School year, 2018-2019

I’m sitting here writing this on a Sunday afternoon, and we have completed 10 days of school. This may have been my favorite start to a school year, ever. Things have gone smoothly and I’ve enjoyed my job so much! I do not take for granted that it is the last year I’ll have five students… at this time next year Hayden will be a college freshman.

Be. Still. My.  Heart.

Here we are on our first day of school this year. I am sorry to say I didn’t get individual shots of everyone. It’s a bit anticlimactic for homeschoolers since we don’t have to “get ready” for school. And, on this particular first day of school, Hayden had a killer 24-hour bug but he pressed on and got through a good deal of his work.


Hayden sleeping on the couch and Parker making himself breakfast:

Anna has gone to her class from 8-12 every day so far, giving her a chance to play with other little kids and us a chance to power through some intense subjects. Our mornings have been sweet. I am reading aloud to the boys each morning because I truly believe it’s valuable educationally and relationally. After I read to them, I send Parker to the office to to do his independent work while I teach Film Analysis and Writing (The Elegant Essay). I’m having a blast with those two subjects! (If I were to go back to the classroom, I may consider high school!)

After we finish with those classes I move into the office with Parker. He’s doing AMAZING and actually surprising me with the fact that writing is his favorite subject (can you say teacher’s pet?). On the first day of school Parker had used pretty horrible handwriting during his writing lesson. As I was trying to correct him, he literally teared up: I had hurt his feelings. We pulled out our Handwriting Without Tears book and simply set it out, open to the page that has the alphabet written twice; once capitals, once lower case. His handwriting improved instantly and he was incredibly proud of himself. I bragged on him and had him show everyone just what an improvement he had made in an instant.

Something happened that made my eyes leak a little on Thursday. He had been using his amazing handwriting every day since and making the key word outlines with less and less assistance from me each day. On Thursday he did the entire assignment alone. Bailey came in toward the end of our lesson and so I suggested Parker read his “story” to Bailey. Parker did so, and then Bailey complimented his work and handwriting. Parker beamed. I sat there and watched the interaction and inside I was screaming, “This is why I do what I do!”

There are bound to be days that don’t go as smoothly as the first ten days have gone, but I want to savor both the good and bad days. I am amazed that I have been blessed to do this job for going-on 13 years. I didn’t intend to homeschool all the way through and I remember looking at women who had done so as if they were superheroes. I’m definitely not a superhero. I just love my job and every summer, when we’ve evaluated the previous year and looked toward the next, we’ve known without any doubt that homeschooling was right for us in that season. I expect it to continue to be right for us, but that is up to God and the plans He has for me and our kids in the next 16 years. (If I homeschool Anna, that will be a consecutive 28 years.)

Enough of the sentimental. Here are the facts about this school year:

Hayden –
Core 500: World History and Worldview Studies
Apologia Chemistry (we didn’t finish it last year so he’s retaking it)
PreCalc Teaching Textbooks
Film Analysis
The Elegant Essay
German Rosetta Stone
Working part-time at Subway

Carson –
Core 300: 20th Century World History
Apologia Chemistry
Apologia Biology (we didn’t finish it last year so he’s retaking it)
Algebra 2 Teaching Textbooks (Disks)
Film Analysis
The Elegant Essay
German Rosetta Stone
Soccer – CYS

Bailey –
Core 200: History of the Christian Church
Apologia Biology
Geometry Teaching Textbooks (Disks)
Film Analysis
The Elegant Essay
German Rosetta Stone
Soccer – CYS
Parker –
Continuing Core B/C: World History until he finishes it, probably by December, and then he’ll start Core D/E: American History, which we’ll spread out over the next year and a half. {B/C and D/E are two year cores they have combined into one year each. Had I purchased these Cores new, I would have bought them individually and spent two full years on each World and American histories. However, I bought these used from a friend so we’re making it work, supplementing to make each last a year and a half.

Anna –
Colors, letters, animal sounds, etc. (We don’t do school with our littles until they’re at least five.  We just PLAY! We read a lot of books and Anna does ‘ballet’ along with Felicie, the character from Leap. Today during our school day she and I went for a run and picked flowers from a self-pick field and and we each at an apple we picked from a tree. Science, people!)


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Potty training: Part 5

I have made it abundantly clear that potty training is my least favorite part of parenting.

I just read through Parker’s potty training post… so precious! Now that Anna’s journey is largely complete, I can relax and enjoy the story she just wrote.

If you want to go back and see some adorable pictures of Parker when he was two and three years old, go read Potty training: Part 4, take 3.

Because homeschooling requires so much of my time I knew that I had to get Anna’s potty training done during the summer or wait until Christmas break. A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning Anna was sleeping late. As in, still asleep at 10:00. At 9:00 I was still thoroughly enjoying the quiet house, getting caught up on all the things I had been neglecting while pushing through planning for the next school year.  Suddenly, something in me realized that the time was upon us… it was now or much later. We had two weeks before school was to start and that meant I could give Anna my undivided attention. (Do you ever take your kids to get their vaccinations but don’t tell them what’s coming so they don’t have to spend time dreading it? I think I did that to myself… Part of me knew this was coming and the other part of me pretended not to notice.)

Let me just say. I’ve successfully potty trained four boys. They were not particularly difficult to potty train. Anna was quite easy and I’d say Anna had fewer accidents but was way more scared to poop than any of the boys were.

Here’s her amazing progress!

Saturday ~ Day 1:
Woke at 10:30 with totally soaked diaper, her last ever.

We were stocked up on M&Ms and ready for the experience.

By 12:15 Matt had texted to ask how the day had gone. At that point, she had had two accidents and zero successes. I was determined to give it at least a 12 hour shot.

First success was at 1:25 pm (Oh, we skipped nap so we could just practice pottying).
Second success was at 2:55 pm.
Third success at 3:35, and at this point she figured it out. She was pretty much able to make herself go any time she sat down!  BIG DEAL!

And she pooped before bed!


Sunday ~ Day 2:
3:30 am – she wet the bed but the amazing part is that she woke up… she noticed it.

Oh, tidbit here. Because we go cold-turkey on diapers of any sort, no pull-ups or anything, I prepare the bed in a special way. In order to speed night-time accident bedding-changes I have several layers of pee-sheets and sheets so I can simply remove the top two layers (the top sheet and the pee-sheet right under it) and put the sleepy kid back to bed. I wash the wet sheets the next day.

Back to the 3:30 wake-up. I was very encouraged by the fact that she woke up when she wet the bed.

Trying to encourage the poop… wrong fruit for that activity, I suppose.

7:00 am – woke up dry
She pottied before church, stayed dry during her first car-ride sans diaper, and I was her nursery teacher so I was able to take her potty often.
12:30 – wet panties at Food Court
Stayed dry on the way home
NOTE: By the second day she had gotten independent enough that she initiated all the potty breaks. If I put her on the potty when I wanted her to potty, she didn’t go. If she put herself there, she was able to.
2:15 – poopoo accident during nap.
Three more peepee successes before the end of Day 2!
I was very pleased and yet still not having a great deal of fun.

Monday ~ Day 3:
4:45 – woke her to potty, success (except she couldn’t go back to sleep so she slept on our floor the rest of the night)
7:30 – woke up dry!
Stayed dry at preschool!
Wet her panties during nap but woke up!
Half-accident in the afternoon – started in her panties but finished in the potty! She still got an M&M.
Didn’t poop today.

Tuesday ~ Day 4:
1:30 am – peed in the bed but woke herself up; was able to go back to bed!
6:45 am – woke up dry
7:00 am – peed before school
8:05 am – took herself to potty at school!
12:00 pm – pooped on the potty at school! (Bailey was there to pick her up; the teacher said, “Anna, brother is here to pick you up” and she got off the potty… she needed to be cleaned up but she had done her business where it was supposed to be done.
Stayed dry at nap!
Picnic at the park and we took her potty with us. Used it twice outside!

Wednesday ~ Day 5:
Woke up dry!
Ran errands (bowling alley, USO (pottied there), PX) and stayed dry!
Used her potty that we have set on a towel during her nap.
Hasn’t pooped in days.

Thursday ~ Day 6:
Woke up dry! Pottied at school.
We went to the creek and took potty; used it there.
FINALLY pooped in her potty. It freaked her out but she has to feel better!
10:45 pm – I went in to see if I could get her to potty before I went to bed and she did.

Friday ~ Day 7:|
She is now able to empty her bladder any time she’s put on the potty (if we’re heading out the door for a long trip she can make herself ‘go.’ I feel that’s a big corner to turn. It allows me to feel fairly confident that there won’t be any accidents on the drive between home and our destination.

I can confidently say that Anna got the idea in just a few days and was sufficiently trained within a week.

We traveled to Garmisch at three weeks into this journey and she was accident free the whole time.  I have been able to focus on school without having to worry about potty accidents.

We have been at this for almost a month and I trust her to tell me when she has to go, often forgetting to make her “try” before we leave the house.

The only thing that keeps me from saying she’s fully potty trained is that I can’t trust her in the bathroom alone!  If I do, she’ll use all the soap, gallons of water, and may or may not put toys or other non-flushables in the toilet.  We still have to move the gate to let her in and we have to keep an eye on her while in there… but that’s just because she’s a curious toddler!

We’re very proud of her and know that we are blessed that our potty training journeys, all five of them, have been fairly uneventful.










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A Teacher’s Summer

We finished school Friday, June 15th, just before Stephanie and Hannah came to visit. I use the word finish loosely. We got enough done to call it quits and not have too many regrets.

Last year was our most challenging year ever. To name a few major challenges:

The combined effect of that left us behind in a few subjects which we decided we’d just cover the following year. We have that flexibility!!  (For the record, homeschooling the 2nd grader didn’t make it on the challenge-list probably because that’s my wheelhouse. My degree is in elementary education so we were rocking it!!)

So when we closed out the 2017-2018 year we were all happy to say farewell to it.

It didn’t hurt that just a weekend passed before our guests arrived and we spent a lovely two-weeks not thinking about school.

However, the very day they headed home I began an intense month of packing-up last year and preparing-for the next. I began by gathering all the Teaching Textbooks disks that were not in their cases so I could purchase replacements for those we’ve lost. (I have since ordered the replacements and, of course, found the originals.)

I then used my gathering skills to find as much of the boys’ work as I could and organized it into bundles. I’m a minimalist when it comes to saving work: each child gets a single tote to contain all of their completed work from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

After a few days of packing away past work I finally got to dig into my favorite part: new stuff! Ask any homeschool mom and they’ll probably tell you that there is nothing more fun than sorting through fresh, new books for the upcoming school year!

I began by going through The Elegant Essay lesson by lesson. It is not set up in a way that works for my brain or my students’ learning styles so I had to create PowerPoint slideshows for every lesson. {We have currently finished a week of our new school year and I’m very happy to state that these slides are helping us move through the material very smoothly!!}

IMG_3121 (1)IMG_3122 (1)

This process took literally two weeks. I don’t know how many total hours I put in, but any time I had that was not being used for my real job (mom) I put into adapting this curriculum to suit my needs. The content is profoundly helpful; the format is not… and so, I felt that every minute I spent on it would be well worth it in the end.

Screenshot 2018-08-12 16.56.40

After I finished that job I turned to opening up all the other stuff we had, including Hayden’s Sonlight box, new science stuff, and researching the new format Teaching Textbooks has released. (Hayden is doing Pre-Calculus online this year rather than using the disk format.)

I put in the up-front work to get the lesson plans for Hayden’s Sonlight Core 500 inserted into Homeschool Planet – when we get to that core for subsequent students I can just “apply” the lesson to their schedule and it populates the lesson plans automatically! With that one completed, I had all of our Sonlight cores inserted into the Homeschool Planet! I should be able to simply assign lesson plans that I’ve already inserted each year from here on out!

The last major task I had for the summer was to create a Fine Arts curriculum in Film Analysis. I have one high-schooler very interested in this kind of course and I couldn’t easily find one I was happy with that didn’t cost over $200. I found a few fantastic resources that, when combined, met all the criteria I was looking for. I was happy to find a basically-free curriculum that is the spine of what we’re doing (it creates the scope and sequence of the course) and I am supplementing with other mostly-free resources to fill out the rest of the curriculum.

We’ll be analyzing real movies throughout the year, and though we are only five days into the course, they’re already pointing out certain elements in shows they’re watching!  We haven’t even gotten to the good stuff!

Eventually I got all the boys’ school work prepared and organized and I did my best to enjoy the last few weeks of summer as a mom, setting my “teacher” hat aside.

Stay tuned. I’ll share how our school year is going… eventually!

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Sonlight Box Day 2018

This year’s box days is vastly different from years past because I only have one student receiving a box. We now have everything we need {for the most part} to homeschool the rest of the kids throughout. This is Hayden’s senior year and all we needed was Core 500.

I never intended to homeschool all the way through. I can’t believe we’ve been at it twelve years and that a year from now he will have graduated from high school.


It is a little sad that there is only one student taking our “Box Day” pictures.


I love Sonlight! Look at all of these books!


If you are interested in purchasing Sonlight items, clicking through this link will get you a reward of some kind.  Not sure of the details.

This year the kids are doing the following:

Hayden – Core 500: World History and Worldview Studies

Carson – Core 300: 20th Century World History

Bailey – Core 200: History of the Christian Church

Parker – continuing Core B/C: World History until he finishes it, probably by December, and then he’ll start Core D/E: American History, which we’ll spread out over the next year and a half. {B/C and D/E are two year cores they have combined into one year each. Had I purchased these Cores new, I would have bought them individually and spent two full years on each World and American histories. However, I bought these used from a friend so we’re making it work, supplementing to make each last a year and a half.

Anna – colors, letters, animal sounds, etc. (We don’t do school with our littles until they’re at least five.  We just PLAY! We read a lot of books and Anna does ‘ballet’ along with Felicie, the character from Leap.)

We are joining a new co-op and I can say I’m incredibly thankful there is a Chemistry class!  I’ll be teaching Foundations in Financial Peace, the high school curriculum by Dave Ramsey.

We start our school semester on Monday… I would love to tell you that they’re thrilled about getting started, hitting the books, waking up early and working hard on their educations, but we are real people and they’ve really been enjoying their summer… I can tell you that come September/October when we travel and welcome Nana and Papa, we’ll have some kids who were really glad they got a head-start so they could take a break from school!

Previous Box Days:

Box Day 2015

Box Day 2016 – Apparently I forgot to write a Blog Post about that… so here are a few pictures from that grand opening of the boxes:


Box Day 2017



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Such a cute little town.

One of my friends posted a picture of herself there a month or so ago and I honestly thought she was in Amsterdam. I knew she wasn’t so when I asked her where she was, I loved her answer: Tübingen – which is only about 35 minutes from our house!

We found the main area and had lunch at this delicious and amazingly inexpensive pizza shop.

Then we took a boat tour… it was in German so we could understand very little, but it was fun.


We look forward to bringing Nana and Papa here!! (Not much longer!)

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Summer 2018

This post is all over the place: from school to creeks to pools to commissary shopping with a toddler. It features our summer, up to this point.

Teacher workdays:

As soon as our guests left I got to work on planning the next school year.

I spent a few days camped out at the kitchen table and soon realized that I’d need to transition to a space I could leave my work in progress and shut the door, protecting it from the curious hands of our toddler.

We also needed our kitchen table back for meals.

I had Matt set up a table in the office, where the beds had been placed and I spent exactly two weeks working. The first week was spent converting a writing curriculum from a class-or-co-op plan to one that will work for a family. The second was compiling and filing all of this year’s completed work and writing lesson plans for next year.

I use Homeschool Planet for our lesson plans by inserting the information on the Sonlight guides. I only have to do this once and they’re ready for each child who uses that “core.” I now have all the cores inserted and can just “apply” them as the younger kids come along.


Two things to note in this picture: See my family tree on the wall!?! I love it! I can’t wait to get all the pictures in the frames! And the second is, Anna is dancing to the music on the TV. She just happens to be hidden behind my flowers.



Pool time:


Our first cook-out:

Parker’s buddy, Tate, joined us. Anna loves him to death and has to sit right beside him any time he’s over.


Commissary Shopping:

This is never a dull experience with Anna driving the cart.


Creek time:

This is the perfect past-time for our family. It takes about 15 minutes to walk there, the kids play hard, and are good-and-tired when we get home.


We have plans to start our school year 6 August because grandparents are coming to visit in September!  Fun times ahead!

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Independence Day, 2018

We’ve never had a real tradition for the Fourth… we just sort of see what comes up and do that.

In Texas we celebrated Independence day in five different places: in our temporary apartment in 2013, just weeks away from the end of a deployment in 2014 (but for the life of me I can’t remember where), with the Williamses {I think} in the parking lot of CTC in 2015, just us with Anna-banana on a hill near the new PX  in 2016, and finally, with the Easteses+more in their neighborhood in 2017.

I just spent an hour trying to figure out where the boys and I were in 2014 and I can find no record of our activities.

Apparently I have a history with taking few photos on this date and if I do take them, they’re blurry. I’ll need to do better about that. The first few pictures are from the day after – I bought Anna her own sand toys and took pictures of her in her 4th of July outfit… because by the time I took pictures of her on the Fourth, she had drenched this outfit and was wearing whatever mismatched ill-fitting items were in her diaper bag.


This may be my favorite picture of Anna I’ve ever taken. It suits her perfectly… I call it Warrior Princess._JEN3624_JEN3637_JEN3673

The day was spent eating with new friends at their home and the we headed to Patch for the fireworks.  They were fantastic and I assume we’ll go again next year, considering our options are very slim in Germany.


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First Guests to Stuttgart… Pt. 4

Farewell for now…

Stephanie and Hannah checked off and signed our Travel check list…


Airport drop-off-farewells are the worst. Anna was already crying…IMG_3101


On the way to the airport I pointed out the neat fields you see all over Germany. You can pick your own flowers (or fruit, depending on the field) and pay on the honor system. On the way home I stopped by the field I had shown Stephanie and spent a few minutes crying while picking flowers. This military life is hard. When you thank a family for their service, this is what you’re thanking them for. Not just time away from their service-member or families of origin, but repeated, painful separations from the people who become family along the way.

All of a sudden the room that was ready for guests was empty. I spent my first hour back home in here on the couch just reliving the fun moments, wishing the visit didn’t have to come to an end. Hayden and I sat there and chatted, and then I got to work putting the house back in order. He stayed in this room the entire day…


This trip was wonderful from start to finish. We are thankful for the opportunity and for the time we were given. The kids were already planning the next visit before we dropped Stephanie and Hannah off… and they’ve started saving their money for that visit.
(If I used emojis on my blog, I’d insert a heart-emoji right here.)

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First Guests to Stuttgart… Pt. 3

After Paris we came home and rested for a few days. Some of the activities and pictures featured in Part 1 were from the down-days between Paris and our trip to Garmisch.

Our bigs have very fond memories of Garmisch and wanted to take Stephanie and Hannah there. It just so happened that Matt had a conference at Garmisch that week, so we planned our trip to coincide with his.

One of our very first activities was to check out the new pool. (This post features Parker at the older pool when he was just a little younger than Anna.)

Our dear Fort Hood friends, the Wests, were attending the same conference as Matt, so we had dinner with them. How fun it was to offer not only a beautiful setting, but time for Stephanie and Loren to reconnect.  The teens played cards and watched movies together. It was a great time of connecting.


And it is always adorable to watch little Nico with Anna!IMG_3008IMG_3010

One just a few of us took a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. We weren’t able to get tickets to go inside (I should have ordered them several weeks in advance) but we enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage-ride up the mountain and then a harrowing bus-ride back down.

Anna’s reaction to the castle was, “My ballerina castle! That’s my ballet!”



I think Hannah took this picture. (I know I did not.) f80ab8ef-f774-45fd-be6b-51228c1d94d3Someone was tired from all that being-carried-around all day.3cb59e17-6a8c-4840-9aa3-8423239f474e

The Hamrick family has missed Mexican food and so we decided to give it a shot: not a good idea. I do not recommend the Mexican restaurant in town (purely based on the food). It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t hit the spot and was overpriced.

However, our waiter noticed Anna eyeballing the ‘pink drink’ on the menu so he brought her a special one. Her reaction was priceless:

He ended up bringing her a second… she had more sugar that night than she’s ever had before… this waiter is most definitely not a parent, or he would have known what was in store for me. Here is Anna at bedtime… decidedly not tired:


That night we were able to watch the soccer game… it was a BEAUTIFUL win for Germany!  Anna was finally asleep by then so Stephanie and I screamed in whispers!


Our last adventure was supposed to be a Sound of Music bike tour in Salzburg. I had reserved child care for Anna for the day so that we could fit in one car. We woke up to a steady rain and decided to stay in and just relax. I kept Anna’s reservation so she could play with other littles and participate in activities designed for two-year-olds. (Hotels are not made for two-year-olds.) Anna made an impression on the CYS staff: when I picked her up the manager was walking through the hallway and said, “Bye, Anna! Have a fun day!” And then she looked at me and said, “That vocabulary, though…” Yes, indeed. Anna has the vocabulary of five year old at times!

This day was bitter sweet. We all started to feel the end of the trip approaching so we played games, talked, ate, and drank coffee, soaking in as much togetherness as we could.

Hayden got this gorgeous photo of Hannah and Anna:


Leaving Garmisch was very hard. None of us wanted to.IMG_3052IMG_3041IMG_3045IMG_3072IMG_3076IMG_3081

Stay tuned for the last part in this series.

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First guests to Stuttgart… Pt. 2

When we have loved ones come visit, I am oddly excited to show them the every-day things: the commissary, our fields, Anna’s preschool. On the first day Stephanie and I went on a four mile walk through the forest and now I will have memories of that day every time I go on a run.

One afternoon we watched the kids slack line and play spike ball. We then walked to our favorite ice cream shop. These are treasured memories.


As exciting as our daily-life is, there were a few more exciting places we wanted to share with Stephanie and Hannah, so we loaded up our vehicles and took to the road.  Paris, France was our first destination.

Paris ~ Lodging and transportation:

We arrived in Paris and unloaded at our hotel. We stayed at City Résidence Marne-La-Vallée-Bry-Sur-Marne (that’s a mouthful!) and highly recommend it. Especially during the summer season and for large families. During off-seasons (does Paris even have an off season) it may be possible to find a large hotel closer to the city, but not at the start of summer. We had easy access to the Metro and travel in and out of the city was no problem.  We had two hotel rooms, one for the girls, one for the guys. The guys’ room had two bathrooms and two floors, and both apartments had balconies and full kitchens.


After we got settled into the room we went to the metro station and bought our metro passes. From then on we took public transportation everywhere we went. One of the metro stations is named Madeleine… Anna’s middle name, but spelled with the extra “e.” Mama Kim picked Madeline – after the book character. The little girl who lived in Paris.


Since I’m on the topic of Metros, occasionally you’ll run into a free bathroom in metro stations:


Paris ~ First view of the Eiffel Tower:

We ate dinner at Hard Rock. There were a handful of God-moments on this trip and one occurred while we were signing in to the restaurant. An American who was just leaving used her member’s pass to let us skip the wait and we got our table much faster as a result.  Dinner was tasty, if noisy.

We were not watching our time, really. We were just going along with the flow of the day, not stressing because we had no specific time to be anywhere. Another of our God-moments occurred as we arrived at the landmark that screams “PARIS!” We didn’t quite realize this until the sun went down, but we had arrived at the golden hour and the view was as beautiful as it can get. As I look through the pictures we took I can see the shade creeping up the legs of the tower… We got there at the perfect time. 

It’s blurry but I am thankful for this picture! This was Anna’s expression when she first saw the Eiffel Tower! She was genuinely amazed.






(Below is a retro pic: May 2011)



When we had taken all the pictures we could, and a the sun continued to set, we walked to the tower itself, only to find security measures and massive construction around its base. When we were there last, the floor underneath was open to pedestrians.  Now you have to go through security to get there.


We walked back toward the direction we had come and sat on the grass, waiting for it to sparkle. Once the show was over, we walked to a nearby crepe stand and enjoyed the treat with a view.


Paris ~ Bike tour:

This was a fantastic way to see the city, I just didn’t get a ton of pictures.


The next two pictures are Hayden’s:


Paris ~ Climbing the tower (or napping):

Some of the group climbed the Eiffel Tower to the second floor, some went on to the top, while Anna got a very long nap in a snack-shop at the base of the tower.



We made sure to bring Anna’s book with us on that day.



Paris ~ Last day, fit it all in:

Arc de Triomf:


Notre Dame:



Photo cred: Hayden

f4eea4a3-e44a-4818-8976-49acfa60db2cMore of Hayden’s pictures from the trip:


Stay tuned for more pictures!

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