Thursday, June 28, 2018

Family Vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC 2018

At the beginning of May, we went on a family trip to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. It was our first family trip with just the 6 of us and the first time we've left the state since the boys were adopted. It was so nice to be able to just hit the road and go without worrying about getting forms signed! 
We left early Friday morning and spent that day driving to Atlanta. It was supposed to be about 13 hours and I don't even know how long it ended up taking. 17? 18? It was such a long day with so much traffic! But we made it there (very late) and got settled into our hotel for that night. 
The next morning we had plans to spend the day at the Georgia Aquarium. It is supposed to be one of the best aquariums in the world! We had been studying oceans and ocean animals this year in our homeschool, so we planned on doing this as a way to celebrate the end of the year and for them to get to see a lot of the animals they had learned about! All of the kids loved it. 



Late afternoon we got on the road again to Hilton Head and arrived that evening. We did some exploring around the condo's property, checked out the lagoons and even found a turtle hiding on the land :)  (We did more walks around the property a few times throughout the week and had 27 turtles following us around the lagoon at one point! It was so cool-the girls just died over that.)

The rest of the week was spent mostly at the beach, a little bit of pool time, lots of delicious sea food and some fun activities on the island! 
The condo we rented was just across the street from the beach, so we hopped on a little shaded path and walked down there every single day. Man, getting 4 kids ready to go to the beach is A LOT of work, but it was so worth it. They all had so much fun and it was such a blast to see them enjoying themselves so much. The girls had been to the beach before, but not for more than a few hours at a time, and the boys had never been. 
He seriously had the time of his life! Pretty sure he would have never left. And this is a kid that is not overly easy to please!



Some of our favorite places that we ate on the island were: 
  • The Salty Dog Cafe (iconic and an absolute must eat at place! Start with the hush puppies-my kids devoured them!)) 


How handsome is he?!

  • Duck Donuts (you "build" your own donut by choosing the frosting, toppings, etc. They literally melt in your mouth-sooo good!) 

  • The Crazy Crab (my favorite meal on the island! The seafood was incredibly fresh and delicious) 
  • A lowcountry backyard (best shrimp and grits in South Carolina, apparently. My husband had them. The food was good and the atmosphere was cool, but I wouldn't recommend taking kids. It was a long wait and they weren't overly welcoming to our children.)


  • The Ice Cream Cone (in Coligny Plaza. They had so many flavors, and even dairy free ice cream for my little guy!)


Some of the activities we did on the island: 

Pirates of Hilton Head
This was so much fun. I am so glad we heard about it. The kids get to dress up like pirates, get pirate names, and go on a real pirate boat. On the boat they play games, hunt for treasure, find the treasure map (which my kids' dad just happened to have "stolen" ;) ), shoot water at another pirate on another boat, and take some booty from the treasure box home. It was a blast, and all the kids loved it. They really put on a good show for both the kids and parents! 




Harbortown
There was SO much to do at Harbortown. Some of our favorite things included...
  • Harbortown playground (SUCH a neat playground with tons of equipment and fun things for the kids to do)
  • Go to the shops and restaurants 
  • Visit the iconic lighthouse (you can walk to the top, but we didn't)


While you are in Sea Pines visiting Harbortown, you can also stop at Lawton Stables and do their petting zoo, feed the animals and I believe you can pay to do horse rides. 

At Coligny Plaza you'll find a splash area for the kids, tons and tons of shops including boutiques, souvenir shops, and specialty shops of all kinds, restaurants, lots of ice cream shops, drink stands, and a really cool little pirate ship playground. 


Aside from the activities away from the condo/beach, we really spent at least several hours every day at the beach! The kids just loved it, so we made sure to get in some time there every day. We also saw sharks, dolphins and sea turtles one day, which was a little freaky but neat to see. Oh, and of course jellyfish throughout the week! 




One thing I loved about the island is that the whole island had a path around it where you could walk or bike (tons of bike rentals on the island) and get around the entire island if you wanted to. One day during the kids nap time, I walked down to Coligny and the path was shaded almost the entire time, so it wasn't bad at all. It was such a beautiful, lush island. So many pretty trees, lots of animals. Just a beautiful place to stay. 

On the way there, the boys literally played with these sticky hands my husband got at Target for about 10-12 hours of our drive. Not exaggerating. It kept them busy the ENTIRE day somehow. The way home they didn't play with them quite as much but probably kept them busy for at least 5 hours here and there throughout the day. I had packed an entire bag of things for them and on the way there, I think we got one other thing out the entire day. So...if you need a road trip idea, apparently kids love sticky hands! 

Also, these fake mustaches were a hit. It's the little things, I guess. 

On the way home, we hit Ikea in Atlanta for a few things we needed, then drove as far as we could manage that day, which ended up being to St. Louis. We drove to the far side, so we wouldn't have city traffic in the morning, crashed very late, woke up and had a good breakfast, and finished the drive home by lunch time. It worked out perfectly. 

Now we need to get on planning next year's vacation. Where should we go next?! 


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Monday, June 18, 2018

5 Things I'm Doing Differently This Year in Our Homeschool

I think that summertime is always going to be a time for me to reflect on the previous school year, get organized, plan for the next one, buy supplies/curriculum, reset our room, etc. I love having the opportunity to think about what things I can improve in the year(s) to come. This past year was our first official year homeschooling and over all it went very well. We accomplished beyond what I had hoped, and we learned a lot about each other. I am looking forward to implementing these new ideas and tactics into our homeschool this coming school year. 

1. Not skipping over the hands on/fun activities
I noticed last year that it was very easy and even tempting for me to skip over certain activities, projects, etc. during our school days. Sometimes it was because they were a ton of prep, sometimes they didn't seem beneficial, sometimes we were short on time, and a lot of times I just didn't want to deal with them. I have realized that my girls like things to be mixed up. I think it's good for us to have a schedule and routine, but if we do the same thing day after day they get really bored. I do, too. So, this coming year I am going to try to go out of my way to give them creative projects, experiments, and hands on learning experiences. I know I'll have to plan them out ahead of time to make sure I have the supplies and preparation done, but I also know it will be worth it. I also think that adding in a few more subjects at home (science and social studies) will help with this as I have several fun things already planned for those subjects. I am also going to try to implement some art projects. My girls will get art at the homeschool classes they attend, so last year I didn't really do any art, but I know they really enjoy it and I think once every week or two, it would be fun to throw in an art project to break up a long week. I am also planning on being better about not skipping the activities within our curriculum. I know these will benefit the girls, even when they are more prep for me, so I am hoping to be better about actually using them and letting my girls learn from them. 

2. Taking more breaks during the school day
Last year I learned that when we try to go through each subject bam, bam, bam, it can be a little stressful trying to get it all done. Of course when my kids need to use the bathroom or get a drink they are free to get up whenever, but we pretty much moved right from one activity to the next. I would start to see one of my daughters getting really weary and grumpy a little ways into our school day so I hope that taking a break or two here and there throughout our day to go outside for a little while, or grab a snack or just stop to play for a little bit will help to refresh them (and me!) and allow them to come back to the room ready to work.

 I am also going to encourage them to take a break when the going gets tough. I did start doing this in the second half of the year when things got hard and turned to tears, but one of my daughters interpreted this as a punishment, when really what I wanted them to do was just go chill out for a few minutes and come back when they were ready. I'd like to do a better job explaining to them that sometimes our brains just need a break when something is hard or frustrating and that is totally OK! Take a break, go get a drink, rest your mind for a few minutes, think about something else and come back when you've calmed down. I also need to remember to do this myself when I am stumped on how to explain something to them in a different way if they aren't getting it. 
3. Teaching my girls different things/going at a different pace
Last year, we did everything together. I taught language arts as I would have to a whole group of kids (because that's kind of how the curriculum was laid out, and a lot of it was activities they did together like Bingo, Go Fish, etc.) and for Bible, math and our ocean unit, we just did it all together. I think for the most part we will do things together this year (especially for Bible, math, science and social studies) because the curriculums I have purchased or created are laid out that way, but for language arts I am going to try letting them go at their own pace and teaching them separately. 

I need to look through the curriculum and come up with an official game plan, but I think that I am going to start one on one work with one girl while the other one does their reading, handwriting, and whatever else they can do on their own. That way, while working through their lessons, if one of them is ready to move ahead, we can, and the other one doesn't have to feel bad about it because they won't even know. This will also be beneficial as my girls work on spelling lists and sight words, as they may not master those at the same time, so this way, they can go through it on their own and move onto the next list when they're ready. 
4. Doing more observational evaluation on how things are going throughout the year
What I mean by this is that I want to be more intentional about noticing how things are going for the girls, and for myself. Are they struggling with a certain subject? Is it that skill, the subject in general or the curriculum? What changes could I make now to make it easier and bring some joy back to that part of our school day, for all of us? I didn't do a good job of that with Kindergarten and it took me way too long to notice that our math curriculum really wasn't working the way I had hoped. 
5. Giving my preschoolers more structure.
First of all, I don't think I've ever called them preschoolers. I still refer to them as babies, or at the very least toddlers! Doesn't seem possible for them to be preschool aged, but I suppose being 3 1/2-4 1/2 years old this school year would qualify them as preschoolers! Anyway, last year they were home during 2 school days a week and during those times it was kind of a free for all. They were still pretty young and didn't really "play" with toys yet, so they spent a lot of that time dumping things out, making messes, wanting me to hold them, and fighting with each other over toys. Toward the end of the year, I tried something new with them. I had them sit in different parts of the family room (which is right next to our school room so I can see them the whole time), and gave them each a specific activity/toy (trains, blocks, tinker toys, etc.) that they could DO something with (not just dump out or destroy). Then, when we would switch subjects, I would switch what they did. For Bible, I would bring them in the school room and give them color wonder to do because the girls were coloring for Bible. It worked out very well and they fought a lot less and I had a lot less interruptions. (Not that I consider them interruptions, but you know...) I would like to try something similar this year, and possibly give them a little "work" to do. A lot of our science and social studies is literature, so if they are interested in those stories they can join us. Our science has a ton of hands on/life experience things like doing things in nature and journaling about it outside, finding specific types of nature items and observing them, going to a pet store and drawing sketches of the animals you see there, etc. so that will be easy for them to join us for.

 Art projects and science experiments I can easily include them in. Hopefully it will work well. As they are getting older they are getting more capable of playing independently so I think that will make it a little easier this year, as well. 

I am really looking forward to the 2018-2019 school year! We have a lot of fun things in store and I think with these changes, we will have a really great year!
If you are a parent, what changes are you planning to implement into your child's upcoming school year, whether for public, private or homeschool? 
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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What I've Been Reading: Vol. 4

Wow, it has been awhile since I have done a "What I've Been Reading" post! I like to do these a few times a year to update on the books I've been reading. For my first 3 posts click here, here and here.
As always, you can find me on Goodreads if you want to keep up on what I'm reading! 

  • I remember really liking Don't Let Me Go, but now I see on Goodreads I only gave it 3 stars, so I'm not sure what I'm forgetting! It was a sweet and heartbreaking story about a community of strangers coming together to save a family. There were a lot of foster care/child services things happening in the book and this was at the time when we were in the thick of waiting to find out if we'd be chosen to adopt our sons, so it was an emotional read, but I really enjoyed it. Now that I'm thinking back, I think it was maybe that I didn't like the way the story ended. It wasn't necessarily a "happily ever after" ending, which I guess in some ways is nice because that's real life, but it made me sad.
  • Leaving Carolina was kind of 'blech' for me. I didn't like the main character and felt like she just made really awful decisions all the time and it was annoying. This was part of a series that I had gotten from the library, but I stopped after this book. It was ok, but I would rather read stuff I really love.
  • This sweet story about a girl who leaves her Amish community to get married to an English man was really precious! A Plain and Simple Christmas was a really quick, easy read and I enjoyed it a lot! I read it in November so it got me into the Christmas spirit really well. I felt like I could connect with the characters and really felt for all of the characters no matter which side they were on. I would definitely recommend this one. 
  • The Five Love Languages of Children was one that my husband and I read together, which we enjoy doing with parenting and sometimes marriage books. I liked this book a lot. Now that my girls are getting older it is getting easier to see their love languages coming out. This gave us some practical tips for loving them in the way they will most feel loved and some parts about disciplining according to their love language definitely made us think. We did skip a few chapters that didn't apply to us such as a chapter on single parenting.
  • The Inn at Ocean's Edge is the first book in Colleen Coble's Sunset Cove series. I generally really enjoy Coble's books and this was no exception. It was her typical suspense/Christian romance book. This one kept me on my toes and the storyline was great! I definitely was not able to predict what had happened or was going to happen in this one. 
  • Mermaid Moon is the second in the same series. And I just realized I never read the final book in this series! That may have to be my next book. This was another typical and great Coble book that I recommend if you like suspense! 
  • If you have read Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family series, you will enjoy Love Story. It tells the story of how John & Elizabeth fell in love. It is a beautiful story of redemption, family, adoption and unconditional love. It also catches up on Cody and Andi, which seems kind of random to include in this book, but I loved that storyline as well. 
  • My Brother's Keeper was on the highlighted books shelf at the library one night, so I randomly picked it up and read the cover and it sounded good enough. It was really good! Definitely a suspense/thriller/crime novel. I absolutely could not have guessed the truth behind everything until right when we were figuring it out in the book. 
  • I heard about this book in some adoption groups I'm in and when the author herself mentioned it in one of the groups I decided to grab in on Kindle while it was on sale. Goodbye, SaraJane is a heartwrenching memoir from a former foster child. It was hard to read as a former foster parent, but I'm glad I did. It was also sometimes hard to read in a physical sense as the grammar, punctuation, etc. wasn't great. But I would recommend it to those who want a real life look at some of the heartbreaking realities of foster care and foster care adoption. It reminded me why we became foster parents. 
  • What Alice Forgot had been on my list for such a long time! I finally got around to reading it and it was hard to put down. It made me so sad at so many parts at how easily marriages crumble into nothing. Overall, I ended up really liking this book. It was interesting and kept me engaged and gave me lots of feelings-happy, mad, sad, excited-the whole spectrum.
  • Odd Child Out was another that was on display at the library. I'm really glad I picked it up! Another crime thriller that kept me on my toes. I had no idea it was going to turn the way that it did. I am saying that in all of the suspense books though-maybe I'm really bad at predicting books! I can always figure out what's going to happen in t.v. and movies so I feel like I should be the same at books-who knows. Either way, it was a really good book. 
  • I just finished My Husband's Wife and I honestly can't decide if I liked it or hated it. I really can't. I guess maybe I felt some of both. I think it could have been a lot shorter. Overall, I think the book made me really mad because of all of the affairs and disregard to the sanctity of marraige that took place, and thus ruined everyone's lives. But I guess that is probably the majority of the world, so I shouldn't be surprised-it was just really sad. It was definitely suspenseful and also an easy read so it was pretty quick from start to finish. 
  • You Are Free took me months and months to get through. Mostly because we were traveling, and holidays, and moving, etc. I finally finished it and it's another that I can't quite decided what to think about it. It was a good book. It was helpful in a lot of ways, but it didn't change my life. There were some parts that were a little overly mystical for me. I did enjoy the author's stories a lot and I could apply a lot of the areas she needed freedom in to my own life. Overall I think I would recommend the book. I appreciate that she continually points back to Jesus and how we are free through Him already. 
What have you been reading lately?! 
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