About Road Tripping with Kids

It all started last year when my husband and I decided to a do a couple leaf peeping day trips to admire the beauty of the changing seasons here in the PNW. One of the best things about living in Western Washington is that you are never far from the mountains or the sea. So much nature is available to you with not much of a drive. Last year, we never drove far enough that we couldn’t come back home that same evening. It was all day in the car with multiple stops. So this year, we took our first weekend long road trip around The Cascade Loop.

This is a popular drive and I’d never driven the entirety of it. We started in Seattle and made our way over the mountains and stayed the night just outside of Leavenworth. From there we traveled mostly North and then West where we spent the night in Burlington. Our final day we drove over Deception Pass and wound down through Whidbey and caught the ferry to head home.

The kids were completely fine and loved the adventure. My husband and I were pleasantly pleased (but maybe we just don’t give our kids enough credit). Here’s a very short list of a few things that I attribute to having a successful road trip with kids:

  1. Bring a variety of snacks because kids are literally always hungry.
  2. Bring some sweets. My go-to road trip candy is M&M’s and Skittles. A little bit of chocolate, a little bit of fruity. Don’t be afraid to give them candy whenever they ask. Haha! I’m serious. I just give them like 5 or 6 pieces each and they don’t usually just keep asking for more and more.
  3. Be excited! If you’re not excited about the road trip then why are you going? Share the excitement with your kids. Point out the beauty outside your window and answer as many questions as you can.
  4. Prepare a good music playlist. I recommend Spotify’s premium account because you can download playlists so they’re available offline for those times when you’re out of cell service.
  5. Make stops. More than just rest stops. The kids and their crazy amounts of energy need to run around and stretch their legs. This means you will get from Point A to Point Z in a longer period of time so plan for that.
  6. Have each kid prepare a bag of car goodies whether that’s crayons/markers/paper or easy to play games. Whatever it is, they will need a few toys to entertain themselves. We didn’t buy any special road trip activities and the kids were perfectly fine. (In all transparency, I did buy a few but then the delivery was delayed and we didn’t get it until after we were back home so I returned it all).

We hope to make a couple more long road trips in the future. Now, I’m craving some Skittles and M&M’s….

How to Make a Fall Snack Mix

Fall Chex Mix Recipe
Chocolate Chex Cereal
Reese’s Puffs
Pretzel Sticks
Brach’s Autumn Mix
Chocolate Chips
Nestle Butterscotch Chips
Yogurt Covered Pretzels

Pour all ingredients into bowl, mix and voila! You can really add or subtract whatever ingredients you desire but I suggest a good mix of sweet, salty, crunchy and chocolate. I was quite surprised at how addictive this mix was. Snackers beware of this highly addictive chex mix. I made this last year and knew that I’d be making it again this year. After a little weekend gathering, I sent everyone home with bags of this stuff – after all, my mom always says, “share the fat”!

About Halloween Decorations

Halloween Paper Fans | Party Cat on Box | Felt Ball Garland | Cat on Unicycle | Pumpkin Paper Lantern
Cat Bucket | Halloween Cat Cutout | Black Cat Candy Cone | Jointed Pumpkin Goblin | Pumpkin Night Lite

Decorating for the holidays has always been the kind of mom task I’ve aspired to be good at. I remember visiting other friends or neighbors houses and being mesmerized at their beautiful holiday displays. Then, I grew older and would stand in awe at the gorgeous displays in Martha Stewart Living magazine or the Pottery Barn stores. I can’t quite describe the way family holidays make me feel – they’re just the kind of creature comfort I’m always longing for.

Halloween is a rather silly holiday but I’m all about taking advantage of what we have and what we have is a holiday called Halloween. While I don’t embrace the spooky side, I love to indulge the fall harvest side. There’s nothing better than the rich hues of Fall coupled with the smell of a warm fire on a cool autumn eve.

I’m forever drawn to the classics and what’s more classic for Halloween than a black cat and pumpkins?! I’m not the best at finding hidden gems in antique stores (though not for lack of trying). I’ve rounded up some of the decorations catching my eye this year that pay homage to the vintage vibes of bygone days. Usually you can score some pretty cute finds at vintage fairs this time of year but since public events are not happening, the Internet will have to suffice.

If you know of any cute shops with vintage Halloween decor, please let me know! I’m always searching for things off the beaten path.

About My Top 5 Favorite Podcasts

There’s a time and a place for podcasts. I used to not have the time for them because I always had a child with me. Not that one cannot listen to podcasts around children but one may experience multiple interruptions and, frankly, that is just no way to really listen to (and possibly enjoy) a podcast. I used to have time when I was still working full time outside of the house. Then, I didn’t have time. And now, I have found some more time. While exercising in the same general space my kids are playing outside, I pop in one earbud and listen to my hearts content.

Here are my top 5 favorite podcasts, in no particular order:
1. Relatable with Allie Beth Stuckey: a Christian conservative look at current events, politics and theology. I love Allie’s approach though I find politics in general a bit heavy and something to moderate how much I hear/see. She brings on great expert guests that really flesh out a topic and break it down so it’s easy to understand.
2. Foundations: Ruth & Troy describe their podcast as the podcast that “helps you direct your family as you explore 12 key truths to connect your children’s hearts – and yours – to the heart of God”. Although I was raised going to church, I don’t really feel like I know how to incorporate Christianity into parenting and this podcast is very practical.
3. Behind the Scenes: Jeremy & Audrey Roloff are stars of the reality TV show “Little People, Big World”. While I haven’t see the show in many, many years – I do remember watching when the kids (on the show) were younger. They bring on a variety of guests to talk about life, family and faith.
4. The GaryVee Audio Experience: I first read Gary’s book Crush It! probably 10 years ago. I’m a big fan of marketing and business ideas and love to consume materials discussing the topic. He’s a thought leader and a successful entrepreneur. He’s a no B.S. kind of guy and the kind of guy who definitely wouldn’t abbreviate swear words (so not exactly kid friendly in my opinion).
5. You’re Welcome with Hilary Rushford: I came across Hilary on Instagram years ago. Feeling inspired by her story of struggling actress to successful stylist/blogger in NYC, I purchased her Instagram class about 6 years ago. On her podcast she talks about business, life and style.
***Bonus. This American Life: I have listened to so many stories from TAL. While the stories are true and journalistic, they are entertaining and can be incredibly light hearted (though that’s not the case for all of the episodes). I love these stories. TAL is one of the top podcasts and if you haven’t already heard of it, then you must go try it out. I listed this as bonus because despite how much I think fondly of it, I haven’t listened to it in years. Again, due to the previously explained reasons and because with the tiny time I do have right now, I’m listening to something more practical but, ya know, maybe I should make some time for just pure entertainment.

About Our Daily Planners

As someone who thrives off of structure, I knew I needed to have some sort of planner to get us through the homeschool day. When we did school at home remotely last Spring, we had a weekly schedule created by the teacher. This provided an easy way for us to stay on track as well as give my learning-to-study-independently child the ability to see what he needed to do and check it off when complete. I liked this.

The list means even on days when I’m not feeling great (and I know there’ll be plenty of days like that this year), we have a list to keep us motivated and on track. Since our goal is to reintegrate back into the typical school scenario next year, we need to keep up the pace.

Each child has their own weekly planner. There’s an attendance tracker (though I know not required for my kindergartener) as well as weekly planning pages with a checkbox for each subject. (I found the attendance tracker for free and just added it to my file for printing).

Originally, I had thought I would plan out a month ahead for each kid but as we’ve just made it through the first two weeks, I’ve adjusted this strategy. Now I mostly plan a week out. I have a high level idea of what we need to do to stay on track in my mind and as we approach each subject during the day I either stay on the suggested plan or if we do a little more or less then I just write down what we actually did in the planner and adjust the week accordingly. Not pictured below is the first page of the week which includes our weekly memory verse as well.

I designed the planner in PowerPoint and had it printed and bound at FedEx. I’ve been to Fedex quite a bit in the last month! There were a lot of free homeschool planners but I prefer my bare bones basic checklist.

Along with the weekly school planners, each kid has a daily checklist of personal care and household activities they need to complete each day. If it’s on the list than it’s expected that most of the items get done every single day. Again, just another tool for my organized self to keep us on track and hold everyone accountable. I found this free printable here and then had Fedex print and laminate.

On Being a Mom

This topic was requested.

I thought about this topic for days. How do I answer this question when I don’t feel like I’ve lost my personal identity? Motherhood has been such an unexpected joy in my life. So, I kept thinking about how to express my experience. How do I say something meaningful?

I’ve never felt lost but I wanted to explore a few reasons why maybe I never felt lost (always with the disclaimer that all people are different and what gives me balance may not give someone else balance). I did have the baby blues in a bad way after the birth of my first baby. This is going to sound incredibly shallow and lame but I remember I was so depressed that I didn’t even want to scroll Pinterest. See, Pinterest was still rather new at the time and I had previously been obsessed with pinning all the things so when I had zero interest I took note. I took note that I had lost interest in everything I once loved and that I was sinking. Don’t worry, one look at my Pinterest account and I’m sure you’ll see I eventually came out of that. That’s just postpartum and some have it way worse.

So here are some reasons why I don’t think I’ve ever felt lost (note: this list is not comprehensive but just a few highlights):

  1. I have an equal parent partner (ie: my husband). This is perhaps the most important reason. He is a trustworthy, loving and caring parent. He likes to spend time with the kids. He cooks all of our meals. If I want to go do something alone, he keeps the kids. Easy as that. I could go on but having what you need in a partner is probably crucial to your mental/emotional wellbeing as a parent.
  2. I still do what I want to do. In fact I might even do more because I don’t necessarily want to go places alone and it’s great to have little adventure buddies. I still find time to be creative and, again, my husband is incredibly supportive of this. Just browse my Instagram and you’ll see plenty of seemingly trivial styled photos I created.
  3. I’ve created space and structure for me time – evenings. Of course, that is not perfect every night but usually I get a couple hours to unwind in whatever way I see fit whether it’s Netflix, reading, talking with the husband, collaging or whatever.

My personal identity has evolved and expanded. Motherhood is a refining fire when you learn to surrender yourself. I’ve always thought of it as a beautiful teeny, tiny picture of our human relationship with God. Surrender was a word that came to me when my second child was a baby. The word gave me peace in an otherwise negative time. Moms know, when it’s evening and you’re on the couch relaxing and the baby starts crying and you know it’s time to feed. It can be really frustrating but when I realized surrendering to the baby’s needs gave me not only a sense of duty but also relief. Relief from negative thoughts and feelings. I would also add some of those moments became some of the sweetest times with my girl. I wish I would have savored the time I had with my first the way I ended up doing with my second.

They say you have to lose yourself to find yourself. Well parenthood has given me ample opportunity to put someone else before myself. Ample opportunity to set aside my fear, my desire, my will, my pride, my happiness (but I’ll be the first to admit I save the best bites of dessert for myself). Being a parent reminds me that the world does not revolve around me. It’s not something I take lightly and it’s something I’ve deconstructed many times over the years to be able to say what is good and true and beautiful of the delicate and hard work that is marriage and motherhood.

Edited to add: I forgot a funny little story. When I first became a mom, I was embarrassed to walk outside pushing a stroller. I really can’t explain why. That’s just how I felt. And I definitely didn’t want to be one of those people that walked around with a baby carrier. Had to learn the hard way that baby carriers are HIGHLY useful. I literally crack myself thinking about that. Becoming a mom was hard. It did change my entire identity and all good change is difficult. But I didn’t feel like I lost myself – I just felt like I didn’t know who I had become and that took some time.

About Curriculum

Perhaps the this first post should’ve been about why we decided to homeschool this year but that’ll have to come later. At the beginning of this year we knew we’d be be switching schools and I never felt right about any of our choices. I was plagued with indecision and worried that no school felt like the right school. Little did we know a mere 6 weeks after registering at a new school, the world would drastically change after being hit with the you-know-what.

When beginning to plan for homeschool, the best way that made sense to me was to use the curriculum used at our last school as the starting point. I could add and subtract from that while trusting that it would be the right challenge for my 3rd grader who had been thriving at school. The only piece of curriculum I changed for my 3rd grader was the writing and rhetoric course (sadly the online version of this course is for 4-5 grades) and science. My kindergartner has no school history so I changed up the phonics/reading program.

Our homeschool method will be part classical and part traditional. This is my first and last year of homeschooling so I think we’ll just have to see how things works out. I must say it has been quite exciting receiving all of the packages filled with curriculum books these past couple of weeks. Even though I thought I was ahead of the game when I ordered everything I needed the first week of August, turns out I may not have been as several items are on back order. As long as I get everything by the end of September, I figure I’m still on track.

The next phase has been reviewing the material and mapping out the plan. In my next post, I’ll share the weekly academic planner that I made and how I’m using that to map out our daily academic activities.

3rd Grade:

Grammar & WritingOnline course at Veritas Press
HandwritingD’Nealian Handwriting Workbook level 4
SpellingSpell to Write and Read
Wise Guide for Spelling
Black Learning Log
MathMath in Focus Homeschool Package – 3
Math in Focus Manipulative Kit
Calculadder Timed Math Drills
HistoryOnline Self-paced course at Veritas Press: New Testament, Greece & Rome
BibleOnline Self-paced course at Veritas Press: Gospels
ScienceThe Sassafras Science Adventures: Anatomy + SCIDAT Logbook
LanguageRosetta Stone Unlimited – Latin

Kindergarten:

HandwritingD’Nealian Handwriting Workbook level 4
SpellingSpell to Write and Read
Wise Guide for Spelling
MathMath in Focus Homeschool Package – K
Math in Focus Manipulative Kit
Calculadder Timed Math Drills
BibleThe Child’s Story Bible
PhonicsThe Phonics Museum Combo Kit – Veritas Press