Box Day 2017

Our materials for the upcoming school year have arrived!

I have packed away 2016-2017 and am now happily swimming in plans for next year.

Yesterday we opened our Sonlight Boxes and even Matt was impressed with the book selection for Core 400.

For our upcoming year we are using:

Hayden – Core 400: American Government and Civics

Carson – Core 200: History of the Christian Church

Bailey – Core 100 (part 2):  American History

Parker – Core B/C: World History

Anna – colors, letters, animal sounds, etc. (We don’t do school with our littles until they’re at least five.  We just PLAY!  And read a lot of books.)

Enjoy these photos from Box Day 2017!

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We here at Jackson Academy have above average first graders… Algebra 2!

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Just kidding. That’s for Hayden.

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_JEN2137 (1)_JEN2142 (1)_JEN2181_JEN2151Parker’s real math for the next year._JEN2147_JEN2157_JEN2176_JEN2168_JEN2191

Blessings!

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RFOs in hand…

RFO stands for “request for orders” and that document tells us that the Chief of Chaplains has approved the assignment that we have been given.  In my last post I shared about my trip to New Mexico and the fact that I drove through Fort Bliss (the duty station that I most dread being assigned to).  I mentioned that I was actually quite impressed with it and determined that if I were told we were moving there next, I wouldn’t die.  (Swelter, yes.  Die, no.)

I’ve been “hatin’ on” Texas for over four years now and I finally came around to see that I can do it. I can live in Texas and be happy.  I can endure the heat.  And on the day that I saw my least-desired post and came to a place in my heart that I’d be willing to go there if called, we found out where we’re going!

I had driven for nine or so hours when Matt called.  He asked, “Do you want to know where we’re going?”  I told him to wait.  That I needed a minute.  And I took that minute.

I breathed.  I thought back over the mini-tour of Fort Bliss.

I steadied myself.

Then he read the memo and I almost cried.

Once we knew, we wanted to tell the boys before they found out through the grapevine.  However, they were already at camp and wouldn’t be home for another week.  I am not good at keeping secrets so after sleeping at home on Friday night, Matt, Parker, Anna, and I drove to Camp Eagle to reveal the news to the boys.

We originally had a fun plan in place for the reveal:  each kid picked where they thought or hoped we’d go. Then, we had each of them pick a fast food restaurant.  When we knew our next duty station, rather than just telling them where we were moving, we were going to load up in the Silver Surfer and drive (in a non-direct way, I’m sure) to the restaurant chosen by the boy who had been the closest.

The locations and restaurants chosen were:

  • Hayden: Fort Carson – In & Out
  • Carson: Fort Riley – Chick-Fil-A
  • Bailey: Fort Bragg – McDonalds
  • Parker: Germany – Mission Taco

Since we weren’t going to do the reveal as we had originally planned, Matt and I went by the restaurants selected and got bags* from each.  Inside each of these I placed two items that would give them the location of our next duty station.  (*I had to improvise with Mission Taco’s bag since they don’t have paper bags but use plastic [transparent] bags.

After dinner we took them to a private room in the Dining Hall of Camp Eagle and had each boy stand behind the bag of the restaurant that the had selected.  I videoed the response which I will add at some point.

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Inside each bag I placed a bag of Haribo Gummy Bears and a rock from our front yard that I painted:

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Are you as excited as I am?!?  YEP!  We’re heading to GERMANY!

Stuttgart, Germany to be precise!

We’ve visited friends there before and very much look forward to living there!

I am already beginning work on my Smooth Move notebook.  But here’s the thing.  As absolutely THRILLED as I am about going to Germany (and leaving the Texas heat behind), I am dreading leaving my people and watching my kids say good-bye to their people.  It hurts in places I didn’t even have before I moved here. My heart has grown and stretched and molded to the shape of this place in ways I couldn’t foresee.  So know that while I’m happy beyond words, I am in the process of grieving at the same time.  With every PCS comes blessing and difficulty… for the moment, I’m going to focus on the fun, the excitement, and the fact that I still get an entire summer AND fall school semester with my people here at Fort Hood.

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_JEN2097I couldn’t decide which was my favorite and then I wondered why I needed to pick.  It’s my  blog and I can post two pictures if I want to.

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New Mexico

The past week was full of adventure.  Parker lost his second tooth and is quite proud of his gap!img_1756We drove to San Antonio to say farewell to friends who are like family.  The Byers are on their way to C4 (a six month course for Chaplains at Fort Jackson) and we needed one more get-together before they leave this massive state.  We’ve been so blessed to spend birthdays, race-days, concert days, and Thanksgivings with them.  They truly are like family.

We met at a fantastic splash pad and the kids had a blast together.

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We ate dinner at Mi Tierra, our favorite restaurant in SA.  Fun story… it was the first restaurant at which we with the Byers and we were even seated at the exact same table!

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The dads with the new Texas additions.

Just a cute picture of my Anna.

The bigs headed off to camp, which I will share more about next Monday.  When they headed off, Parker, Anna, and I loaded up the van and headed to visit Aimee and Miss Kayla.  Aimee was driving from CO to AZ to visit family and since we had originally decided to meet halfway somewhere between CO and TX, we decided to have our visit coincide with her trip.  She was going that way anyway so I headed west.  We arrived at our hotel within 20 minutes of each other!  We planned well.

A GIANT Texas match.  (Really this is something to do with burning off natural gas or something…)A new state sign for our family.

 

First hugs and loves between Aimee and Anna.  (Anna was VERY interested in what Parker and Kayla were doing.)

Anna getting snuggles from Miss Kayla (Miss “teeka.”)

We played at a local splash pad for a few hours on our first day, then went to the hotel to rest.  We ate Panda Express for lunch in our room while Anna napped.  That afternoon we played in the hotel pool and then enjoyed the free dinner our hotel offered.  We were more than happy to eat for free!  Staybridge is a fantastic hotel in my opinion.

Anna did NOT enjoy being surprised by the water coming out of this yellow ball.

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Playing a fun game of Make 10.  (Best app for learning how to add to ten I’ve seen!  Thanks, Aimee, for the suggestion!  His score keeps going up each day and he’s very proud of himself.)

Our second day we went to the mall to find a few needed things.  Earrings for Anna (she lost one and has been wearing a mis-matched pair for a few months) and an iPod case for Kayla.  I budgeted $30 for fun stuff on this trip.  We ended up doing free activities so when I saw these ride-on animals that were $5 for a 10 minute ride, I was all in.  The kids really enjoyed them!

No shopping date is complete without a cup of coffee and, when possible, a new state mug!  

After a few days in the pool and some late night chat sessions, it was time to say farewell again.  It was like no time had passed and yet, 18 months have gone by since we last saw each other.  I am honored to be her friend.

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We reentered Texas and set our sights on Fort Bliss.

This is the former home of our friends, the Eastes’.  (Why yes, you do see Krispy Kreme donuts in the reflection of my window.  We don’t have one where we live so we make sure to get some each time drive past one.  Thanks, El Paso, for giving me this sweet treat and for the Military Discount!  Military discounts are so often taken for granted and I, for one, am very appreciative.)

 

As we drove around the post I began to become more and more convinced that should we receive orders to Fort Bliss, one of the most remote CONUS duty stations ever, I would likely survive.  It is the one duty station that I dread more hearing that our next duty station would be Fort Hood.  If we were to get Fort Hood as our next duty station, I would survive because I have quite the amazing set of friends to do life with.  Before I saw Bliss with my own eyes, I was sure I would shrivel up and die.  Afterwards, while texting with Matt via Siri (which is why there is an extra word at the end of my second text), I admitted this fact:

 

The following pictures are taken ON POST.  People…  If you aren’t military these will look like your every day shopping center. Nothing special.  But we never see these kinds of places ON post.  It’s a big deal.  It’s called “Freedom Crossing” and has its own website. Toys R Us, Under Armor, Things Remembered, Dollar Tree, Texas Roadhouse, Dairy Queen… seriously… these stores and the beautiful setting they’ve created did a world for changing my opinion of this remote duty station.

As we continued our journey home Parker and I saw many dust devils.  The camera does NO justice to this particular one.

And just as we entered Copperas Cove, a beautiful sunset.  

We were in the car 12 1/2 hours on Friday: half an hour longer than our drive from Wiesbaden to Camp Darby.  My kids are amazing travelers!

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That’s a Wrap!

It is with much celebration that we say farewell to the 2016-2017 school year.  It was a good year even if it was marked with new challenges.

These challenges include:

  • homeschooling with a mobile baby
  • homeschooling four different grades
  • homeschooling with dyslexia
  • geometry
  • biology
  • high school level work and its increased hours

This year was great for the following reasons:

  • having a mobile baby
  • homeschooling four different grades
  • homeschooling with dyslexia (Brilliance is being dyslexic and still being on or above grade level in all subjects)
  • geometry (I got to spend many hours with this student and I loved almost every-single-one of them)
  • biology LABS that were taught by another mom!
  • high school level work that stretched my student and that I enjoyed as much (or more) than he did

Last year we had an official last day of school and we celebrated with donuts for breakfast and streamers.  (I’m more of an Amazon.com mom than a crafty mom.)

This year we skidded to a stop just two days before the boys left for camp (which they did just a few hours ago).

A few had Math to finish up so they spent the last week and a half doing 3 lessons a day but THEY DID IT!  They each finished with an A and we can put this year in the books.

I am excited about it but more excited that I can start planning next year!

We celebrated on Saturday evening when they finished (just after 8:00 pm) with half-off Sonic milkshakes!

 

 

Here are some pictures to commemorate our last day of 10th, 8th, 7th, and 1st grades.

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As I said, the bigs left for camp a few hours ago and I’m not even thinking about the fact that I’ll miss them dreadfully.  Nope.  I have other things to think about:  like packing for my overdue visit with Aimee and Miss Kayla!!  I get to introduced both of them to our little princess!

I didn’t take enough pictures this morning but I did snap one of some of the leaders and Hayden getting last minute instructions – the rest of the kids were already loaded in the vehicles.  And of course, one shot of our sweetie!

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Enjoy your summer break!  It’s HERE!!

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Memorial Day and our Anniversary

Matt and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage today.  When we picked our wedding date, Memorial Day was nothing more than a holiday weekend and the biggest thing that concerned me was that the race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway would interfere with my guests arriving at the church.

Fast forward to today and I celebrate the day that I became Mrs. Hamrick and I also recognize the fallen.

Carleen, Maryanne, and Laurie are always on my mind but even more on this day.

Here’s a post I wrote in 2012 that still holds true.  All our appreciate to the fallen and all our love to their loved ones.

 

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White Space

We are nearing the finish line of a great year of school.  Because of that we are unnaturally busy, which is why I’m even more devoted to protecting our ‘white space.’  Have you heard that term used?  I can’t remember where I first heard it but I LOVE the concept.  Basically, think of the white space on a piece of notebook paper.  You write on the lines but leave the margins alone.  It helps the eye travel over the important stuff that you’ve written without getting overwhelmed by a chaotic page.  White space is also great for times when you’ve written all you can on the lines but at the last minute remember one last fact that you need to jot down.  When you have white space available, you have room to jot it down!  If you began writing at the top left corner of the page and wrote on ever single square inch of paper, there would be no room for that last minute fact you remembered.

White space in life is like that.  I intentionally plan my life on the lines.  In the past 18 months I’ve removed excess actives, even though they were great activities… activities I highly encourage others to participate in (soccer, PWOC, fancy co-ops).  My white space allowed me to go to coffee this week with a bright young woman who wanted to ask questions about life from my perspective.  It allowed me to have friends over last night while the dads got together to farewell a good friend.  I think of the white space as the place for bonus or surprise activities in life that, were I “too busy,” I’d either have to turn down or feel stressed or guilty while participating in.

I haven’t mastered keeping the white space free, but I can say that I’ve definitely learned how valuable it is to me.  I’ve learned how valuable the word “no” is and how often it’s ME telling MYSELF no to great opportunities that would overwhelm my paper and flood the white space.

I just mentioned two things I wrote on the white space of my paper this week:  a coffee date and having friends over for brownies and ice cream.  I had plenty of activities on my must-do list.

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On last week’s must-do list, Hayden tested for and received his driver license!  I simply can’t believe we’re at that stage!  Texas does not make it easy by any stretch of the imagination and we persevered.  (We… yes.  I said “we.”  The facilities were all booked weeks out so Matt and I took Hayden to a different town to test… the town that had the first available appointment.)  The van, which he had been driving for a year, was in these shop the day he tested, so he had to test in the Jeep.  Apparently he got enough practice in and he passed the driving test in 12 minutes and on the first try!

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I snuck this picture just as he came back into the parking lot.  Matt and I were SURE he had failed because he and the instructor didn’t get out of the car very fast.  They sat there forEVER.  When they finally emerged Hayden smiled and gave us the thumbs-up!

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Obligatory shot with the DPS sign and his license.  “Everything’s bigger in Texas!”  (His real license will arrive in the mail in a week or so.)

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Yes, I did video the first time he drove away without a parent.  He was heading to an AAFES gas station to buy a gift card for someone. (This isn’t a video… just a still.)

Last week, M-W, our kids participated in end of grade testing.  We met with our Co-Op and I proctored the 3rd-8th graders.  With Bailey’s official 504 I was able to proctor his test at home giving him a few accommodations so that we should have a better idea of where he is than the test last year provided.  He took the test without accommodations last year just a few months before he was identified and I look forward to comparing the two tests results.

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I snuck a picture once everyone had closed their test booklets.

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On the final day of testing our kids had a pizza and popsicle party.  These beauties enjoyed playing together during testing!

Testing wore this little beauty out.  She fell asleep on the way home and was total mush on the way to her bed.

This upcoming week is filled with last minute math lessons so they can put this year in the books.  We watched a funny homeschooling video this week and at one point the “student” realizes he’s skipped way too many days of school during the year.  I may have a few who are regretting putting math off.  (They need to do 3 lessons a day this week to finish by the time they leave for camp!)

Enjoy!

 

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I love my Mom-Life.

I’m writing this post on Mother’s Day as all five of my treasures are sleeping.  I have a few minutes to ponder my life and my job as mom.

At times like this I see just how much we (as a homeschooling family) are getting accomplished and I feel at peace.  It’s the birds-eye view of our life and school.  During the daily grind, however, I often feel as if we’re spinning our wheels.  We are happy Sonlight users and the Mother’s Day email I received from them today was very encouraging.  If you want to read the whole thing you can click here to enjoy the entire article but the gist was that even the Israelites, on their way out of Egypt, were led along the long route.  God didn’t take them home the fastest way possible, and it was for good reason.  “He purposefully led them in a circuitous route because he had a more important goal for them than efficiency – in this case, he didn’t want them to lose heart.” At times like this I can sit back and accept that things take longer than they should, that we never get it all done in a day, that stomach bugs, doctor appointments, messy diapers, and bad attitudes happen, and that there will often be a need to re-cover material in order to truly grasp it.  And I can relish the fact that we have the time to go at our pace in order to make sure they grasp the material.  I want to check the boxes.  I want to put the school year in the books.  I want to put the studies away for a summer break and spend time just hanging out and playing.  However, we are being led down a circuitous route and God’s intent is for me to have heart, not lose it.  I need to take this birds-eye view more often.

So, as we finish our last few weeks of school (which we are supposed to have already completed) I will do my best to remember the words I’m writing now.  I will try to remember that I have one shot at being the mom to my kids at THIS set of ages.  I will try to remember that two very short years from now Hayden will likely be heading off on his college adventure and our home dynamics will drastically change.  The window of having all five chicks in the nest is slowly closing and I need to enjoy this to its fullest.  I believe I was put on this earth to be these kids’ mom.  I love it.  (Though I admit I’m not always patient, kind, or the most fun mom and sometimes I may not show that I love it.)

Below are some pictures that I treasure of our real life… of our kids just doing what they do.

  • Anna being a bit distracting during school… Kisses for brother.
  • I don’t wash the boys’ clothes.  One went in to change their clothes (they had combined theirs with Parker) and brought to me this very clean, just laundered, rock.  (Boulder?  I placed a sharpie there to show scale.)

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  • Bailey mowing a difficult yard.  Finished product top left.  I love that the bigs are learning the value of hard work and that work=money.
  • Parker showing off his toothless grin.  Sort of.  He was a bit grossed out by this process.

     

  • Hayden displaying his latest drawings.  On his shoes. IMG_1607

 

  • Carson, not grossed out by anything, dumps fluids out of our frog.

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  • 6 Flags Homeschool Day. 2016 and 2017…

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  • Anna hammin’ it up.

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  • The bigs volunteering as stage hands at the local ballet. They have several friends who are absolutely beautiful and graceful dancers and it is always a pleasure to watch their performances.

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And now my treasures are waking up and I want to spend some time with them before 3/5 of them head out to volunteer at the last performance of the spring season.  I hope your Mother’s Day was fantastic.

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The Hamricks get culture…

As a kid in public school I immensely enjoyed field trips.  Some of my favorites included trips to Ovens Auditorium for orchestra concerts or other performances.  I vividly remember watching Peter Pan fly over my head during one of those field trips.

Being homeschooled, my kids get an even greater variety of field trips.  Since we moved to Texas the wow-factor of the trips has decreased… while in Europe they saw such things as the Eiffel Tower, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Michaelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

While those are amazing, the sites we’ve seen in Texas have directly impacted the course of our own country.  We’ve seen the Alamo, Luling and Fredericksburg, TX, and the Cadillac Ranch.  Okay, so maybe that last one didn’t impact our country as much as it reflects something quirky about it. What that is, I have no idea.

More recently the boys and I took a field trip with our co-op friends to Ft. Worth.  The tour guide shared with us the fascinating history of the city, complete with its rise, fall, and recent rejuvenation.  A week later Matt and I went back for our fantastic gift from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and I walked him through the entire tour, sharing as much with him as I could remember.

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This beauty helped me find the letter A.  It eluded us for a good 15 minutes. IMG_1325

I’m not typically grossed out by taxidermied animals.  I was raised by a hunter and I consider myself pretty tough-stomached.  But these are the actual animals from Roy Rogers’ and Dale Evans’ shows/movies.  Horses Trigger & Buttermilk, and Bullet, the dog.

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Amazing “coincidence”:  my mom told me of a book someone on her flight to Killeen recommended to her.  Matt and I downloaded it and listened to it on our trip.  It happened to be a true story set in Ft. Worth and we actually drove on many of the streets referenced while we were on our special trip.  We actually stayed at the Omni with a view of the Water Gardens, which were also specifically referenced. I highly recommend “Same Kind of Different As Me.”

And regarding culture, I mentioned in last week’s post that the boys have volunteered with the local ballet company as stage hands for their Christmas and spring performances.  I love that this opportunity offers them the chance to give of themselves in a way that they receive nothing back. There are volunteer opportunities that the boys take part in that directly benefit them (the youth yard sale, for example).  But when they serve as stage hands for the ballet, they are benefitting a group of people with no return on investment other than the satisfaction of being a blessing to someone else.  They have several friends in the ballet which is how they found out about the need.  As far as I know, they do a good job and provide a needed service to the company.

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As you can tell, volunteering with the ballet was torture and they had no fun.  Totally selfless service…

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Monday almost got me…

It’s 9:00 pm on Monday and I just now remembered that I was supposed to have a blog post up.  I haven’t even started it.

I don’t particularly dislike Mondays but I’m happy to see this one fade away.

After a couple of weeks of sleeping in, o-dark-thirty came early.  I had a few moments in my Quiet Time before I started Insanity… and that’s when the insanity began.

Parker started throwing up; Carson sprayed Axe in my workout area (my garage); Anna woke up earlier than normal.  All of this before 8:00 am.

Parker was sick on and off throughout the day only getting about three tiny cat-naps to help pass the time.  Anna was really sweet though there were times I wished I had some reinforcements I could call in.  (Before my local friends start fussing at me for not calling on them, I chose to refrain just in case she has whatever germs Parker has.  You don’t want a stomach bug at your house.)

School was accomplished in some forms.  People got fed for the most part.  The bathroom got cleaned a time or two.  I did manage to get dinner on the table and Parker managed to eat 5 bites of rice.  And he kept that down!

To say today was a bad day would be too harsh.  It wasn’t, in spite of all of that.  But I can let this particular Monday ride off into the sunset and never see it again without any sadness at all.

I took no pictures today so here’s a picture of Parker playing in the sprinkler on Saturday. (He didn’t know I could (would?) run through it with him.  I showed him!  And then we went to the driveway to lie/lay (take your pick*) flat and absorb the warmth from the concrete.  We were there at least 10 minutes and about halfway through Parker said, “I like this.”  Bless.  He was missing his big brothers who were off volunteering and I had to pinch-hit for them.  I guess I did okay.)

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*I try to be grammatically correct and I even googled this to see which was correct.  Grammar Girl let me down.  None of her examples matched mine so I’ll let it go. I’m happy to let you know I know there’s a difference and that I’m not too proud to admit when I don’t understand something.  I’ll take a lesson from anyone willing to give it but for now, GOOD-NIGHT, MONDAY!

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If it sounds too good to be true, it might just be true!

The first time I got an email from Amanda I overlooked it.  I honestly thought that there was no way anyone gets a free, all-inclusive trip with no strings attached.  I’m skeptical because I know plenty who have been burned by believing emails that promised something amazing.

Then I got a second email about this offer that said, “I know this sounds like a scam but I assure you… you and your husband really have been nominated to receive a Revitalization Retreat offered by the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. ”  She told me to check them out and when I did I realized that this really was a thing!

Matt and I had a phone interview with three of the CKFF team members during which they told us that we were not only nominated but that we had been selected!  We were given VIP tickets to the Chris Kyle Birthday Bash, the annual fundraiser in Fort Worth during which Easton Corbin would be performing and Jay Novecek would be MCing.  Our retreat would be tailored to us and they asked us to give them some activities we’d be interested in doing.  We told our sweet “retreat concierge” that we would love a couples massage, a movie (that didn’t include cartoons), and something I have been eyeing since we got to Texas: Urban Adventure Quest.

The foundation wanted to make sure we were able to attend this retreat at absolutely no cost to us.  They covered the following costs:

  • flying my mom in to stay with the kids;
  • spending money for my mom;
  • spending money for Matt and me;
  • VIP tickets to the Birthday Bash (we got to meet famous people!);
  • a rental car to get to Fort Worth;
  • our hotel stay in the Omni;
  • treats in our hotel room when we arrived;
  • a couples massage;
  • Urban Adventure Quest;
  • more to come once we get back to our real lives…

This retreat has been invaluable.  I know there is a dollar figure that will be attached to this retreat on the Foundation’s end, but on our end, it’s priceless.  Taya Kyle’s vision for these retreats is to send military and first-responder couples away from their every-day-lives to focus on each other.  Matt and I have gone to plenty of marriage retreats but usually Matt’s working and our marriage isn’t the focus.  This has been amazing.

If you are looking for an organization to donate to, I can assure you that recipients of this gift are grateful for all who have donated to make the retreats available.  Listening to Taya’s passion for marriage Saturday night left me feeling like I had been to church:  God at the head of the marriage, THEN the husband and wife relationship; THEN the kids.  Just that morning I had written a reference letter for a couple I know who is starting the adoption process.  I wrote to the agency that I fully support this family adopting a child because they put God first, and just after God, they put each other.  Their other kids are thriving, confident, and well-adjusted even in spite of the difficulties that life sends their way and I believe the kids are doing so well because they are confident that their parents love each other and their marriage is stable.  I smiled as Taya spoke the very words I had written and sent to the adoption agency just hours before her speech.

Matt and I will celebrate our 18th Anniversary 29 May and we had hoped to go away for a few nights in celebration.  This weekend is the perfect opportunity!  Having Nana watch the kids gives us such peace and that was the first gift the CKFF gave us.

Anna sees Nana!!

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Omni Hotel: Fort Worth.  Beautiful room and awesome location.

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To get our steps in Matt and I walked four miles on Saturday after our couples massage.  (I know – most people exercise and then go for a massage, but our massage was scheduled for 0900 and we didn’t want to get up early.)

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Corie and Matt recommended The Meddlesome Moth and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner.  To get the best meal, order the Steak on a Stick with the sides that come with the ribeye.  The ribeye was good, but the steak on a stick was out of this world.  The fries and salad that came with the ribeye were fantastic… put those two together and you won’t regret it! IMG_1425

#31 was wonderful! IMG_1372IMG_1373

I attended the Great Homeschool Convention several weeks ago with my friend, Stephanie.  We found The Velvet Taco and I couldn’t wait to bring Matt.  Fish ‘n Chips taco with a side of pork nachos.

The focal point of our trip to Fort Worth was the Chris Kyle Birthday Bash.  Matt and I drove up to Billy Bob’s and let the Valet take care of our car – our name was on the list for free valet.  We entered the doors and were taken straight to the sign-in table.  We were given bags of goodies and then our VIP passes.  Amanda took us to the VIP reception room and just in front of the entrance was a photo-op spot.  I initially thought the picture would be just Matt and me, and just as I stepped up to the backdrop, Easton Corbin walked up.  I look forward to seeing the professional pictures that were taken but below are some they took with Matt’s phone.

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Moments later Amanda introduced us to Taya Kyle.

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And then we felt like we were the celebrities as all these other people walked up to have their picture taken with us.

From left to right:

Scott Brown; Tank Dwayne Tanksley; Jay Novecek; Matt; Taya Kyle; Easton Corbin; Me; and Coffee Anderson.

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After the photo session we went in to the reception room, chatted with other people, and then enjoyed a mini-concert.  Fun stuff!

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After the concert and reception we walked around the HUGE facility.  Everywhere we tuned were pictures and banners celebrating Chris’ birthday.IMG_1429

Billy Bob’s is a huge attraction in Fort Worth so we took a picture with one of the neon lights.

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The formal portion of the evening included a few songs and speeches by those who had their pictures made with us. 🙂

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We ate dinner in true Texas style:  BBQ and fixin’s.  Afterward was a live auction during which several really fun things were sold to benefit the foundation… with the goal of sending more couples on retreats like Matt and I are currently enjoying.  (This blog will be posted before we check out of our hotel.)

Here are a few of the items sold during the live auction, and many more were sold before dinner in a silent auction.

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You know… the hardest part of accepting a gift like this weekend is knowing how to say thank you.  Words don’t seem sufficient, and the people giving the gift don’t want anything in return.  So for now, I’m just making the best of the time we have here.  Matt and I have reconnected and enjoyed traveling without having carry a load of stuff.  We miss our kids very much but we are enjoying the laziness this trip has provided.

We walked along the Trinity River in almost complete silence for 45 minutes yesterday.  We stayed up till 12:45 one night watching American Sniper – me for the first time, and then, last night, ordered room service for dinner and went to bed by 9.

It’s been perfect and we really hope that others in our life are able to receive this kind of revitalization!

Another post will follow this one once I get the professional pictures.  I’ll also share a bit more about the Foundation and the good it has done in the past.  For now, I’m going to go relax a little bit before we check out and head to the last part of our adventure… Urban Adventure Quest and Hard Rock Cafe!

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