Florida!



I am still in vacation mode over here!

Everyone I know is back to school at this point, but we've been spending this week recovering from our trip to Florida!  We had a wonderful time overall, aside from a few hiccups, and I wanted to record a few of the places we went and the things that happened before I forget.  To keep this post manageable, I'm going to try to do it in bullet points and limit the photos.  Here we go!

Miami

-We got a manageable flight that left around 6:30 AM, but the girls still fell asleep on the flight, so it was perfect!  The boys watched movies and read books the whole way.

-We stopped at Delray Beach on the way down to Miami to look at the ocean before sunset.  I personally love East coast beaches at sunset, the colors are so soft and pretty!

-Finally arrived in Miami at 11 PM, and realized that I'm pretty sure I booked us a night in a gang hotel, basically.  That is if the gang tags in the stairwell, marijuana, and sketchy area were any indication.  Plus the room wasn't clean - ah!  Clearly I am not allowed to book bargain hotels anymore.

-Booked another hotel straightaway the next morning.







Everglades

-We went on an airboat tour with Coopertown Airboats, and we saw the Everglades!  We all learned so much and saw quite a bit of wildlife and interesting plants - so fun!  The Everglades are one of a kind, for sure.







Bill Baggs Cape State Park

-We checked out a state park that an old blog friend recommended to me, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  It was wonderful!  It had a lighthouse, iguanas were running everywhere and the kids were fascinated, and the beach there was probably the most beautiful beach I've ever seen!  It was seriously a tropical paradise. I wish we could have spent more time there!













Boynton Beach

-Stayed the night in Boynton Beach, and then checked out the beach there the next day!  The waves were not as calm as at Bill Baggs beach, but it was still beautiful and we enjoyed ourselves!  After the beach we started the drive to Orlando.

-Car tire started losing air on the way up to Orlando.  We called the rental car company so we could switch it out that evening.  The whole process took three hours, and we were bummed that we didn't have time to relax at the hotel!



Seaworld

-We went to Seaworld the next day!  I haven't been to Seaworld since I was a kid, and we all enjoyed it so much.  We saw a bunch of see creatures (orcas, dolphins, seat turtles, manatees, parrots, a pilot whale...), and we really loved the shows!

-We got the meal deal at Seaworld, so we each got to order an entree, drink, dessert, and side every hour.  We didn't actually eat every hour, but we could have.  Mostly it was just nice not to have to worry about what we were spending!

-The kids rode their first roller coaster, and it also just so happened to be National Roller Coaster Day!  How fun is that?

-They were having an extended hours day at Seaworld, so we got to see the Shamu Lights The Night show.  They were trying to get everyone to dance for the "dance cam" (I'm glad I didn't end up on it, ha!), and all the big kids were dancing, but Georgie also really got into it.  It was adorable!  I'll always remember her little baby rhythm and dance moves!

-Realized the car tire was losing pressure again!  We didn't want to spend another three hours of our vacation returning the car, so we just filled it with air every day for the rest of the trip.  But I will never use that company again.  Two cars with flat tires from the same rental car company is a bit much.






Kennedy Space Center

-We slept in the next day, had breakfast at IHOP, and then drove out to Kennedy Space Center.  We figured we could see it in a half day, but we were wrong.  I wish we had spent more time there, it was so cool!  More to come in another post on that.

-We saw the building where rockets are built, which was huge.

-We saw the Saturn V rocket and the space shuttle Atlantis (both so huge!).

-We did a rocket launch simulator!

-We absolutely loved the whole experience, and I hope to go back someday!

-Saw a crocodile in the "wild" on the way home!  Also saw a man lying on the shoulder of the road and flailing about, which was freaky.  We called the Florida State Police so they could check on him, but it was really weird.










Cocoa Beach

-Beach Day!  We did nothing but eat snacks and relax on the beach, and it was perfect.

-Saw a ton of brown pelicans catching fish!

-Back at the hotel, we watched Swiss Family Robinson with the kids as a movie night.  I loved it as a kid too, but I am still surprised how entranced they were!






Disney - Magic Kingdom

-We decided to do one day at Disney, and the Magic Kingdom seemed like the most exciting park, so that's where we went.  Oh my word, it was so busy!  I don't know what I was expecting as far as crowds go, but my expectation was less people than...that.

-We met Rapunzel and Tiana, we saw Pooh Bear and Tigger wandering about.  Pooh jumped in a water puddle right in front of the kids, and I tell you, that was a major highlight for them!  And for me, because I loved to see them happy!

-Rode Dumbo, Teacups, Magic Carpets, the Barn Stormer roller coaster, and the Winnie the Pooh and Little Mermaid movie-themed rides.  Saw the Monsters, Inc. show, and visited the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse!

-Lost various children three different times, once during the fireworks. Yikes!








Down Day

-After a slightly traumatizing Disney experience, we just took it easy the nest day.

-We visited an orange grove and fruit stand, and ate some pretty great barbecue for lunch!

-We went to see Dora The Explorer in the movie theater.  I think the movie is a bit mature for our kids' age group, and it had some rather gross potty humor and magic/mystical stuff in it.  We just glossed over all that, and most of it went over my kids' heads, so it was okay.  We enjoyed just relaxing for a movie though!  The kids watched the actual Dora cartoon later though, and I think we have a new favorite.

-Went back to the hotel and enjoyed the pool for the rest of the day!








Last Day

-We managed to squeeze a little bit more fun out of our trip before our flight, and we visited this huge McDonald's we kept passing in Orlando.  That place was amazing!  There were twice as many menu options as any other McD's I've been to, with alot of things that could be customized by their chefs.  The play place was huge (largest in the world), and the service was amazing!  They even had an arcade too.  Can we get one of those McDonald's here, please?





We had such a nice time overall, and I'm so glad we got to go!  Florida is not a trip we will be able to afford every year, so this was definitely a special trip.  We got to visit the big theme parks, but I think our favorite parts were being out in nature in habitats that we usually don't get to see.  There were hiccups, but I think we made good memories overall, and I think the kids will remember everything fondly!  And that's really the whole point of vacation to me, just to make those memories together.

More photos (with better explanations) of all of us on Instagram, including really cute pictures of my kids, so if you missed it last week you can hop over there for more info about specific things we did!

Have you been to Florida?  What were your favorite things to do there?  This was just a small portion of all the options of things to see!




Homeschooling Wins And Fails (From Last School Year)




The summer is coming to an end, and in another week and a half, I will start my third (kind of fourth) year as a homeschool mom.  I've been wanting to write a wrap-up of our last school year all summer, but the words have been eluding me.  I know I grew a lot as a homeschool mom over the last year, but I've been finding it difficult to organize my feelings into easy-to-share points like I did after we finished first grade.

One thing I realized is that I probably won't ever feel like I've completely got this down.  Last year was leaps and bounds more organized and productive than the previous year, but I still look back on it now and can think of a ton of things I'd like to do better as I look ahead to 2019-2020.

I still want to write these posts though, so I can keep some perspective.  Every year that I've homeschooled so far, I've gotten a little better in small ways at staying organized, keeping motivated, and accomplishing the things I was hoping for at the start of the year.  I know this year will be better than last year, and probably next year will be better than this year.  That doesn't frustrate me, it actually encourages me.  If things don't go exactly perfectly this year, which I'm guessing they won't, I know next year I'll just know better how to improve.

Maybe someday I'll feel like I've figured it out.  Or maybe I'll almost get it figured out, and then have to add another school-age kid into the mix, and have to start all over again.  My money is on that latter possibility.

(Me and the kids with their silly faces.)

Anyway, this is a little recap of the successes, failures, and areas to improve from our experience homeschooling 2nd grade and Kindergarten.

Wins

Poetry Tea Time

Last year we started doing Poetry Tea Time, which from what I can tell was first named by Julie Bogart from Bravewriter.  It's basically the thing to do in homeschool circles these days (along with "Morning Time"), and after we added it into our routine last year, I could see why.

One day I just popped some popcorn, put a tablecloth down and lit a candle, and served the kids rooibos tea while we read picture books and poems.  Even if I wanted to never do it again, my kids wouldn't have let me.  They loved it.  It was a great way to add a little fun into our homeschool routine, and what's the good of homeschooling anyway if you can't make it fun?  We are definitely continuing Poetry Tea Time this year, and I'd like to up the frequency.

Memory Work

Last year I painstakingly planned out my Morning Time binder.  Morning Time is when we sit down at some point in the day and go over memory work and Bible study together.  It's a great time to make sure we are still learning the important things all together, and I love it for developing a family identity and culture within our homeschool.

Anyway, last year I selected several Bible passages I wanted the kids to memorize, organized catechism questions, and printed out hymns to sing, along with a schedule of what I wanted to work on each month.  We didn't make it all the way through the binder, but we made it farther than I thought we would, and I am thrilled at the amount of memory work we mastered!

The kids now know five hymns really well, we memorized three Bible passages (thirteen verses all together), they can answer six catechism questions, and we have a few funny poems in our arsenal now.  I am very pleased! This was all with not being the most consistent with Morning Time, so I'd definitely like to up my game this year and see what else we can memorize together.

Try Harder

Science And History Spacing

While I am overall pleased at what we accomplished with our science and history lessons last year, I have to admit that most of our learning came during designated weeks that I gave us to catch up.  I did not do great at keeping on top of weekly science and history lessons and spacing them through the year that way.  While it is 100% okay to do a more unit-based approach to history and science, or designate certain weeks or months to focus on those subjects (as we did last year), I'd really like to get more organized and disciplined in doing those lessons at regular intervals.

Morning Time Consistency

We did Morning Time an average of a couple times a week, and we accomplished so much even with that many days!  I'd really like to make a focused effort to make Morning Time happen every day that we are working at home.  We probably did morning time only about half the days that we could have, so I'd like to be more consistent this year.


Fails

Extra Skills

With my homeschool planning last year, I came up with a schedule to work on extra "fun" skills that I just want the kids to know.  I had plans laid out for teaching them how to make certain meals, teaching them certain card games or hand-clapping games, etc.

Yeah, we didn't use those plans at all.

In my defense, when I was planning out the year, I didn't originally anticipate that we'd be moving, and that derailed my good intentions.  So basically last year's plans are going to be pasted into this year's binder, and we're going to try again!  Wish me luck.

(Pretty sunrise this summer.)

I'm looking forward to the upcoming school year!  I've got it about half-planned right now, and as soon as we get back from vacation this week, I'm going to dive in and get the rest of our plans ironed out.

Stay tuned for a post about our homeschool curriculum choices, and one about my current planning system!

Or you can also check out last year's posts about homeschool planning and 2nd grade curriculum in the meantime!

Stuff I Like | July 2019



Well, now that we are halfway through August, let me tell you about things I liked in July!

First off, these two moose that we saw in July were pretty cool.








Pina Colada Iced Tea

When we went to Seattle last fall, Derek and I visited MarketSpice at the Seattle Market.  Man, I wished I could bring home every type of tea they had in there, but I restrained myself.  When we got home, I looked up MarketSpice to see if you could order tea, and you can!  Alot of their loose-leaf teas end up being cheaper than teas you can buy in the grocery store, even with shipping, as long as you buy 6-8 at a time.  So in the Spring I ordered several summer teas, and this was one of them.  It is so good with a little sweetener, it almost gives me dessert vibes!

Skinny Syrups

Speaking of sweetener, I was browsing in HomeGoods the other day and ran across these bottles of flavored syrups in the food aisle.  They are sugar-free, but I think they still taste pretty good, without that weird sugar-free aftertaste.  I bought a few and have been using them for my iced coffee and tea this summer, and they are so yummy!  So far the Coconut and Mango are my favorites.  The coconut is really good with the Pina Colada tea.

Moss And Lichen Nature Journal

These free nature journal worksheets are just too inspiring not to share!  I wish I could draw as well as she does.

Tarte Shade Shifting Color Splash Lipstick

Tarte was having a really good sale, and I tend to like their makeup, so I decided to try some lipstick. These shades are really fun because they are somewhat iridescent, without being over-the-top!  I got them in "Bodysurf" and "Sunlit", and I really like both.  They are coming on vacation with me this week.

Tarte Sizzle Eyeshadow Palette

While we are on the topic of makeup, I have to say, I really like Tarte's "Rainforest Of The Sea" eyeshadows.  They are a nice consistency and really pigmented, and if you aren't a crazy makeup artist (as I'm not), the shades are perfect.  I really like the Sizzle palette this summer, and this one has been my go-to for a while now.  Just put a lighter shade on your lid, and one of the darker shades on the outer half of your lid and your crease, and I really don't think you can go wrong.  They blend so well, and all the shades are really neutral and brightening. (And if $36 seems like too much for an eyeshadow palette, try to catch one of the sales on their website - you can often get them for $20 on sale.)

The Princess And The Goblin by George MacDonald

I've mentioned that a few friends and I are trying to read more classics together this year.  We just finished up The Great Gatsby, and our next pick is The Princess And The Goblin.  I read through almost half the book in just a few days!  It's a fairytale written by a Christian minister in 1872, and it is delightful.  I really like some of the little subtle virtues he's giving Princess Irene, like this line:

"'What a strange creature you are," said the nurse - "first to want a thing and then to refuse it!'
But she did not say it crossly, and the princess never minded any remarks that were not unfriendly."

I just love that so much, because that is the kind of person I am trying to be, and the kind of person I want my daughters to be.  I know so many people who take offense to any comment that rubs them wrong, and I've been that way too at times.  And because of that, I know how exhausting it is.  It's so much better to have an attitude of never minding any remarks that aren't unfriendly.

It's also free on Kindle, so check it out!

Apollo 11: What We Saw

In case you didn't know, July was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing!  This is a podcast that goes over the history of the moon landing, and also kind of places it in it's cultural context so you can understand how important that moment was (besides the obvious reasons).  Derek and I have listened to two of the four episodes, and I think we'll listen to the rest as we are traveling to Cape Canaveral on vacation!

Speaking of vacation, I'm supposed to be finished packing today, so I better finish this and go to it!  If you have any tips for where to eat or things to see in Miami and Orlando, send them my way, and you can follow me on Instagram to see what we are up to!

Is Summer Over Yet?



This post is a week overdue.

Last week I shot my mouth off on Instagram and assured you all that a long, chatty post would be coming in the next couple days.  And here we are, a week later, and I'm finally sitting down on my private balcony with my iced coffee to write.  And private balcony sounds all fancy-shmancy, but it's not even quiet because the kids are literally playing right below me and shouting "Mom, are you out here?".  But I'm here now, and that's what counts, right?

Summer And Me Are Not Getting Along Anymore

I feel like this promised-blog-post scenario is pretty emblematic of how the last month has been going for me.  Great intentions that don't quite come together.  I had such big plans for this summer and I don't understand why nothing is working out!

I was literally in tears the other night over this very thing.  It was a few days before the month of August, and Derek and I realized in a panic that we still had not booked our vacation that we were, in theory, leaving for in a mere three weeks.  So I spent the better part of two days researching flights/hotels/activities for multiple vacation locations.  I finally got our Florida vacation booked!  (More on that in a minute.)  

Turns out, Derek was busy during those same days ordering the mattress that we have been meaning to order for an entire year.  I knew he was doing this, and I was okay with this.  

But then fast forward to 10 o'clock at night (never my best hour of the day), when Derek reminds me that the mattress is getting delivered tomorrow. And I have not ordered a bed frame for the mattress to actually sit on, or bedding to actually cover it; and they are taking away our old bed so we will be sleeping on the floor, and I realize my bedroom will be in shambles; and I have a paid article that I now need to finish before we leave on vacation, not to mention cleaning and packing and shopping for said vacation, and we're leaving in two weeks, and oh my goodness I have wasted the entire summer and haven't done anything fun with my kids since June!

Cue the tears.

But after a good night's sleep, I remembered that I usually perform best when things get down to the wire.  I got all the shopping for bedding and vacation necessities done, and the bed is pretty much put together (except for a headboard, which will wait).  The article is mostly written now (I just have to put it together).  I'm halfway done with packing.  And I somehow managed to take my kids to the park one day, which probably qualifies as some sort of summer fun.

So it's coming together.

And all this explains why I am weirdly ready for summer to be over.  I finally understand what moms mean when they say that they miss the structure of the school year.  I need some external checks to keep myself motivated to get things done, and the routine of the school year does fill that role.  I used to enjoy the freedom of having no routine in the summer, but I'm over it now.




(Photos of my anniversary date outfit, back when I was still feeling thrilled about the summer.  Shirt and purse from Target this year, shorts from H&M, shoes from JustFab.)

Now, About Florida

Speaking of vacation, after checking to see where we could fly for the cheapest price, we finally figured out Orlando flights and hotels are ridiculously cheap in August.  

I guess hurricane season and 100% humidity scare some people off.

But after a brief discussion, we decided that we could make this trip work, so to Florida we will go!  Pray with me that no hurricanes blow into Florida this year, because we are mountain people and we are a freaked out by the idea of hurricanes with no truly high ground to retreat to.  

We are going to drive down to Miami first, and check out the Everglades and anything else cool to see down there.  (Suggestions for things we should see?)  Wyatt is particularly excited about seeing wading birds, since he doesn't get to see them in the mountains very often (at all), and I have high hopes that we'll see some unusual things that he can add to his birding list. 

(He wrote a list of all the kinds of birds that he has seen in the wild.  I didn't even ask him to, I casually made the suggestion and he practically shouted, "That's a great idea, Mom!"  I can't tell you how delighted I am by everything about this.)

After Miami, we'll head up to Orlando.  Cape Canaveral and the beach were high on our list.  I wanted to do Seaworld because I knew the kids would love seeing the marine animals.  But I do have a confession (prepare yourselves).

We almost considered skipping Disney.

I can hear the gasps reverberating throughout space.

The Whole Disney Thing 

I know alot of people are really into Disney, and it's supposed to be the most magical place on earth and all.  But I haven't been there in sixteen years, and my memories of it are a little vague and hazy.  I think I was too interested in spying out cute boys for Disney World to make much of an impression that year (that's a little embarrassing to admit, but I'm being honest here).  Nowadays, I am much more interested in the Everglades and the ocean and the Kennedy Space Center, and not so interested in standing outside in the brutal heat and rain, waiting in line for rides that are probably not as good as our local Six Flags anyway.   Not to mention paying out our noses for the privilege of standing in said lines.

But Derek said he doesn't feel like we can really go to Orlando without visiting Disney, and I couldn't really deny this for some reason.  Are you even allowed to go to Orlando without visiting Disney?  This is our main chance to take the kids to Disney World, maybe the only time we will ever be so close to going there.  And I do know the kids (the ones who are old enough to appreciate it, anyway) will be happy to go.

So we are going to plunk down the ridiculous price for six tickets and make it happen, although every second of that transaction will pain me I'm sure.

I am weirdly looking forward to the parade and fireworks though.  That stands out in my memory from the time we went there when I was eight.  

Probably because the scary Ursula in the parade pointed out me and my six-year-old sister and said we were "tender, sweet things", and I felt like she was threatening to steal our voices and turn us into those weird ocean plant-people, like in the movie.  We were both slightly flattered, slightly traumatized.

Somebody please talk Disney up to me.  Tell me the magic will completely win me over.  I will cling to your words while we are plunking down the $750+ dollars.

And Oh Yeah, School

One of the perks of homeschooling is that we are able to go on discounted trips in August when all the kids are back to the first week of school!  One of the downsides is that I'm not sure if we should immediately start back to school the week after we return from vacation.  I think I've settled on just starting in September and squeezing in extra days throughout the year so we can still finish on time.  To finish up by mid-May we would usually start in August, but I think we will need that extra week to recover from our trip and hopefully squeeze the last little bit of juice out of the summer. 

Not to mention that I also need the week to finish actually planning the school year.

If you are new to my blog, I promise I'm not usually so disorganized and crabby.  

It's just the summer, stealing my brain.



Are you ready for summer to be over yet?




A Serial Killer's Daughter | A Review



Occasionally I'll get on a true crime kick, and it was one of those days when I found out about this book and requested it to review.  I am usually interested in true crime because I like to see how law enforcement solves the crime and catches the bad guy.  And I guess it should have been obvious from the title, but this was not that sort of book. However, it made me think alot more about the families of criminals and how they are affected by these crimes.  It's not something I considered that much before, and I'm glad I read this memoir for that reason.

Kerri Rawson was an adult when she found out that her father was the BTK (Blind-Torture-Kill) killer.  I just cannot even imagine the shock of that.

Most of the book is Kerri sharing some of her childhood memories of her dad, particularly different situations that she would later come to correlate to the times of his crimes.  The picture painted here is just surprisingly...normal.  She describes her father's sometimes erratic moods, and a couple occasions when he did physically abuse his family, but most of her memories are not terrible.  The family was never tormented by their father in the way he tormented his victims.  He was living a complete double life, and no one had any idea or inkling that he could have done something like this until he was arrested.

Kerri shares some of her journey of faith in Christ through the book, and the trauma and healing she had to go through when she found out what her dad had done.  I was so sad for her.  She loved her father, and still loved him even after he was arrested.  She continued to communicate with him and attempted to show him love and encourage him to get help, even while she was hurting so badly.  I thought that was inspiring, and also heartbreaking at times when her father failed to show proper remorse.

There is no tidy way to wrap up a memoir like this, but Kerri still manages to end the book on a hopeful note.  Though I can tell I have some theological differences, I appreciated her inclusion of how Christ died to save us from our sins and will forgive us when we turn to Him.  This book was hard to read in many parts, but it gave me a new perspective on the true crime genre, and alot to think about.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.


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