15 tips of a Smoky Mountain Trip

We went to the Smoky Mountains about a month ago and I had a few reflections after our time there. There may be some useful (and not so useful) tips for your Smoky Mountsin vacation.

1. Go back. Just because you’ve been to the smoky mountains at least 7 times before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. There are still new memories to be made…every single time. Go back again and again. When we were trying to decide where to vacation this time around, we talked about Florida (during Hurricane season 😬), Nashville, and places IN Indiana and Ohio. While I’m sure there are tons of fun to be had at those places, we would need to figure everything out. There is something so familiar about the smoky mountains that made us decide to go back.

2. You need a vacation! If your husband has been working non stop for the last month or two on a project…a vacation is just what your family needs. The girls LOVED the extra special time and attention that daddy gave them during vacation week.

3. Family is so important. My parents and my brother and I have always been weirdly close. I’m sure there are other families that are close like us, but I’m not sure we are the norm. But it is so fun when we can actually get a vacation scheduled with all of us. There are now 10 of us. It isn’t an easy thing to book a week long vacation all together, but we have managed to do it 2 times this year.

4. Make the memories. I never really thought I have taken for granted the love of my parents and my family. But these past 10 months we have been much more intentional about spending time togerher and making memories. We have no clue how long dad will be with us, but I want to make sure we never wasted a minute and did all the things we could with him while he was here. This even includes him go cart racing with Craig and the girls on both trips this year. Even though he felt weak some of the trips, he made it the best he could.

5. Go outside. This seems like a given when you are in the beautiful Smoky Mountains but I didn’t really grow up hiking on vacations or playing in random rivers. But my husband did. And we have been trying to do these things with our girls. It is pretty fun to hike with a 5 year old, 2 year old while being pregnant with some light rain. There were some places I was pretty nervousof the edge. Or the time we were hiking while I had C in the Ergo and I fell. I scraped up my knee pretty bad and bumped C’s head. Those are not necessarily my FAVORITE memories of outdoor time on vacation. We have the time when we were hiking with C and a bear was super close to us in the parking lot (okay, that is a bit scary but looking back….it was so cool). Or the hike we took in the spring with all 3 girls and it started pouring. It was a short hike and we were drenched by the end but we were giggling. And then there is all our time at the river. Our favorite spot is at Greenbrier and across the street at a covered bridge. We try to go there at least once every trip. And those smiles and giggles are priceless!

6. Do your research. Most of the time, Craig and I spend a good amount of time going through cabins. Cabins have always been our preferred lodging so we can be away from crowds, have space to be with family and be able to cook our meals. We usually take into account the price (obviously), location, amenities (a hot tub and wi-fi), roads (we prefer not to go up/down steep inclines), close neighbors and number of rooms. When all 10 of us are together on trips…we prefer at least 4 or 5 rooms. Let me back track. I prefer 5 rooms. Baby girl A sleeps way better in her own room. And I sleep much better when she sleeps much better!

7. Go on a bear hunt. This is similar to the first point. Just go back. Cades cove is one of those places where we have been there, done that. But we Go back everytime mainly to look for bears! We take the long, curvy drive just to look for bears. But it is beautiful. And we still like the gift shop. And we almost always see at least 1 bear and horses. Plus it is so cute to watch the girls ride with theie heads out of the window so they can see some bears.

8. Choose restaurants wisely. I know there are so many must eat at places in that area. I wish we could squeeze them all in. But then we would likely be stuffed. And especially this past year, dad can’t eat too much for meals. Plus you factor in the CRAZY of 10 people and 4 of them being wild kids. It isn’t a ton of fun to go out a lot. Some of our favorites are: Big Daddys Pizzaria, Mellow Mushroom, Hungry Bear BBQ, Bennett’s BBQ, Fuddruckers and the New Orleans Sandwich shop. *Note: we did love going to Shakes and Dawgs for hot dogs but they appeared to be closed this last trip.* We dont usually go to all of these places, but we enjoy a few each trip.

9. Eat the ice cream. I’m not sure why, but it is almost always a must to go get ice cream on a regular basis. We like chunky monkey and mad dog’s creamery but really any ice cream will do!

10. Don’t waste your money. We have spent money on some things there that we regretted right away. At least for our situation (with younger kids and my dad being sick)…some things were not worth it. Money wasters in our opinion: Wonderworks, Ripley Believe it or not, Old MacDonald putt putt, and the Aquarium on a Saturday (it really is a great aqyarium, but it was absolutely no fun on a busy day). Many of these things we did because C begged, but we choose not to go back now. We have really enjoyed The Exotic pet zoo, go cart, going to see Santa at Santa’s Claus-et. Honestly, usually we have more fun when we don’t do a lot of the big touristy things.

11. Buy the shirt. I know I just said not to waste money, but a souvenir shirt is different. I think it must be a thing my parents started with us. I have a lot of shirts from vacations growing up. I love the memories associated with the trips. And now, I feel the same way with the girls. I can look at their shirts from Gatlinburg tripa and recall certain fun memories. I love it!

12. Go fishing. My husband really likes to fish when we are down there. Yes, I did even make the sacrifice one year of waking up at 6 am to go fishing. It isn’t my favorite thing, but I do it because he wants to. And I love seeing our girls have fun with daddy. They feel so proud when catching a fish. Even my dad caught his first fish last year while fishing with us in Gatlinburg.

13. Spray for mosquitos. The same annoying mosquitos you deal with at home are also annoying in the smoky mountains.

14. Go out for breakfast. Most breakfasts we make pancakes or eat cereal when we are at the cabin. But we have started a tradition where we go out for breakfast on the last day together. It is a fun/yummy way to end our trip. Even if my 3 year old picky eater said she would est the bear pancakes and then refused to take a bite when she got them.

15. Stay an extra day. There have been several times that my husband and I weren’t ready to go home. My parents and brother and his wife had other obligations, so we ended up getting a hotel room downtown Gatlinburg. Usually I am not a fan of spontaneity, but I love it in this case. We are usually able to squeeze in a few extra things we had hoped to do.

Go to Smoky Mountains! Have fun and make lots of memories!

Homeschool, I love Jesus, Mom life

Your conviction is YOURS

I’m not quite sure of the direction this post will go but I have some things on my heart that I need to get off my chest.

Recently, a book called Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis has become popular. She starts each chapter with a lie many women tell themselves and gives personal examples on why these lies are not true. I listened to this book on audio (in her voice) and enjoyed it. There were chapters that I really needed to hear and have kept me thinking. Other chapters weren’t really for me, but thats ok.

But lately though, I have come across different blog posts about how wrong Rachel is in her writing. Saying she didn’t lead people to Christ in her book. And it is now being reposted by many Christians pretty much bashing Rachel and her book. Maybe Even making people feel guilty for reading it and liking it?!?

I enjoyed this book. Did I draw closer to Christ from it? Nope. But I didn’t read it with the intent. It was more of a self help book. Do I feel guilty for reading it since I am a Christian? Nope. I actually read her 3 novels in the past year and enjoyed them and decided to read this book too. I enjoy her realness, her funny stories, and her hard work.

Many are feeling the conviction to not read this book because it is not leading people to Christ. That is fine. Don’t read it. But don’t judge other Christians if they don’t have the same convictions and do choose to read it.

Here is another example. Rebecca with Homeschool On ruffled feathers a few months ago. She had previously promoted a particular curriculum but after prayer and using it a while, she decided to quit using it because of HER convictions. She was bashed by many for HER convictions. If she feels God is leading her away from a particular curriculum for a particular reason…that is between her and God. Since then, I have seen many youtube videos of Christian moms attempting to defend themselves on why they still chose to use the curriculum. We shouldn’t have to defend ourselves! I was using that same curriculum and I didn’t have the same convictions as Rebecca. But I did feel God leading me to switch curriculum for other reasons. So I obeyed and I really think this school year has been great due to our switch. Even recently, a friend questioned something in this curriculum and seemed to open a hornets nest by questioning this curriculum. How can anyone have convictions or question this beloved curriculum? (Yes. That is sarcasm).

Really? We have enough on our plates. Let’s stop judging others for silly things and making people feel guilty for convictions.

Some Christians still let their kids dress up and trick or treat for candy 🙋 Yep, we do. Some don’t. We don’t “celebrate” Halloween, but we can still have fun. But if you don’t feel it is right for your family…that is fine! It is your personal conviction.

I know Christians who read or watched 50 Shades of Grey. For me, I had no interest in this. It is MY own conviction to not expose myself to this. But if you don’t share in this conviction, then that is fine.

Some have convictions about music or movies or even electronics. Some don’t. My husband is a computer programmer and grew up loving electronics. So we let our kids watch tv shows and play on iPad’s. It is ok if you don’t let your kids do that, but there is no need to bash others who do.

I can’t stand the song I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me. I can’t exactly pinpoint why but it instantly annoys me and I have to turn it to something else. And my favorite verse is not Jeremiah 29:11. I love my small church family and dont wish to go to a big church. We homeschool. I have a few ear piercings and no tattoos. I breastfed my first 2 girls for over a year but had to switch to formula after 2 months with my youngest due to my injury. My girls eat candy and sweets sometimes. My oldest is a huge fan of Harry Potter and Star Wars. You may feel or be the same as me and my family or you may not.

My whole point is you do you. I will do me. I will continue to seek God and follow the convictions He has placed in my life. And I hope that you will do the same. But let’s please stop judging others!

I love Jesus

When my dad is no longer my Pastor

My dad is retiring this weekend. To most, retirement is a happy and exciting thing to look forward to. But for many reasons, this retirement is very bittersweet.

We had plans in the coming years that our family would move closer to my husband’s family in Cincinnati. Since I’m extremely close to my parents, I really wanted to wait until they retired to move so they could move soon after us. And they were excited about it. But that move isn’t happening like we had hoped. My dad’s cancer diagnosis messed us all up! Now, my mom is continuing to work so she can get the great insurance for my dad’s chemo. And my dad’s oncologist recommended that my dad retire sooner than later. So with tears, my mom and dad announced their retirement a few weeks ago. It just isn’t the way his retirement should be!


This bittersweet feeling isn’t just about my dad’s diagnosis though. It goes deeper. My dad has been a pastor for 43 & 1/2 years.  Just in case you don’t know…that’s about 8 years longer than I’ve been alive. He has been my pastor my whole life (except for the few years I was away at college, Ukraine and living in Versailles, IN). I have listened to countless sermons from him…I was even a sermon illustration in many of them. I have been his partner in ministry with VBS, children’s Ministry, missions and youth ministry. He helped develop my love for serving others. I actually liked attending board meetings or district camp meetings to know what is going on in the church a little more. It will be super weird after this week to come to church that my dad is no longer preaching at.

But through the years, not only was he our Pastor at our church. He was our Pastor at home. He has always told us that his family was his first congregation and he lived it. He felt that if he failed us, he would have failed as a Pastor. He prayed with us. Loved us. He was super involved in our lives. I mean what other dad’s do you know who put their red sweat pants on (while still wearing their breathright strip on his nose) takes his kids to school. Or does his daughter’s ponytail everyday before school when her hair is permed. Or reads books and prays at their kid’s school. He made the time for us and he made us feel important. And he showed us the way to Christ.


So even though he is retiring from being a Pastor of our church, he will still be the Pastor to our families. We have no clue what the future holds, but I’m thankful that for my Pastor. And my daddy.



The night before public school starts

2 years ago, we were prepping for public school to start. We bought all the supplies. Purchased the new clothes and shoes. Met the teacher. Labeled the million items. Packed the bags. Made contact with the bus driver. Packed a lunch. Cried a few tears. Took lots of pictures.

The first day for her was a pretty good day. But as the days went on, the newness wore off. She dreaded leaving mommy. She cried daily. This pregnant Mama’s heart had a hard time dealing with it! She made friends. She learned a lot, but we needed a change.

Homeschooling last year was rough. It still isn’t perfect everyday. But we have settled into a pretty peaceful school year. We do a lot more playing and reading.

On this night before many of my friends are sending their kids off to public school…I’m thankful. I’m thankful we didn’t have the anxiety this year as we began our new school year. I’m sure she would be so anxious and worried about starting a new year with a new teacher in a new room and a new schedule. I’m thankful that I can extend bedtime tonight because my girls were actually playing really good together. I’m thankful we can take our time getting ready tomorrow instead of rushing around and in bad moods. I’m thankful we have plans for some fun things tomorrow. Things that we can do together. I’m thankful I didn’t have to be super stressed out about finding all the supplies and labeling everything. I’m thankful I get to teach my girls. I don’t know if this will always be our life, but I am so glad for this homeschooling journey right now. I’m thankful for homeschooling.


2nd grade Curriculum for 2018/2019

Just a few short months ago, I thought I had C’s curriculum all planned out. If you read the post here, I had planned to basically use all that The Good and The Beautiful offered for a 2nd grader. The Language Arts, History, Science, and typing. And even just a few weeks ago, that was my plan. But things have changed a bit. I have still gathered curriculum from various companies, but we are actually leaning a bit more toward Masterbooks for core subjects. We are also going to have a better schedule as much as possible. Which includes what I have dubbed as “Fun Friday”. We will still do some math/reading but it may be more game oriented. This will also be the time where we really focus on Science, Art, our bigger Bible curriculum, and whatever else. Doing this brought me some relief because it just seemed like so much to fit into a daily schedule.

Here is our plan for the 2018/2019 for my 2nd grader!


Last year, I wasn’t very good at including Bible. I wanted to, but I had so many plans that didn’t happen due to our life circumstances. So this year, I have a plan!

We will use our daily devotional book from Word of Life (these are a previous years devotional that was for sale online at half the price). I bought one for C, G and myself at our own levels. They all coordinate with Bible verses. The girls love these devotionals and usually ask to do several days at a time. I can’t complain about them wanting to read more of God’s word together!

Word of Life Store link

For Fun Fridays, we will be working through Picture Smart Bible. I love this curriculum! I love that when we are done, we will have basically talked about the entire Bible! Every book has a picture and the parent reads about what parts of the picture stand for and it gives a summary of each book. To make it a little more interesting for the kids, they recommend cotton balls, twigs, cloth and whatever other crafty things you can find to glue to the pictures. It can take a little time and be a bit messy, but it has been a fun curriculum for the girls so far! There are free sample lessons on their website…so check it out!

Picture Smart Bible Link

Social Studies

I purchased The Good and The Beautiful History 1 and intended to use it this year, but decided to go a different route for now since my oldest is only in 2nd and she has plenty of time to focus on History. I decided to focus a little more on Social Studies and I LOVE what we picked! There is a newer curriculum called My Story by Masterbooks. It is Christian based and starts out talking about families, then communities, and then travels around the World. The lessons aren’t too long and there are a lot of different activities throughout the book. My favorite so far is a Family Tree after talking about Noah’s family on the ark. After receiving it and loving it right away, I have already pre-ordered My Story 2!

My Story by Masterbooks YouTube review

My Story 1 by Masterbooks link

I should also add, I attempted Beautiful Feet Around the World with Picture books for a few days, but it just didn’t click with our family. I know many others love this study, so check it out! It has a beautiful guide.


I wanted to add in a little foreign language with my girls but not overwhelm them. I came across this book called 52 weeks of Family Spanish. There wasn’t much info on Amazon for this, so I did create a very non professional review of it so others could check it out. There are short lessons with only a few words to learn each week. I think it will be perfect to even include my 3 year old!

My YouTube review of Spanish curriculum

52 Weeks of Family Spanish Amazon link

I also purchased the complete book of Spanish workbook in case C would like to do a little more learning. I have also come across a YouTube playlist someone created by finding tons of short videos to go with the lessons in this book.

Spanish lessons YouTube playlist

The Complete book of Spanish link


Ok homeschool moms. Do you ever come across a subject or curriculum that you didn’t even think about needing but someone suggested it and you decided you HAD to have it? Yep. That would be this curriculum. We haven’t started it yet, but I really liked it. And it is K-3 so it can last you at least 4 years! There are several options for each level and going a little deeper as they get older. It is called Healthy Living from the Start by Oak Meadow. This is not a Christian based company, but if I do come upon anything I don’t agree with in the curriculum, I will just skip it. 😁 I did a YouTube video on this curriculum.

Healthy Living from the Start Youtube Review

Healthy Living from the Start by Oak Meadow Amazon link


We will be adding in Science a bit more than last year. We will be finishing up the Safety Unit that we started last year. C picked to do a Water Unit next, but the girls have developed a new love for bugs. I decided now is the best time to study bugs so Arthropods Unit it is! All of these units are from The Good and The Beautiful. I chose to print and bind these units myself to save a little money. I’m also adding other things to these unit guides. YouTube videos, activities I found on Pinterest, and other books. One is God Created Insects by Masterbooks. It is a sticker/coloring book and very detailed too!

TGTB Science units link

God Created Insects by Masterbooks link


In March, we switched from Horizons Math to Math Lessons for a Living Education by Masterbooks. We love it and are sticking with it this year. The lessons are short (Charlotte Mason Inspired) and there aren’t a ton of problems to practice. C says she loves Math again! We are adding some extra games and flash cards in to really get her to remember her math facts. My original plan was to start her with Teaching Textbooks as soon as she can, but I think we will stick with MLFLE for a while!

MLFLE by Masterbooks link

I also purchased Mathematical Reasoning Level C by Critical Thinking as a fun supplemental. Many have been loving this curriculum, so I thought I would try it out. So far, we have attempted it one day during the summer and C was frustrated, but we will try it again soon.

Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking link

Language Arts

This is where things are a bit crazy! In March, when we switched Math, we also switched LA to The Good and The Beautiful curriculum. It was a great change and I could definitely see C learning more than she had. We only completed about half of the level we were on and my intent was to finish that level this school year and then move on to the next. But I just felt this nudge from God to switch again to another curriculum. While TGTB is a great curriculum, I felt like we needed a little more open and go and simple. Some would argue that TGTB is exactly as I described, but there is still a lot involved each day (phonics cards, memory work, spelling lists, sight words, assessments, mini books, and the reader) and it got to be overwhelming. Masterbooks just released Language Lessons for a Living Education level 2. This curriculum seemed very similar to TGTB but less involved. The lessons are usually a page front and back. There are 7 spelling words each week and there are suggested extra activities to do in the back of the book. I did also purchase a Spectrum spelling book, but I’m going to wait to see if she needs extra practice before starting that. We are a few days into this curriculum and love it so far!

LLFLE level 2 by Masterbooks YouTube review

LLFLE by Masterbooks link

Handwriting and Typing

C is very interested in learning cursive. We have tried several things this past year, but she chose to do A Reason for Handwriting level C. This is a Christian curriculum. It is broken down by days and the first 3 they practice letters or words and then by the end of the week, they write out the verse on a piece of pretty paper they have in the back of the book.

A Reason For Handwriting link

I also purchased Typing 1 curriculum from The Good and The Beautiful. My plan is to let C do this at her own pace and when she wants to. I’m hoping she will do this more on her free time when I am working with her younger sister.

Typing by TGTB link

Thanks for sticking with me on this long post! I hope to get a YouTube video out showing it all in a video, but that may not be for a week or two. We started our new school year on June 19. So far, I feel like it is relaxed schooling but a better schedule than last year. Anything has to be better than our crazy school year last year (newborn, broken ankle and dad’s diagnosis of cancer)! I’m so excited to see how our sweet girls will grow in stature and wisdom this year!


Spread a little love

Today at Walmart…there were very long lines. I dread long lines when with all 3 girls, but we had no other option. Thankfully the girls were all pretty well behaved during our shopping trip (because it doesn’t happen).
A mom behind me with an older girl started making small talk. “Don’t you just love this time of the year when shopping with school aged children too?”
I mentioned that I always have them in the store since I homeschool 😀
She talked about how much I should treasure these moments because it goes by quickly. She has 2 girls and the youngest just graduated this week. She said she remembers the hard and long days off when they were younger but they’ve gone by in a flash. We talked some about public school and homeschooling.
After I checked out, I told them to have a good day.
Know what she said? “You too. You are doing a good job mom”

Those few minutes of conversation may not mean much to her, but they meant the world to me. As a stay at home mom, I have very few grown up conversations each day. But this mom took a few minutes to talk to me. Not only did she talk to me, but she ended the conversation with encouragement. She built me up when I really needed it. Take a few minutes when you are out and about and encourage others. Talk to those moms who have their hands full. Don’t give them advice on what they should be doing different. Encourage them. Let them know you have been in their shoes. Tell them they are doing a good job. It makes a difference!


Why homeschool?

I’m learning that each family has their own reason for homeschooling. And your original reasons for homeschooling may not be what your reasons are now.

If someone would have told me 2 years ago that I would probably be homeschooling the girls now, I would have laughed in their face. It was never anything I desired to do. My oldest has always been whiny and dramatic, so I didn’t know if I could handle being with her 24/7 and if she would even learn from me.

Both my husband and I went to public school and that is what we planned to do for our kids. We briefly checked into a local Christian school but it was way too much money for us to spend. Our oldest daughter did go to a Christian preschool for 2 years, but that tuition was a bit more manageable. Then she went on to Kindergarten at a public school. It is a great and quality public school. Her teacher was a sweet Christian lady. We honestly didn’t have much to complain about as far as her education and the school, except that maybe it was a bit crowded and hardly ever a parking space available on party or program days.

She made friends. Although there was drama with some of the friends. Yes, even in Kindergarten. Like I mentioned though C is a bit dramatic so who knows how much of the friend drama really happened. She started the Kindergarten year riding the bus. This meant she left a half an hour at least before school started and got home at least a half an hour to 45 minutes after school was out. After about 2 weeks of her riding the bus, we realized how much more time we would have together if I just took her and picked her up. Plus a few extra minutes of sleep was a perk! My husband thought I was being too soft by taking her (probably because his mom, uncle and Grandpa were bus drivers). But each day was a struggle. She never wanted me to leave. She would cry and cry. If I bribed her by taking her to lunch, she would cry when we dropped her back off after lunch. It was a daily thing. And it had been a daily thing even in preschool. Her preschool teachers used to peel her off of me so I could leave. She always settled down a few minutes later, but it broke my mommy heart every single day to walk away while she cried.

So on Spring Break last year we had the best time in Gatlinburg as a family. And maybe it was partly my crazy pregnant hormones, but I actually had the idea to homeschool. I knew we were having so much fun on vacation together and I thought why can’t everyday be like this? Why do I need to send her off to school? Why do I have to let her “cry it out” and “get over it”? Why does she have to be away from me?

So our reason for starting to homeschool was:

1. To be closer to her since she had anxiety leaving me. There is no set rule that we HAVE to make our kids learn the hard way and at such a young age to be away from us. Why has society decided this is right? It doesn’t have to be the way it is. She isn’t a “baby” for wanting to be with her mom a little longer. But I can guarantee she would likely get teased in the future if she continued in public school and cried when I dropped her off.

And now, we have many more reasons for continuing to homeschool:

2. School shootings. These shootings are happening far too often and too close to home for my comfort. My heart aches anytime I read or hear about another one. I know I can’t completely protect my kids from evil people. But by homeschooling the girls, I can protect them a bit from school shootings.

3. Flexibility. Before this year, I didn’t know how much flexibility would play in our journey, but boy did we need it. We started homeschooling toward the beginning of July 2017. We had our 3rd baby girl on July 31. It took us a bit to adjust to having a newborn baby around. Then in October, I fell and broke my ankle pretty bad. Again, another adjustment. Mommy couldn’t just drive them places or get them things to eat, etc. I was down for almost 3 months! Then in December, my dad got diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. My girls and I are so close to my parents and it was a big blow. So flexibility has been a key to this year. We’ve had life happen so much on top of normal errands and appointments. We have been able to school around life happening. If there was a day that too much was going on, we would take a day off. And many days, we would school in the afternoon when one or two kids were sleeping.

3. I get to choose what my kids learn. If you follow me, you will soon find out I’m a bit obsessed with figuring out curriculum. There is so much good stuff out there! The possibilities are endless! But on top of that, I can choose if I want curriculum to be Christian based or secular. I can choose if I want the girls to learn geography or history. I can choose the style. I can add in Bible lessons. Or a foreign language. I don’t have a public school making those choices for us and even teaching things against our beliefs. I’m not attempting to shelter my kids, but I do want to “raise up a child in the way he should go” as the Bible says.

I also get to teach my kids at their level. If they are advanced in one area, we can fly forward. Or if there is an area we need to review more, we can do that too! We don’t have to follow the lesson plan and my kids won’t be held back waiting on others to catch up.

4. No school fundraisers, supplies, or other things I have to spend money on. True, I am still spending money on curriculum and other things, but I get a choice in where this money is going. My girls don’t NEED certain school supplies or a backpack or uniforms. I don’t have to pay for a netbook or for field trips. And fundraisers! We got envelopes several times last year asking for donations and the kids got prizes. And of course Cora wanted to earn all the prizes. I like getting to choose where our money is invested.

5. The girls are forced to play together. Before we homeschooled, the girls played together a bit, but by the time C got home, did homework, ate supper and took a bath, there was very little time for them to actually play together. Now they can play together throughout the day. They play dolls together. Jump on the trampoline together. Play in the sprinkler together. Sure they fight, but they also do way more together than they used to. I can see them becoming best friends, even if they won’t admit it.

6. No strict bedtime or wake up time. I hated bedtime and a set waking up at a certain time last year. C was almost always in a bad mood when she woke up and we butted heads a lot in the mornings when I was trying to get her moving faster. I hated it. Plus it was so stressful to get her in bed at a certain time so that she wouldn’t be too horrible the next day. We had to stop going to our midweek kids program at church because it would be too late getting home for her on those nights since we live 20 minutes from our church. We do still try to get the girls in bed by 8 every night, but it isn’t a huge deal if it is later. And ironically, they actually wake up around the time C had to be awake last year. The only difference is she can wake up on her own. Not with me dragging her out of bed!

7. Vacations and parks. We aren’t bound by school breaks for traveling. We can travel more in off seasons which results in fewer crowds and sometimes even saving money! We are also able to head to the parks on days when kids are in school. It isn’t as much fun to head to the parks during the summer days when they are really crowded!

8. Co ops. It is a myth about homeschooling kids lacking socialization. We have always been involved in our church, so I knew even if we did nothing else, my girls would be just fine. They have a good group of friends at church and really enjoy being involved. But I wanted to try out a Co-op. Many of them around the area require parents to be involved with teaching or set up. Knowing we had a toddler and a newborn, I didn’t think I could make too much of a commitment. We came across the Co-op CHOICE. It meets less than 10 minutes from our house and there are already set mentors (teachers), so parents aren’t required to teach! They do require us to stay in the church while kids are in classes. Thankfully there is a nursery. There are many classes to choose from and usually I let Cora make 2 choices. She has done PE, choir, tumbling and a sewing class. She has been finding things she likes and doesn’t like. She is taking classes with kids not just in her grade or age group. I’m so thankful we have found this co-op! It does cost money (nothing is free, right? 😁), But it is worth it. And the mom’s of this co-op have been so great. When there is a mom down, whether sick, bedrest or broken ankle 😉, they will make a meal train or a sunshine basket. It was such a sweet blessing to be a recipient of this basket last fall after my broken ankle. A huge basket full of items for me and the girls even though many didn’t even know us in the first semster. I must say, I love that our area has such a huge and great homeschooling community. It makes this journey so much better.

9. I get to be with my girls and watch them grow. I know not everyone gets this pleasure. But lately I am learning how blessed I am that I get to be the one teaching them and seeing them grow. I can see them through the milestones. I no longer feel like I’m getting the leftovers of C’s energy. Every night while doing homework…we struggled. Her energy was drained by being at school for so many hours. She was tired and I didn’t get to experience the best version of her. But now, I do.

10. We can be outside more and school anywhere! We never used to spend a lot of time outside. We spent most evenings inside when she got home. But now, we love it! As soon as the weather started getting nicer, we started going outside as much as possible. They jump on the trampoline, play with chalk or bubbles and a new favorite is to turn on the sprinkler and play in the mud. We also love doing picnics! I usually go sit outside in a chair or on a blanket. If it is a school day, I pack up the curriculum and bring it outside. C will take breaks from playing and sit down to do work. This is also the case if we need to be at my parents’ house or somewhere else. It is so easy to load up the things we need and do school anywhere.

So there are now 10 reasons for us to homeschool. I can’t believe we have completed our first year and now plan to keep going! It hasn’t been all peachy everyday. In fact, there were probably more days than not (especially in the beginning) that I threatened her with going back to public school. I think she is learning to respect me in a different way. We are gradually getting out of the public school mindset of schedule and needing to do “school” a certain way. The girls drive me bonkers most days too, but I still love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

So now I’m curious. What are your reasons for wanting to homeschool? My reasons may not look like your reasons, but they are important to think about just the same!

Mom life

When you are forced to slow down

A little over 6 months ago, life was busy. I had an almost 3 month old, a 2 year old and a 6 year old. I was homeschooling. We were attending a co-op on Mondays. We were planning a vacation the following week to Gatlinburg. And my in laws decided to come for a quick visit that weekend. I cleaned like a mad lady and when they got here, my mother in law really wanted to eat at Bonefish.

We had a great meal and I think our 3 girls were even behaving for the most part. My in-laws were planning to stop at Best Buy afterward and we needed to stop at the store for some milk and a few other items. My mother in law wanted to take some cute pictures of the girls on the outdoor seats. I decided to start walking toward the van. I stepped off the sidewalk and into the parking lot and fell crashing down. I’m a complete klutz and have fallen other times but I knew this fall was different. I thought I heard a crack. My husband and father-in-law helped me up and to the outdoor seats since I couldn’t put any weight on it. We waited there for a bit, although in my intense pain…it felt like forever. The manager wasn’t much help except to say the parking lot was not their property.

My in-laws took our 2 older girls home while Craig took me to ER. I figured it may be a bit so I had our baby with us and nursed her in the lobby. In my mind, I knew I only had one or two bags of breast milk in the freezer. I was hoping I could get a cast and back home before too long to keep feeding her. I was so nervous about getting pain medicine while I was there since it may go in my breast milk.

Well, after I was back there, I found out my break was very bad. It was dislocated and broke in 3 spots on the 2 bones. In a room full of male nurses, techs and doctors, they had to cut my (brand new) jeans off and relocate my bones before they set it in place and put a cast on it. Then they said I needed to go in an ambulance to the midtown hospital to most likely have surgery either that night or the next day. What?!?! So I made the call for my parents to pick up formula for our baby since I didn’t have the breast milk stock and would at least be in the hospital over night. It was a bit hard for me to choose this since I had exclusively breastfed my other 2 girls for the first year of both of their lives. Talk about mom guilt. But I had Craig pick up my pump and pumped often in the hospital. But I also dumped it since I wasn’t exactly sure about the pain meds in my milk.

I finally got in to a room close to midnight. So no surgery that night. I ended up going into surgery that next day, but it wasnt to put the screws and plates in like I had hoped. Apparently I broke my ankle so bad that I needed to have an external fix. This was a surgery to screw in metal bars into my bones to keep my ankle in place so my swelling could go down. It actually wasn’t as painful or horrible as it looks, but it wasnt any fun. The nurses told me they were surprised the Ortho surgeon cleared me to go home with this ex fix because normally they keep them in the hospital until their next surgery for the plates and screws.

We did manage to cancel our Gatlinburg trip and not get charged! There was no way I couls handle a 6 hour ride to Gatlinburg without putting my foot on the floor. Plus I’d be stuck inside a room all day. Not a fun trip.

But I went home on that Sunday. My in-laws were still there and my mom had been there helping with the girls as well. Being at home with the ex fix was a bit difficult. I couldn’t put any weight on it at all. You never realize how much you need both of your feet for doing such simple things like go to the bathroom. Craig changed the dressings on my foot daily and my mom helped me sponge bathe every couple days when I got extra stinky. I learned in this time that I don’t HAVE to have a shower everyday. When I was sent home, I was told that I would probably have my surgery that following Thursday. But on Wednesday, I received a call that there was an emergency surgery that needed to take my place and that I was postponed a week! A whole extra week with these metal bars stuck in my ankle! Needless to say, I was a bit depressed about this. But my doctor reassured me that it was better to wait and let my swelling go down more.

During this waiting time, I attempted to nurse our baby again, but she never seemed satisfied. I never felt comfortable nursing her in the position I was sitting in on the couch. And I made the decision to stop nursing completely. So my life has just been turned into a crazy mess with a broken ankle and then. I had to stop nursing my last baby at almost 3 months. I had a rough time for a couple days. But it got easier and even through the mom guilt (guys it is so real), I knew deep down that it was best for my baby to get food. Whether it is through formula or breast milk, but she wasn’t getting what she needed anymore with breast milk. And guess what…she is thriving with formula. She is probably our biggest baby of our 3 kids. I still feel the same mom guilt when other moms are talking about breast feeding while I whip out a bottle and milk, but they have no idea what we have dealt with this past year and the circumstances that brought us to formula feed.

So on November 2, I went back in the hospital for an outpatient surgery to get my plates and screws in. Lots of them. I came home with a cast for 3 weeks. And the pain was horrible the first day after surgery. I took my pain meds around the clock and still hurt. But that subsided and I eventually weaned myself off the meds a few days later. I decided I would rather take Tylenol.

I went back in right around Thanksgiving and got my boot. I could finally start taking a shower with out anything on my ankle of course I had to sit on a lovely shower bench while in there. I also go to have a new ride! I was so thankful to have a knee scooter.

At that appointment around Thanksgiving, the PA said that I likely had another 2 months before I could put weight on my ankle. My surgeon had originally said 2 months total, so I was frustrated about this new development. But when I went back to surgeon before Christmas (a week after finding out dad had cancer), I told my surgeon that I needed good news. And he said I could start putting weight on it again.

I started PT right before New Year’s. I went to PT twice a week for 2 months. I got to take my boot off and walk with a shoe the end of January. Which also meant I could finally start driving! Last week, I had my 6 month follow up. He said my hardware looked good and he would see me in 6 more months if I felt I needed to be seen, but if not I could cancel. I have basically been released! Yay! And we are planning to go back to Gatlinburg in 2 weeks! I doubt I’m ready to do too much hiking though. I think we have pretty much gotten our insurance mess taken care of too. I hate dealing with insurance!

So apparently God wanted me to slow down. I have always been under this pressure on myself that we have to do everything and be on time. But I could no longer do this. I had to rely on my family and friends for EVERYTHING. I needed food brought to me, help with bathing, and even dressing (thank goodness for Lularoe Carly dresses). But God is so good and provided me with everything I needed. He has given me such an awesome husband who was able to work from home for over 3 months. He worked (even when our girls were very loud), took care of us, did all the driving, cleaned and cooked some. My in-laws helped so much the weekend of the fall and I think they enjoyed extra bonding time with the girls even though the circumstances weren’t ideal. My parents…they went above and beyond too. They took the girls sometimes doesn’t a few days at a time (thank goodness it was a few days after that second surgery since I was in so much pain), got groceries for us sometimes and mom bathed me. Special mom/daughter time right there. My dad took Cora and Gracie to Cora’s co-op every Monday after my accident. He started not feeling the greatest during these weeks because of his cancer, but pushed through to spend time with these girls. I still have a bit of guilt about him doing so much for me during this time while he felt miserable. We all brushed his pain and discomfort off as needing a minor surgery to remove his gallbladder. We had no clue he really had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. My church family were the hands and feet of Christ to us during this time and well they still are. They brought in food, sent cards, and entertained our kids sometimes. We really have the best church. And my girls adjusted. So many changes in such a short time in their lives. But our sweet baby has adjusted to formula and loved the extra cuddle time on the couch. My older girls had to become a bit more independent and help me a lot more. I was still able to homeschool…on the couch.

My broken ankle was horrible. I wouldn’t wish a broken bone on anyone. But it did cause me to slow down and it pales in comparison to many thingstother people face. It caused me to make some changes that were hard, but we amanaged to get through it.

Circumstances may be less than perfect, but God is the perfect one. He sustained us through it all and he will continue do it in the future.

I love Jesus, Mom life

Eternal life

I never imagined how Easter would affect me this year, but it has hit me hard.

Here is a bit of backstory. My dad went in to have his gallbladder removed in December, but instead of having it removed we found out his abdomen was full of cancer. It was later revealed that he has stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer. What?!?! Such a shock! My family is super close and he is such an awesome Boppa to my 3 girls. The beginning of the year was very daunting because we had no idea what the future holds, we still don’t. My planning mindset has completely changed because I can’t stand the fact that if I am planning ahead, my dad might not be here. He is undergoing chemo and is able to have some pretty good days. The oncologist says the chemo won’t cure his cancer but will hopefully help the symptoms be less, maybe add some time to his life and most importantly give him some quality of life.

My dad is also the Pastor at our church. He has been feeling well enough lately to attend for the past seven weeks and even preach most of those. He led our Good Friday service yesterday even though he wasn’t feeling the greatest. And Lord willing, he plans to lead our services tomorrow.

On top of all of the excitement of Easter and my dad feeling well enough to be at the services, tomorrow will be special for another reason. My oldest daughter has asked to be baptized. She asked Jesus in her heart a little over a year ago at VBS. We have suggested baptism but she never seemed interested. She brought it up to me a few weeks ago and it is scheduled for tomorrow. And my dad will be doing it! I will also be joining him in the water to assist with bringing the ones up out of the water because he is still pretty weak.

So as I reflect on what is supposed to happen tomorrow, I am very emotional. My daughter is making a huge step in her faith at 6 years old to let others know she loves Jesus. I’m so proud of her. She has such a big heart and loves deeply. She has asked me some deep questions in the past month that I can’t believe a 6 year old is asking. I have attempted to answer them as best as I can but have many times had to just say it comes down to faith.

I am emotional thinking about my dad. I’m so very thankful he is alive and doing ok right now. He gets to baptize my girl! But I also think about next Easter. Will he be here to celebrate this holiday with us? But I’m also emotional about the sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins. He came to the earth knowing what his future held. He died a horrible death just for me. But he also rose again! He isn’t dead. He is alive and preparing a place for me. Heaven seems much more real to me this year as we think about dad’s diagnosis. I’m thankful that we have the hope of Eternal life.

Mom life

A new trick

Our middle girl, G has always been a tough one when it comes to sleeping. She prefers to sleep all nestled up next to someone…preferably mommy or daddy.

The last few months, almost every night (except for one glorious week) G has come running in our room, climbed up over me and onto our bed. Usually this happens when we are super asleep (between 2-5) so we don’t have enough energy to wake up and deal with her going back to bed.  Most of the time, she comes right in and goes back to sleep. But there have been a few nights where she is wide awake. And because she likes to cuddle, one of us also usually gets kicked or pushed to the edge of the bed. So much fun! No wonder I constantly feel like I need a back massage!

At church on Sunday, I mentioned to my bff (yep, I’m cheesey and decided to do bff instead of just call her best friend) that G is still coming in our bed. She said she can’t say much because she would go in her parents room quite often too but they had a spot on the floor for her.

What!?! Why didn’t I think of that? Do you want to know why I didn’t think of that? Well because I could barely see our floor in our room. We had a baby bed in a spot next to my bed for a few months, but A is a rockstar sleeper at night and sleeps in her crib for like 10 hours straight. But in the months since then, things have just piled up. Usually junk the girls bring into our room. I decided to clean it all up and now we have a little spot just for the girls to sleep if they wake up at night. Both of them (the older 2) thought they got to start out in our room the first night. No way. Plus they both think it is a good resting spot during the day. G has come in the last 2 nights and gone straight to her spot. I haven’t had little toddler kicks on my back and I’ve been able to get some awesome sleep. I’m so thankful for this game changer! 20180326_192317