Refreshed… ESR2

My trip to Wyoming was well timed: fall has started in some areas of the US but not where I live.

I’m about DONE with Texas heat. Four and a half years here has done me in. I am perfectly fine with the fact that so many people love and adore the warmth that this state has to offer because that leaves me with much more room in the colder locations to experience the peace and quiet that is found in the gorgeous mountains. Let the crowds stay behind in the center of the earth. Take me away to the thin, crisp air, high in the mountains of, well… anywhere!

This particular location was intended to be remote. One of Taya Kyle’s goals with the Empowered Spouses Retreats was to get the wives of military members and first responders away from home, disconnected from electronic responsibilities (temptations?), and to teach them how to shoot a bow and arrow and a shotgun.

You read that right.

And I have the bruises to prove it. But more on that in the post titled “Empowered.”  This one is titled, “Refreshed” because that is one of the three words I can use to describe how I felt returning home. What refreshed me? Well, let me tell you…

First, the scenery.  I adored the view from every spot I stepped my foot. I simply couldn’t find a spot that didn’t take my breath away (and no, that wasn’t because of the altitude 7012 ft.).


Second, the time alone.

We were encouraged to spend any time alone that we needed. On the first full day there I decided to take a walk with my “real camera” as opposed to just taking my phone. I took both lenses, something that has become more of a rarity these days. I took the wrong path at one point but got some gorgeous shots that were worth the detour.


While on my solo walk I saw a herd of horses. I’m not generally afraid of horses and have enjoyed riding them every time I’ve had the chance. But I’ve never been around them alone, without the horses’ master. Without someone to save me if they stampeded. Without the person who could tell me which ones to stay away from. And these horses saw me coming and started right for me. Lazily, thankfully. No stampeding. I said over and over, “I’m brave. Don’t let them smell fear.” One nuzzled my bear spray and I had to snatch it before he walked off with it. (Never have I ever said, “nuzzled my bear spray.”) They were very close, almost close enough to step on my feet but luckily they managed to avoid that. We walked side-by-side for what felt like a mile (but was probably more like 500 feet)  and I managed to escape the herd by the blessed cattle guard at the edge of the property. I may have taken a nanana-booboo picture as I walked away.

When I took this shot I was thinking, “Awe! Horses.”


When I took this one I was thinking, “Huh. Some are looking at me and some are walking my way. At least they’re not stampeding.”


When I took this one I was thinking, “Some look like they’re not really all that interested in me and they look calm enough, that’s good, right?”


When I took this one I was saying, “Breathe slowly. Keep moving forward. They don’t bite unless they smell blood.”


This one had me thinking, “Oh CRAP. If a horse eats a can of bear spray the owner will probably make me pay for him.” And from that point on I carried the spray in my hand, which fortunately, had gloves on it so they couldn’t nick my skin as I was holding the can.


When I took this one I thought, “I’ll take one over my shoulder in case I’m lost forever – then people can get my camera and see what my final moments entailed.”


And when I took this one I had begun to regulate my breathing since they had stepped back (probably when they realized I had no food, wasn’t food, and was not about to let them have the bear spray).


More came from every angle to check out the stranger in their territory._JEN2631

Some weren’t even horses!


I was surrounded 360*.


As I began approaching the cattle guard they started to give up the chase._JEN2661

And as promised, the nanana-booboo picture.


Walking on from there I did some serious self-talk telling myself that I was brave! I knew Joanna from back home would be LAUGHING her head off at me were she sitting on the fence post watching the entire thing go down. In fact, Joanna’s image was the only thing that kept me going forward! I would not have considered this experience “therapeutic” by any stretch of the imagination, but I did walk through it by myself, and I came out on the other side unscathed and quite proud of my accomplishment. (And, with the bear spray intact, thank you very much.)

Once my heart rate resumed a semi-normal rate (which was slightly elevated all week thanks to the altitude) I began to, once again, notice the extreme beauty all around me.

The third way this retreat left me refreshed is in that I got to do something for me. Photography is something that I enjoy, and I wasn’t rushed in a stolen moment alone. I got to take my time and experience this beauty on my own pace, and it was for me.

Crossing the bridge…


You can see the bridge just on the other side of the huge puddle, and my newfound friends, the horses and mules, in the field.


I stopped to change lenses, something that honestly has been too much work for me lately. I haven’t wanted to mess with it. The joy of photography has waned a bit and I wanted to have fun doing something for me again.

The fourth of many reasons I felt refreshed as a result of this trip was the temperature. Fall was there. In the coolness of the air and the warmth of the colors.


In this image you can see  the cabins dotted around the property and the lodge, the red building the spouses stayed in. The smoke was from the fireplace in the dining room and I knew several of my new spouse-friends were sitting by that fire, enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. _JEN2686

When I got a bit closer to the lodge I took another shot of it.


I kid you not, there was a moose there outside of our lodge several times throughout the week. A pair of moose interrupted one of Corie’s sessions and we herded noisily to to the window to get pictures. #moosePopUp became the slogan for the week and fit in perfectly with what Corie was talking on. (Later in the week a mouse ran up the chimney and we declared that it was a #mousePopUp which gave us little more than a brief pause. Ultimately do we let things interrupt our lives BIG TIME (like the moose did, though we were thrilled by that interruption) or do we let them roll on by (like with the mouse)?  There were many different takes on this and we explored several of them over the time spent in the mountains.)


Like my clever picture?  Clever but not original. Another of the women there took a similar picture and posted it on Facebook. (That’s a Moose Crossing sign.) This was a picture I took of the moose while out on my walk.  The pictures from the lodge dining room were quite blurry. Fortunately, the moose stuck around much of the week and we saw him and a female several times. _JEN2701_JEN2706

The gorgeous scenery, being alone, doing something for me, and the crispness of the air refreshed me to the core. It requires vulnerability from me to write this, but I had actually worried that Texas had taken away my thick skin: that once I was back in a cold climate I’d be miserable and unable to handle it. I can honestly say that this is not the case. I was in heaven. In light of my question: “Who will I find under all of my titles” one part of my identity has remained. It may seem silly to you, but my love of the mountains, cold, snow, and all things fall has been with me my entire life. I was afraid I had lost some of that and this trip revealed to me that “I” am still “me.”

That is refreshing.

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1st Cavalry Division – Change of Command with Cavalry Charge

I had no intention of writing a blog post today but I got a bit sentimental earlier at the Change of Command so here I am.

I took four my kids and my neighbor’s two boys (with the help of a friend… my van doesn’t have enough seats!) to this event today, knowing it will be our last opportunity to attend one of these here at Fort Hood. The ceremony was held at Cooper Field, where Matt’s welcome home (from Afghanistan) was held.

As a Chaplain Family we get the unique opportunity to move around to different kinds of units.  Matt has been the Chaplain for a Basic Training battalion, a Cavalry Squadron that had Bradleys, a Military Intelligence battalion (Arial Exploitation), an Attack Recoinisance Battalion, and Division Artillery.  Cavalry blood runs thick and with three of his assignments Cav (including both of his deployments), we will always have a very special place in our hearts for the Cavalry.

Yesterday I was thrilled to watch flyovers of apaches and today, while I was getting ready for the Change of Command ceremony, it hit me that the apaches were probably practicing for the event.  Sure enough, one of my friends responded to my video on Facebook saying that her husband was on the radio directing them yesterday!  I ran into him at the ceremony and told him what a treat it was to watch the flyovers yesterday. (Video at the bottom of the page.)

The kids and I arrived at the field and found our spots. (Carson, Bailey, and Parker in the stands, me and the three littles off to the right-hand side near the horse detachment.)

I’m sure the ceremony was great, though I couldn’t hear all of it. I’m sure the people who were being hailed and farewelled would have much more to say about the ceremony itself, but to be honest, the kids and I were mostly there for the charge.

Near the end of the song the band led the audience in the Cavalry Song and then the Army Song. Last year we those songs every morning for a semester before we started our school day. Their knowledge of these two very important songs came in handy today and they mentioned this to me when we got home. (I felt that was a Army-mom win!)

When it was time for the Cavalry charge I videoed but did my best to watch with my own eyes so that I could enjoy it directly AND have video for later.

I literally teared up as the apaches flew over. My heart will be sad to leave here for many reasons, and seeing these apaches fly over all the time is one of them.

To make the whole event more emotional a friend whom I thought had already deployed walked up behind us and we got to chat a little. It was nice to be know we hadn’t lost our opportunity to say goodbye before he deploys and we PCS.

This picture is incredible and I share with permission from the 1st Cavalry Division PAO.22215367_10155910955699674_1863132688_n

So without further delay, here is the video of the charge.

This is the field where Matt’s welcome home (from Afghanistan) was held.

Apache Flyover 10-2-2017 from jennifer Hamrick on Vimeo.

Here is another video shot by a friend and it shows a different angle and in this one, you can hear the music.

And another video by another friend:

Carr Version of Cavalry Charge from jennifer Hamrick on Vimeo.


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Refreshed, Rejuvenated, and Empowered: ESR1

You may recall that Matt and I were gifted a Revitalization Retreat in April from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.  It was wonderful and its purpose was to allow my soldier and me to reconnect – away from life, the kids, responsibility, and the job.  It definitely allowed us time to enjoy each other and to make sure we are putting each other first.

I strongly encourage any of you reading who are military or first responder families to go to their website and nominate yourselves for a retreat.  You are also welcome to nominate another couple whom you feel is in need of just such a weekend.  I am so excited that a couple I nominated was awarded a retreat which is coming at a very pivotal time in their lives!  The joy I receive at watching them prepare for a time away is almost as great as the joy I felt at being alone with my beloved for the weekend.  Almost.

The “Foundation” as those of us in the family call it, also offers spouses of military members and first responders a weekend to get away and spend time focusing on SELF. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that allows us to put aside the duties and responsibilities placed on us as wives, moms, spouses of people who serve in stressful jobs.  When told to prepare for the weekend by thinking of what I wanted to get out of the time spent in Wyoming, I came up blank.  I had no clue.  I had no idea what it meant to prepare for five days focusing on ME; my needs, who I am.

I know what it means to work on “me” as a homeschool-teacher.  I know what it is to work on “me” as a mom (“boy mom;” “adoptive mom;” “mom of many;”).  I know what it is to work on me as a wife.  I know what it is to work on me as a Christian woman.

But to work on me… just me?  I was totally stumped.  I wasn’t sure there was a “me” under all these titles.

In fact I was so stumped that as we went around the circle telling everyone just what it was that we were there to work on, I tried to think of something clever to say. When it was my turn I admitted my problem and in the admission, I determined my need: “I need to know who I am without all these titles.”


Over the next few hours a slight panic set in as I was afraid that underneath my titles would be… nothing.

I sat in the sessions soaking in the camaraderie of other wives who know this hard life.  Who know the fear that comes sneaking in when our husbands walk out the door (though thankfully, Matt and I are not in a season where fear is prevalent). I got to share what was on my heart: how much I respect the LEOW community. For those of you, like me before this retreat, who don’t know what LEOW means, it stands for Law Enforcement Officer Wives. My heart goes out to the women whose husband find themselves in a war zone on our own soil. Their husbands go to work every day in their battle gear. Sure, mine goes for 6-15 months at a time, and it has its own set of fears and worries. But Americans recognize that and support him and what he does. Our first responders are often seen as the bad guys even though they signed on the dotted line to be the protectors of their towns and cities. How unfair and utterly disturbing this is.* I am able to proclaim that I’m proud of my soldier while some of my friends who are married to law enforcement have to hide what their husband does because otherwise, they and their children become literal targets.

So, now that that soapbox has been covered, I’ll move on.

My issue was that I didn’t know who I was under my titles. I spent time processing this and the first morning I woke up in the mountains I sent some time journaling using the technique Corie taught us. I forgot to pack my Bible (gasp… Chaplain Wife fail) and really wanted to hear from God about my own struggle. I didn’t want to just jot down my own ideas… I wanted to hear from HIM about my issues. I asked him to bring to my mind a scripture that I could meditate on during that time of quiet before the day started.

The one that came to mind was, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” I looked it up just now to find that it is from Psalm 139:14 and is actually said from the first person, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” but on that morning I heard it from God’s perspective… the perspective I needed.

By the end of my journaling session, I had reached the bottom of my issue… I am not my titles, and I was created by God Himself, and I was made wonderfully. If my titles fall away – if I lose my job as a homeschooling mom (and I will, one day), I am still wonderfully made. If I lose everything that makes me who I am today, I am still wonderfully made. At my core, I am enough. Who that is without my titles, I don’t know. But God made it clear to me that I don’t need to know. Often, when people ask me how to know God’s will for their lives I encourage them to be still and listen. He’s not a hide-and-seek God. He wants us to know His will. He’s not running ahead of us turning corners before we can catch Him, telling us that it’s our fault that we can’t find Him.

If He’s quiet on an issue, it’s likely because it’s not time to know the next thing. My encouragement is to sit still, keep searching scripture, spend time in prayer, and do the last thing He said to do.

The last thing God told me to do is grow in my faith, be a loving wife to Matt, raise these five amazing kids, and homeschool my children. (Those last two are totally separate tasks, by the way.) I can’t know who I am without these titles because He hasn’t told me who I am without those titles. I’m to continue on in these roles because these are the roles He last told me to take on. There are a few titles He’s asked me (allowed me) to put aside for now. Some I hated to put aside (participating in PWOC) and some I’m okay to be done with (teaching in the public school system).

What He will ask me to do in the future is for me to find out in my future.  Trying to find out what I’m going to do next, when I’m done with my current job (specifically homeschooling) is like trying to open a birthday present that I’m going to receive on a birthday that is many years away.  I can’t open it because it hasn’t been given to me yet.  

Do you know what a relief that is? To not have to know what I’m going to do next? To be able to sit in my current roles, roles I adore, by the way? I don’t have to worry that I’m not doing enough (writing a book, working on a master’s degree, contributing to society outside of our four walls).am enough because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am enough as is. Where I am. How I am.  

The weight that lifted off my shoulders was palpable and I didn’t even know I was carrying it around. I left that concern in the mountains of Wyoming.

God knows my favorite way to have confirmation in what I’m learning from Him is in the form of words: spoken, written, and shared between friends. When I shared this story with Corie, she told me that she too had gotten that scripture from God that very morning. It was as if God were telling me, “Yep. The message you got this morning was from me, not just you writing down what you wanted to hear.”

That was enough to make the retreat complete and worthwhile.

But there was so much more.  However, I’ve been told that blog posts shouldn’t be this long… in fact, they should be about half this long.  I’ll stop here and share a picture or two. Future posts will include more pictures than words and maybe a fun story or two.


As I stepped off the plane I saw snow. Just a tiny bit, but it was snow!


When I entered the building, oddly enough, I was totally surprised to see Corie waiting on me! Of course I knew she was going to be there that weekend, but I had read the email wrong and thought she was arriving an hour after me. (I blame jet lag – even though there was only a one-hour time difference.) We’ve known each other since college (Go Runnin’ Bulldogs) and were stationed together at Fort Carson for short season. We got to catch up briefly in 2014 when (my) Matt and Corie were honored as Distinguished Alumni at GWU’s Homecoming. There is never enough in-real-person time but there is something special about friendships that pick up where they left off and can survive, and even thrive, in spite of time and space between.




(And for the record, getting to spend time with Corie was enough to send me home refreshed. That alone was such a treat! I took home so much, left so much behind, and got to see a dear friend… Thank you Chris Kyle Frog Foundation!)

*Please note that this is not a political statement about anything specific.  My blog is not the place for that discussion… I will say that I expect law enforcement personnel to be upstanding, law-abiding people who will judge a situation as accurately as humanly possible, and I will say that respect goes both ways.  If you wonder at all about my deeper thoughts on this issue, it’ll have to be done via private message.


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School’s in Session: Toddler version

Anna – Almost-20-months:
This little girl is incredibly smart.  Her pediatrician recently told me that she is WAY advanced of her peers.  She’s a blast!  Her vocabulary impresses me every day and her problem-solving skills cause me problems.  In fact, she learned to climb out of her crib this week. The camera we have set up only records short segments of  time and it missed the actual dismount, but captured one of her earlier attempts.

This semester has been incredibly smooth thanks to Anna being a good napper.  We wake her at 7:30 and by 9:15-9:30 she’s back down for her first nap.  She usually plays in her crib for about 40 minutes before falling asleep and then sleeps about an hour and a half.  This puts us right at lunch time, the perfect time for her to get up, hang out with brothers, eat some lunch, and play downstairs while no one is busy doing school work.

After playing for a while she goes back down and sleeps for about 3 hours.  The past seven weeks really have been awesome thanks to her working into the schedule so well. I know that’s a blessing and I don’t take it for granted.  Especially now that we see her schedule slightly changing (what with her being able to get out of her crib, and all).

I haven’t talked about this much but I do foresee a time when Anna will go to preschool for a few days a week.  Once she drops that morning nap for good we may need to let her go play with her friends for a few hours a few days a week. All of my boys have enjoyed this fun time and I can tell you now that Anna will love it. In fact, this week we pulled up to the PX (a big white building which, to a toddler, looks enough like our chapel) and she started kicking and saying excitedly, “My class!  My Class!” She thought we were at church and about to take her to her class! Her little legs were so kicking so hard and she was so excited! It about broke my heart to tell her that we weren’t going to class, but shopping for an iron since ours died last week. Not nearly as fun as seeing her teachers and friends.

Anna has been a HOOT lately. Some of the videos and pictures below have nothing to do with school being in session but they’re cute so they’re going to be posted.





The backyard is infested with fire ants.  They love Anna and the feeling is not mutual.






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School’s in Session: 2nd Grade

Parker – 2nd grade:

I am LOVING this year with Parker!  We get to spend more time together than ever before.  After we read with the family in the mornings (8:00-8:30) Parker takes Anna to her room to play while I Carson, Bailey, and I work on writing.  At 9:15 I put Anna down and Parker and I begin working on his stuff.  We do Handwriting Without Tears Cursive, All About Reading, Math (Saxon homeschool version), Sonlight Core B+C, (Intro into World History), and writing.
Writing – Parker is my first kid to do “writing” class in 2nd grade.  When Stephanie and I went to the the homeschool convention in Fort Worth, I ran across the Bible Heroes lesson plan.  It is perfect for Parker!  We spend no more than 15 minutes a day and he has written 5-6 papers so far.  What I love is that he’s learning the terminology that the bigs use so he’ll be ahead of the game when he’s their age!

ABCMouse – Parker spends 15-60 minutes every day on this website.  We love it and have found it to be a great tool for reinforcing all kinds of skills.
SpellingCity – While it’s not his favorite subject, Parker does learn some of his spelling words using this website.  I can’t say I’m 100% in love with the site and I’m not really great at checking his progress, but when he does spend time on SpellingCity, he is getting 100% more time on Spelling than when he doesn’t.  (Meaning, it’s the only spelling we do at this point.)
History and Literature – Sonlight Core B+C – Parker and I get some fun, one-on-one reading time with this core.  I read to him from Aesop’s Fables, a poetry book, one of a few different History books (that Sonlight has designed to coincide beautifully with other things we’re reading). Finally, I read to him from the novel provided in the Core.  We have already finished “Red Sails of Capri” and are now on “Ginger Pye.”  I LOVE this sweet time with Parker.  I’ve never had “just a second grader.”  When the bigs were in this age range I had a second grader PLUS two other grades… it’s neat to sit and spend good time with Parker.


I love 7-year-old Parker. He’s quick-witted, funny, incredibly smart, tender-hearted, and an overall joy!  Matt and I often look at each other and say, “Seven is fun.”  Of course, we are having a blast with our teens and our toddler, don’t get me wrong.  Both ends of the spectrum are incredibly rewarding.  But seven is an age of innocence and joy.  I love this age!


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School’s in Session: 8th Grade

Bailey – 8th Grade:

Physical Science – So far so good, as far as I know. I will admit at this point that I’ve been hands-off in Bailey’s science this year and need to focus a bit more on it.  The luxury comes in the fact that he’s ear-reading and another homeschooling mom is heading the experiments at co-op.  Because I don’t like science I tend to put it off and probably at the detriment of my students.  (SORRY KIDS!!)
Algebra 1– Bailey’s dyslexic brain makes mental math much easier for him than it does for some students.  He can often see the answer in his mind long before I can get to it on paper.  This is a benefit, for sure, but a stumbling block in many ways, as he needs to master the long way of working problems so that when they are more complicated, he is able to follow the path the math requires him to follow. Working on that a bit this year, as we have every. single. year.  A student who can often see the answer in his head understandably feels no need to do the paper work required to get the answer, showing all the steps.  It feels stupid and unnecessary.  What I know, as a teacher, is that the problems are going to be more complicated soon and will require 4-6 steps.  If he doesn’t show his work and gets the answer wrong, he’ll have to start all over, instead of just going back to the step where the mistake was made.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of dyslexia in my opinion.
Writing – As I mentioned above, Carson and Bailey are doing the same writing program and I’m extremely pleased with where they are.  Bailey’s writing sounds fluid and natural. He’s beginning to see that, quite often, the “dress-ups” are coming out in his first draft rather than having to be added in later.  This is proof that the formula is converting to instinct!
Literature and History – Last year I started Carson and Bailey out with Core 100: American History.  Within a few weeks I realized I was going to have to let Carson move ahead of Bailey and I felt it had a lot to do with Bailey’s dyslexia. I called Sonlight and spoke with an advisor.  God directed me to the perfect advisor as she had done the high school cores with her son who also had dyslexia.  She surprised me, though.  She told me that even students who were not dyslexic but were taking Core 100 in the 7th grade were encouraged to spread it out over two years!  It wasn’t just the fact that Bailey was dyslexic that was making it take us longer to get through certain books, it was his age.  I believe this made him feel much better and so we are just now, in his 8th grade year, finishing up the core he started last year.  Going at our own pace has made the material sink in much deeper and with absolutely no stress.  He’ll probably finish the core in the spring and will start on Core 200, the one Carson is currently on, at that time.
P.E. – Bailey bikes all over post to hang out with friends, but lately he’s been on a running kick.  He’s trying to run farther distances and increase his speed, and I enjoy seeing him excited about pushing himself to do better.  I keep saying I am going to get out there and run with him… maybe this week will be the week!
German –  Rosetta Stone
Speech – At Co-op

Bailey at Co-op playing Ge-to-know-you-BINGO:



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School’s in Session: 9th Grade

Carson 9th Grade:

Biology – Carson is doing much better at learning Biology than I am at teaching it.  He’s understanding the material much better than I am and for that, I’m thankful.  We did have a fun few weeks watching home-made cultures grow under the microscope… until we had to dump them out and the entire house smelled like something I can’t describe.  Who knew rotting rice could out-smell rotting egg yolk?!?  Neither of us are loving biology but we’re managing.

Geometry – Nothing to speak of here except a steady plodding along with Math.  I did have all three bigs take a week off of TeachingTextbooks math a couple of weeks ago to strengthen their foundations in their respective math subjects.  Khan Academy has been an invaluable tool for me.  I found a few weak spots in each of the boys’ understanding of their respective math levels and assigned videos and practices related directly to those weak areas.  Having a different teacher explain the problems from a different perspective helped and I do intend to utilize that throughout the year.  I think Carson is doing very well in Geometry and is fairly independent in the subject.
Writing – Carson and Bailey are doing the same writing program:  SICC-B from IEW.  If you aren’t familiar with The Institute of Excellence in Writing and you are in the market for a good writing program, I HIGHLY encourage you to check this one out.  As someone who finds writing an easy task and does so naturally, IEW can feel mechanical.  At first I didn’t love the program because I felt it was a bit formulaic  (In fact, it is completely formulaic.)  But what I have discovered is that the students learn the formula and then, with time, their writing becomes more fluid, more natural, and they begin to write with more variety in their sentence structure.  Now that we’ve been using the program for a few years, Carson and Bailey both surprise me with their writing examples.  This “formulaic” approach is helping my students write more naturally!  It sounds very counterintuitive but it is working.
Current Events – Carson is required to turn in two current event reports a week.  I want him to know how to dig into the current goings-on in our world and I want him to be able to pump out one-page reports on topics he selects.  He loves World News Group Magazine and our friends, The Hales, have a subscription.  Carson brought one home that they were finished with and read it through several times.  They have offered him all of their old copies and now he’s loaded with content to write about.  I love to see my history-buff read these as they are articles of history in the making.
History – This year Carson is doing Core 200, History of the Christian Church.  The beautiful part of this core is that it gives the back story to why our world is at war today.  The war we are fighting today stems from events that occurred centuries ago and I believe the current events that Carson is writing about can be traced back to many of those events.  If his brain doesn’t connect the dots now, it will as he goes through this course.
Literature – Core 200 also includes Classical Literature.  He’s currently reading Jane Eyre and I finished it just last night. I had never read it! Other titles he’ll read this year include, A Christmas Carol, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, Robinson Crusoe, and Romeo and Juliet. I am very excited to ear-read some of these along with him!  I am quite disappointed that I didn’t start Sonlight early enough with Hayden for him to get through this Core.
P.E. – Carson is in the habit of going for a bike ride very early in the morning.  He’s home by 7:15 or so, ready to get started on his school work.
German –  Rosetta Stone
Speech – At Co-op
Foundations in Personal Finance – Dave Ramsey’s high school version of Financial Peace University


With Carson in the 9th grade, I officially have two high schoolers.  Next year, I’ll have three!  The core he’s doing is fantastic and one of my favorites so far.  Paper management is one of Carson’s least favorite aspects of school and I find his papers everywhere… a serious downfall of homechooling is that students aren’t forced to do a good job at this.  If they get to “class” and don’t have all their work, they simply need to go to the other room to find it.  Had they gone to school without it, they would have been out of luck. As a homeschooling mom I struggle with just how to emphasize the importance of this skill to my kids.  Any suggestions?



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School’s in Session: 11th Grade

Hayden – 11th Grade:

Chemistry – neither of us are a fan.  We are glad he has a few friends to go through this experience with to make it less ugh. Call me a horrible homeschool mom for saying that we don’t like it. I don’t care.  It’s the truth.
Algebra 2 – I think I like this more than he does, but he’s doing fine at it.  Nothing to speak of other than the fact that I would encourage all homeschooling moms to make sure their kiddos get a good, solid understanding of Algebra because there is a LOT of it on the SAT.
Writing Class in Copperas Cove – This is an intense level of work but I am enjoying seeing what he is doing.  I like that he has a teacher other than me and that he gets his work done without nagging from me.
SAT Prep – He and I have spent a few months working on this and we are both still completely confounded by some of the stupid questions that are on there.  We’ll do a section (out of the official SAT guide) and both get 96% right and then the next day we’ll both crash and only know how to do 5 problems of the 20.  As an educator, I don’t see how this is a very good indicator of my son’s ability to do well in college or in life-beyond.  And yet, it’s a hoop we know he must jump through.
History and Literature – So much reading but good stuff.  This semester Hayden is doing Government and Civics and, honestly, it’s not his favorite type of reading.  He knows its beneficial and important for all Americans to study, but he is not enamored by the topic.  Hayden is currently reading “The Chosen” and he said it’s really interesting. It’s getting “theological” toward the end, and I will be listening to this on audio starting this week.  That’s the only way I can even attempt to keep up with what the boys are reading.
P.E. – Skateboarding.  Hayden has been mastering some difficult maneuvers at the park. I need to get out there and video a little!
German – All three of the bigs are doing Rosetta Stone – German.  We’ve done RS before with Spanish and never had much luck.  It’s a great program that works beautifully, and I assign all fault to the users, especially to the teacher of the users for not setting proper expectations or following up on the given expectations.  This year, however, all involved are doing well.  I’ve set my expectations to be just bit higher than would be “easy” for each individual student.  I’ve let my expectations be VERY clear.  And, what I believe is making this year successful, I’m checking their work every other day or so. Basically, I’m doing my part to keep them on track.  I’m very pleased so far!
Speech – The older three are also taking a Speech class training them in Public Speaking.  Stephanie is teaching this and I LOVE seeing the boys up their presentation skills.
Foundations in Personal Finance – Hayden and Carson are taking this in the co-op we’re a part of.  Good stuff, but a LOT of work!



With this being Hayden’s 11th grade year, I’m feeling all sorts of nostalgic.  I know we’re reaching the end of his time as a homeschooling kid.  I had absolutely no idea that we would homeschool throughout his entire career.  It was supposed to only be his kindergarten year due to a PCS mid-year.  It has been an absolute joy… and his upcoming graduation excites me on some levels because it will mean he’s stepping into the pages of his life that HE gets to write, but the thought of him not being here with us hurts more than I can even express.  And because of that, I’ll move on and write about another kid.  But it’ll post tomorrow.  See you then!


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School’s in Session

That’s what’s been going on around here.  School.  And a lot of it.

Today we started the 8th week of this school year and it has absolutely flown by.  I’m amazed that we’re already at this point!

We head out of Killeen in less than 3 months, off to our next adventure.  The emotions tied into that are not 100% positive, I’ll admit.  Figuring out how to get as much school done before we pack everything up presents a challenge but one we’ll manage, I suppose.

As a homeschool mom who was a teacher by profession, I find it hard to let go of our schedule at times to do fun things… you know, the fun things that homeschoolers get do to “because they homeschool?” I’ve been making a concerted effort to institute “because we homeschool” days into our weeks. On “eclipse” day we made the one-hour drive to Krispy Kreme and bought their special chocolate glazed donuts.



On the day Krispy Kreme released Pumpkin Spice Glazed donuts, we loaded up the van and went with another family to Cedar Park (1 hour away, I remind you) and enjoyed the delectable treats.


We have a few more “because we homeschool” days planned, to include a pumpkin patch or two. I need to remind myself that these days are rapidly flying by and I want my kids to look back on their homeschool years and remember that we did fun things that others couldn’t do… I want to take advantage of our freedom.

Random fact about our homeschool:
It is often said that homeschoolers have the luxury of sleeping in as late as they want.  I would agree… This is very true.  Unless they have a mom who wakes them at 6:15 and says, “Eat breakfast and then either start school or go get some exercise.”  My bigs have a mom who wakes them early.  This is a relatively new change to our homeschool that has developed out of necessity.  Our best working hours are in the morning and with the amount of school work that high school is, we need to get an early start in order to finish by a decent hour.  I once heard a homeschool guru encourage a group of homeschooling moms to find that ONE thing they can’t live without; the ONE thing that makes them feel like they’ve done right by their kids when they get that done, and plan their day around that. For me it is reading aloud to all of my kids.  I want to read to them, regardless of their age.  I want to read something that all of them can learn and benefit from.  I wake my littles at 7:30 and we start our “read-aloud” time at 8:00.  For the next 30 minutes we spend our time together.  Last year we read a dozen books on black history, books that are not often found on public school reading lists.  This year I’ve been mixing it up a bit and I just finished reading, “The House at Pooh Corner.”  A.A. Milne has a beautiful, descriptive way of writing.  If you don’t know what I mean, click here to read the chapter titled, “In Which Piglet Does a Very Grand Thing,” and pay close attention to the paragraph in which Milne describes the tree tipping over.  I think I read that aloud to the kids 3-4 times so they could soak in the author’s style.

Over the next five weekdays I’ll share a bit about each of our kiddos and what their school days are like at the moment.  It started out in one post but when it hit 2500 words I decided to break it up!  Have a great week and we’ll see you tomorrow!




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Homeward bound {NC – Summer 2017 (Part 5)}

After our exciting time with Mama Kim and Aunt Charlene I crashed.  I ended up with a cold that took me down for a few days.  I can barely remember driving back from Virginia to NC.

Once back at my parents’ we unloaded the van one last time.  I cleaned it as well as I could, washed clothes, and then strategically packed our suitcases so that we could take as little in to the hotels each night as possible.

On the morning of the 25th we spent some time taking the obligatory Harley Davidson pictures of Anna.  All the kids at 18 months have had these pictures taken.




Typically when I leave NC I can get home with only one hotel stay.  By that time we’re usually so ready to be home that I can push through and drive half-way two consecutive days.  This time, with me not feeling 100%, I knew I needed to give myself more time to get home, thus less driving time each day.  I could have delayed leaving until I felt better but we had our first day of the 2017-2018 school year less than a week away and I didn’t want to get back so close to our starting.

The driving time itself is not very memorable.  Everything went smoothly and we were happy to see each state’s welcome sign.

Things went wonky during our first hotel stay.

For the first time I can remember (during our time in Texas) we stopped for the night while still in Georgia. Typically that wouldn’t feel quite far enough along the way to make it worth stopping (heading back to Texas) but we got a later start than usual (1:30 p.m.) and the goal was to get past Atlanta… we managed to do that and found a hotel in Smyrna.

The boys swam in the weirdest of pools to get the wiggles out before bedtime.  The room we requested was a suite and these typically have a fold out couch.  Here comes the first of many issues on our trip home.

  • No fold out couch.

This was fairly easily resolved as we had an air mattress in the car.  Our second issue:

  • One washing machine and one dryer for the entire hotel.

I had really hoped to throw our wet suits into the dryer so we wouldn’t have to carry wet clothes with us in the car the next day but it was in use.

Our third issue is explained in my Facebook post from shortly after we checked into our hotel:

  • The smell was… odd.

Our hotel is fine… Good enough for a night’s sleep with a pre-bedtime swim to get the wiggles out. One complaint: the hallway smells like nicotine and chewing gum.

Not smoke, necessarily. It’s a weird smell, though.

You can research a hotel only so much…

I guess I need to add to my litany of questions: “Does your hotel have a funky nicotine/gum smell?” along with “Do you have a pool and if so, is it in working condition?”

And this leads us to the next, most substantial, issue of this hotel stay:

  • The fire alarm shrieked at us for 3 hours.

It literally took the alarm representative and the fire department three hours to make. IT. STOP!  Anna woke once.  Hayden never heard it. While I was downstairs trying to see how much longer this was going to last (I was worried about my ability to drive or stay awake while Hayden drove the next day), Bailey woke up and tried to find me.  This leads us to the final, though minor, issue.

  • Bailey got locked out of our room.

I was downstairs on the 2nd floor which had a balcony over the lobby.  I could hear and see what was going on which allowed me to know how much longer the madness was going to last.  When it finally stopped I headed back to my room to find Bailey sitting at on the floor outside our room.  Poor kid.

Thankfully the hotel was apologetic and handled the irritated guests very well the next morning.  While they didn’t refund my money, they gave me enough points for a free hotel stay.  And to make things truly right, they applied the points immediately, so that I could use them that night.  (Typically it takes three days for points to show up in my account.)

Driving Day 2:

Everything went smoothly and we had lunch plans with friends we met in Germany. All was well and good until we got out of our car to walk into the restaurant.

  • Parker stepped in a mound of dog poop.

People. For the love of all that is decent on this earth, if you let your dog poop in the tiny bit of grass that separates a McDonald’s from a Chick-fil-a, pick it UP!  I had to bag his Chacos until we got home (to TEXAS) because it was in, on, and around the shoe.  I got his foot cleaned fairly well with a baby wipe but I wanted to say words that I’m not in the habit of saying.  Remember, I wasn’t feeling well to begin with, had (not) slept through a 3-hour-long fire alarm the night before, and had been driving for a few hours already with several more hours of driving to come.

Thankfully Mason had given Parker a pair of shoes he’d recently outgrown so we didn’t have to go through the strategically packed suitcases to find another pair for my guy.

Lunch was pleasant and we enjoyed catching up.  Our babies who were born in Germany are now in 2nd grade! Crazy!


Thirty minutes after resuming our travels Alabama decided to show it’s ugly side.

  • Rain came down in sheets.  It was the most difficult rain conditions I’ve ever had to drive in.

You can only imagine my relief at arriving at our hotel in West Monroe that evening.  We’ve traveled this drive so many times we feel like West Monroe is a bit a second home. Our hotel’s parking lot was attached to the Duck Dynasty restaurant.  This was our “free” stay hotel and we began by hitting the pool right off.  When Hayden had had his fill of swimming, I sent him over to Pizza Hut to pick up a few pizzas for dinner.  (Having another driver in the family is quite convenient.)

One minor issue that I guess I shouldn’t complain about but will anyway, because, when you stay at any hotel, these things should be taken care of:

  • The area surrounding the pool was filthy.  Dead frog, cigarette butts, and beer bottles.  I was too tired and sick to complain.

They didn’t have a room large enough for our family (and that was without Matt) so they gave us two different rooms.  Whatever… just a few minor things that made this stay fit right in with the rest of our trip home:

  • No washer or dryer.
  • There was a lizard in my room which I made Hayden dispose of.

At this point I was almost laughing through tears at the absolute absurdity of this trek home.  Any of these things alone isn’t a big deal but they were piling up on top of this tired, sick mama.  (Tack all these experiences on top of the fact that we had had a very emotional and whirlwind trip.)

My sleepy girl:


The next morning I used my hotel-coffee-trick to make coffee that was strong enough to get the job done.  I put both coffee pods in the pot.


Travel that day was smooth enough.  I can almost remember some of it. I think my cold was subsiding by that point.  We hit Texas and rejoiced, even though we still had, like, 7,000 miles before we got to our house.  (I exaggerate, sort of.)


By the time we reached Temple, a town near home, and one we have to travel to for Carson’s orthopedist and to go to a Staples Office Supply store, we hit our last few snags of the trip.

  • Dead. Still. Traffic.
  • 107* heat.  (I didn’t get a picture of the temp at 107 so please imagine with me that the picture below shows that instead of 105*.)


We really hadn’t missed that at all.  

It took some breathing techniques for me to work my way mentally through that traffic but before too long we were on our way.  My mantra the last few miles was, “Most accidents happen close to home when people lose focus.”  I focused.  HARD.  I wanted my house, my bed, my best friend.  I wanted my baby girl to have her space and my boys to have their friends.  I was ready.

And finally we were home…

After 18 days on the road, unpacking the car 11 different times for overnight stays, visiting friends and family in 6 different states, traveling 3,400 miles, we were home.  We are so thankful for such a safe, eventful, trip.

My Facebook status that evening:

We are home and refuse to get in the car again today. Matt’s running out for Mission Taco. I will be largely ignoring FB for the reminder of today and tomorrow.  🙂

We missed home as we always do but this time, more-so. Anna loves being in her house and we love having a place for her to roam freely!

Thank you to everyone who showed hospitality and let us crash in your homes…. I know it gets harder and harder the bigger our family gets. Your welcoming hearts are greatly appreciated.

Bedtime was sweet that night.  You know how it is after being gone so long.  You slip into your own bed and think, “There’s no place like home.”

And then, this:

I got to enjoy the craziness that Matt had endured while we were going.  Three straight weeks of this:



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