the above, you would be correct. However it is reason 3 that is the only sound and sane answer that would prompt us to take out a Dave Ramsey approved 20% down, 15 year mortgage on such an unconventional home.

The home is located on 2.55 acres in the airport subdivision we have been renting from for the last year and a half. And while we don’t love the idea of moving our family of 5 into a 1537 sq ft geodome (did you catch that, 1537 sq ft, yikes!), we are thrilled about staying in this community. This property affords us a way to stay here long term. You see, we have truly come to fall in love with this place. The views, the land, the feeling of distance all around, the planes that take off and land almost daily, the experiences our girls have gained when they go up in some of those planes, the aeronautical knowledge they are beginning to acquire (well, mostly just Halle), and…. HOA allows you to have livestock here. The latter of which has been a huge wish-list item of mine for several years. Also important to note is that living in the dome will only be temporary. In a couple years, as we save up, the dome will be torn down and a more conventional home will be put built. The appeal was the land, the already current structures that include a 40′ x 40′ hangar AND a 40′ by 20′ garage, and the great deal we got it for it.

Here is the hangar and the attached garage (no shortage of space in there)

And this is the satellite image of the new place.

You can see how tiny the little dome looks in comparison with everything else. But all the awesome views are to the west and we will be putting the new home to the north east of the garage which will have unobstructable panoramic glory down the runway of the entire front range. Very cool, right?!

I know I have been a most inconsistent blogger with our happenings over the last couple of years. But hopefully this little home adventure will provide some unique material to get me at it again. We have a lot of work to do in the place before we can start moving in. And there are some pretty unique features to this layout you will want to read about that we will have to deal with. But this post is already long enough. I just encourage you to follow us along this new journey as we fix up, live in, start our farming ventures, and eventually build a whole new home.

Thanks for checking us out! There will be more posts and pictures to follow…

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I am one proud momma!!!

I hope to sit down soon and post a blog that goes into more detail about our homeschooling and the new program we have been a part of this past year. But until that happens, this is a little snippet of what we joined up with last fall. It is called Classical Conversations and it is a program/community that follows the classical education model for teaching and learning from the pre-K years all the way through high-school. I will provide more details on what that entails in that someday-to-happen-sometime-off-in-the future post, but if you want to read a little bit about it now, you can do so by by clicking here.

According to this Classical model, our girls are currently in the “grammar stage.” This is said to be the first stage of learning and it is where they are taught and filled up with lots and lots and lots (and lots more) of the basic terms and facts associated with a subject. The understanding of these facts is not the focus, it is just the accumulation of such that is stressed. And then all these facts becomes little “pegs” from which further knowledge can more easily hang on. This knowledge then leads into more understanding of the various subjects. Which is the pathway to great comprehension and a love of life-long learning for the the places, people, and events of our world and the creation around them. Now I do realize that I made quite the jump from stage one and the accumulation of facts to stage 3 and a love for life-long learning and great comprehension and wisdom, but in the link above it is all defined and explained really well! The subjects our girls are going through in this curriculum (and will continue on with through the high-school years) are Latin, Geography, History, Math, Science, English and a timeline of events from the beginning of history through present. It has been such an amazing thing to see that my girls’ minds, along with all the other children in their group, can hold all this information!!

Here is a quick summary of what those facts included through our 1st year of Cycle 1 Classical Conversations:
✔ 161 events and people in a chronological timeline
✔ 44 U.S. presidents
✔ 24 history sentences that add depth to their timeline
✔ 120 locations and geographic features in Africa, Europe, South America, and the Old World
✔ 24 science facts (including classifications of living things and each continent’s highest mountain)
✔ Latin and English noun cases, and 5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
✔ English grammar facts (including 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs, and 12 linking verbs)
✔ Multiplication tables up to 15×15, common squares and cubes, as well as basic geometry formulas and unit conversions

Halle and her friend Cole receiving their Memory Master shirts

The truly amazing thing that is making me one super proud momma at this moment is that Halle was awarded with the achievement of Memory Master at our last night’s night wrap-up party. This means that, in one sitting, she sat before one of the tutors in the program and had to recite the whole year’s worth of information, with absolute perfection and zero prompting! Then she had to sit before the director of our program who went at random through the subjects, asking her questions, to confirm that all the information was indeed mastered in her brain. I included the whole list below, so you can see that this is indeed a note-worthy feat!

And while I do feel that what Halle did is an incredible accomplishment, because the mastery of all these facts did take extra diligence and studying on her part, I also want to say that the accumulation of facts in the minds of children is not something that only a few can do. Children’s brains are naturally inclined to memorize a H-U-G-E deal of information. And I was able to see the proof of that with just how much Dee and Gracie have been able to learn and retain this past year. They can say from memory ALL the timeline facts and presidents. They can say all the geography from memory (they just struggle with pointing to it all on a map). They know about 90% of the history sentences and science facts, but with a little prompting can get through the ones they struggle remembering on their own. They also know all of the English we covered in the year. The Latin noun declensions are hit or miss, sometimes they say them correctly, other times they don’t. And the Math is still a work in progress :-) So all that to say, if you know anything about Dee and Gracie, (and you have observed how they are not quite as gifted as Halle when it comes to academic things), you can see that all children’s minds can do this!

Now please hear this one more important thing I really want to convey with this post. It is important to me that all this said accumulated knowledge does not come across in an arrogant or puffed-up manner, that is far from my intent. Even though I am super proud to have seen how much information my girls are taking in and are memorizing, and that Halle worked hard to achieve Memory Master, there is something greater to my heart in all of this. The foundation for my excitement really lies in that I consider it a wonderful privilege and blessing to be a part of this Classical education style. All these little grammar facts that are being stored up in our girls’ mind (and mine too) are becoming to us like a new set of lenses for us to wear and see the world with. Life around us, events that have occurred, and places on the globe are becoming so much more rich and alive and real!

Because of the geography learned this year, we can hear mention of the island of Crete when we read from the book of Titus and see where that is in our minds, sitting out there in the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Greece. We now know where in the world the Red Sea is and the Sinai Peninsula, which makes the story of the Exodus and wandering in the desert something we can grasp more fully. When the news talks about the Gaza Strip and the Middle East, or our church sends a missions trip over there, we know the references and can point exactly to those places on a map. Historical points in time that we might come across in our read-aloud books, or our American Almanac, or the Bible find their place in the master timeline the girls learned. And then those things are able to have a more permanent and concrete place in their minds because they know other events that were going on during that same period, or leading up to it. I really could elaborate more and more on this elation of my feeling super privileged because of this information the girls are storing up, but I will stop here. Just know that I am super proud of Halle to be able to recite with perfection and mastery all of this in one sitting.
Halle, you rock!!!

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Some Very Snowy Days

Lots of snow was not something our winter days could boast of this past season. But as February was coming to an end, we were at last able to close out the month seeing those Rocky Mountains to our West clad in lovely white (which, by the way, is what is most fashionable for them from the month of November through the beginning of March). And thus, for ourselves, we were able to have a very fun winter play day!

I am not good at remembering details of the amount of actual snowfall, but I know there was a lot! Enough to build this awesome little snow hut (aka, our Hobbit hole) and a pretty cool looking snowman.

Halle covered in snow

Gracie and Dee in the Hobbit hole

Gig ’em!

Halle in the Hobbit hole

Teamwork in building

The snow that fell that day remained around for several more days. And while it lasted, the girls had a great time playing out in their little Hobbit hole. And we were certain that was probably the last of the snow until next fall and winter.

But, we were wrong…

Three days after the official day of Spring, more snow came down on March 23rd. And once again, Rob made sure the girls got to take pleasure in it! But this time, instead of a snow cave and a snowman, entertainment was in brr-brrrrr-burying each other. I stayed warm and inside for this one.

Gracie is a good sport (I would never let someone do this to me!)

It must of looked like a heap of fun, that Dee wanted a turn as well having a heap of snow on her

The happy snow clan

To keep things fair, it was only fitting that Rob had a turn being buried too

Some lovely art the snow storm left for us on our deck window

We have had a few more snow days after these mentioned above, but no one wanted to go out and play. The winds were crazy strong, so playtime was inside. There are still more forecasts on the radar for more snow to come this April. But I think mentally we are all ready for true spring weather, so there will be no more play times outside this year.

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Qwirkle Update

Back in the summer of 2011, I did this little post on one of our favorite family games, Qwirkle. Well it is still a beloved choice for entertainment to us, and brings much joy and laughter to many of our evenings in the Van Vleet home.

It is also the source of many fun surprises, and one such surprise just the other day is worthy of a mention on littlefeats. Dee pointed out an important legally-allowable strategy that we had missed out on all this time. And because of her eye-opening discovery, the game will take on a whole new level of point-achieving creativity!

Now I first have to mention, in case you don’t already know this, that Dee’s brain and the way her mind works are precious and special to me. And often times I can share in empathy with Scar from the Lion King as he interacts with his loyal hyena followers, and the vacant expressions he bafflingly has to observe on far too frequent an occasion.

“It’s clear from your vacant expressions, the lights are not all on upstairs”

Let me tell you that I have stories (lots of stories), that still cause me to laugh with tears when I recount them. Incidents where I feel my life more enriched and most privileged because of the hilarity of Dee’s thought process (and many times Gracie’s, too) when we do learning related things.

Anyways, back to the marvel of this post… I guess it was on account of MY “reading” the directions and rules (translate as “skim over”) when we first received the game that set in motion how we have gone about playing Qwirkle for the past two years. In the game you are allowed to play as many pieces as you can on your turn, as long as they are all matching in either the attribute of color, or attribute of shape. And we just sort of fell into a pattern that the matching colors went one way on the resulting game board, and that the matching shapes went perpendicular.

In this picture, matching colors are vertical and the matching shapes are horizontal.

After all this time of playing like this, and never questioning to do otherwise, you can imagine that Rob and I were completely in awe that Dee announces we do something contrary to this adherence. She let us know that she has not only read the directions (on her own accord, which is crazy-outside of her usual type of things she takes the initiative on), but that she has also made a new discovery into the rules!! I can’t say that she read them in their entirety (pictures below). But it is obvious that she read through all the scenarios (and comprehended them) listed on page 3.

Pages 8,1,4, and 5 of the fold-over direction pamphlet

Pages 2,7, 6, and 3 of the fold-over direction pamphlet

Here is a closeup of something key we had missed on page 3. See scenario F.

Do you see it? A line of squares running both horizontal AND perpendicular!

We never knew that you could have the same type of matching attribute running both horizontal AND perpendicular. And actually, when attempts were made to play that way early on it was with MY forceful insistence this was absolutely against the rules, there was forced refrain from doing so (way to go, mom!)

So…. Way to go Dee!! We are very impressed and astounded that you didn’t settle for someone else’s interpretation of the printed words (I can see such great benefit for this ability down the road in all things historical and political and even religious)!! I will never doubt that expressionless face of yours again. From now on I will just assume that there are deep ponderings and contemplations taking place :-) Even when you answer with, ‘Asia’ when I hold up the continent flashcard for Australia (Despite the fact that we have been doing them daily for the last year. At least I know it is an improvement from when you used to answer ‘Texas’).

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Texas cousins visit at Thanksgiving

My mom and sister Courtney, along with her family all joined us in Colorado for Thanksgiving this past year. My nephew Brayden had come to Colorado with two missions to accomplish. The first was to make a dirt cake, and the second was to make an igloo. Al-righty, kid. We will see what we can do for you!

Unfortunately, Colorado has had a very mild winter. And when they all arrived there was no snow on the ground. Not wanting to disappoint the cousins who had never seen snow, we make a trek out to Breckenridge for a day. They have a free gondola there which will take you to the base of the ski resort. It turned out to be a very good thing that we made the two hour drive west into the mountains. Because not only did we find snow and some ice blocks that would serve as building material for an igloo, we also found a very small hill to slide down.

My mom, Courtney, Halle and her cousins riding in the gondola

Gracie’s first response was, “this is SO NOT sledding.” But she soon got over her initial disappointment and decided she could have fun on this little sled hill. Brayden and Madelyn thought it was grand!

All the grown-ups joined in the fun, too!

Building Brayden’s igloo

Posing in Brayden’s igloo

My mom, Courtney, and me
(Really it is me that is the shortest of the lot, but when I stand on my tip toes for pictures, no one can tell…)

Mission 1 accomplished, now it is on to the dirt cake

everyone got to help

The finished product. And I think those red and yellow bits are supposed to be leaves (according to Halle, i.e. who cut up some felt pieces to create a more authentic visual effect)

Our awesome mountain sunsets, glad we got to share this with them

Madelyn learns that just because you are our guest and only 2, you are still not exempt from bringing in the firewood! Only the adults in the house get that privilege :-)

On one of the days they were here, Rob pulled out the tractor and bobcat to let everyone have a ride. Brayden got to drive, too!

Even Uncle Derek got a turn

Proof even a small pile of dirt can be a fun source of entertainment for kiddos

Visiting our across the street neighbors, the alpacas!

Halle and Cinnamon

The whole family!

Fearless Madelyn and the neighbor’s Great Pyrenees, Ocho (I want one!!)

Just another awesome mountain view that we get to look at everyday…

For their last night in town, we dined at one of the local breweries, Oskar Blues

Fun at the kid table

I love this “kids-at-the-bar” photo!

We had so much fun having them here.

And see how cool a visit you, too, could have if you came to visit!!!

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J.R.R. Tolkien, my apologies, I tried…

I have always loved the creativity my girls have shown when it comes to their wishes for a birthday theme and cake idea. Over the years we have had a Robin Hood party, a fireworks party, a school party, a detective party, a Voyage of the Dawn Treader party, and (one of my favorites because of its complete randomness) a dolphin bubble party.

And this year didn’t end the trend, as Halle decided to have a Lord of the Rings party. She has read all the books (she did so when she was 8!) and she loves the movies. But mainly because The Hobbit had just come out in theaters, her decision was confirmed that this would be the best year to use this theme.

The plan was to have 2 of her friends go see The Hobbit with her and then stay the night for a sleep over. And I was to make a cake.

If you know anything about me and my frugality, I have always refused to buy a store bought birthday cake. I just can’t do it. And anyways, it is just too fun trying to come up with your own! I only wish I had better cake making and decorating skills, then I could better take on the challenges my girls’ cake ideas offer. (I am hoping for the year that one of my kids will say, “Mom, I want a blue cake. Just make me a cake that is blue.” Because I will make the best blue cake ever!!)

So with a little inspiration from pinterest, the most doable option was to make a round cake and put elvish lettering on its circumference, to serve as the inscription on the ring. And for the top of the cake, Halle approved the Doors of Durin.

This was the image I tried to copy.

The riddle on the doors translated to Speak, Friend, and Enter

I thought it would be clever to instead say, “Speak, Happy Birthday, and Eat.” However, unfortunately for Halle, my writing skills with icing are lacking. This requires a steady hand for the intricate detail all these letters would require. And this is all I could do.

Speak * HB * Eat

This is how the Ring around the cake ended up. Not only is it really tricky to make a frosting that looks gold, it is even more complicated to create an Elvish font!!

Translated, this should read, “One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” Um…. NOT!!!! It looks like a few poorly scripted cursive lower case letters.

This is what the lettering should have looked like

Thankfully Halle is so very easily pleased and always genuinely touched with my attempts. And she praised this work of “art” with much enthusiasm!!

10 candles!! I can’t believe we are in the double digits now!

She definitely scored with a lot of LOTR lego sets for her birthday. I love her excitement over this genre of toys!

The Mines of Moria lego set brings in a huge smile!

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