Our Fave Homeschool Resources!

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

I get questions daily about what we do and love for homeschool. Sharing our experiences is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. If you've spent any amount of time with me, you know I'm obsessed with homeschool life, so it's such a joy for me to share snippets of that with other families interested in doing life this way!

Hands down, the most overwhelming challenge for new homeschoolers is figuring out what curriculum to use. I get asked OFTEN about the resources we use in our home, so I decided to compile this year's resources here!

Disclaimer: our homeschool needs and structure are ever-changing. I adapt DAILY to our schedule, the kids' interests, and what I think is a priority for our home and their education. Being able to tailor their educational experience to their exact needs is magical (I could write a whole post about that). So don't be afraid to ditch what's not working, follow your kids' lead, and do what you know is best for them!

How do I know what to teach?

The short version: I prioritize reading, math, and cc memory work. Everything else is based on what's interesting & meaningful to our family. My philosophy of education is that it doesn't entirely matter WHAT they learn, but that they know HOW to learn, and that they ENJOY doing so. We simply follow our interests and explore together! The goal is to inspire life-long learners!

This list is a brain-dump of resources we've dabbled in this year. Some we've used consistently and some for only short spurts (and I'm sure some are missing entirely). We definitely don't use all of these every day (or even every week!). I'll have to share separately on how I narrow down and plan each week!

For reference: Beckett is 9 (3rd grade) and Charlie is 7 (1st grade). Both kids generally work above grade level in their subjects. 


Classical Conversations

Classical Conversations (CC) serves as the spine of our homeschool journey. This is the program that will provide the bulk of their middle and high school education. My kids use their memory work app daily. We attend community days (co-op) once a week, and field trip together about once per month. 

St. Louis Homeschool Network

SLHN is an additional co-op we participate in. We don't attend their regular (twice monthly) in-person classes because I didn't want another consistent obligation, but we sign up for a lot of their online classes, field trips, and one-day workshops. We appreciate the diversity and class variety this group offers! 


We have used a variety of resources for math, and have worked hard to find a program that Beckett is passionate about. I cannot express enough how grateful we are for the option to ditch a curriculum or program that does not fit his learning style and preferences. After several tries, we've found a combination he loves! 

  • Beast Academy: Beast serves as our primary math curriculum for both kids. It is targeted at math-minded kiddos who excel in the subject. It is ideal for confident readers, but can work for struggling or non-readers if the parent is willing and able to always work with them. The text book is graphic novel style, the videos are fantastic, and the practice set-up is phenomenal. We HIGHLY recommend this program. We use Beast 4-5 days per week. 
  • Math Seeds: Because we have a subscription to Reading Eggs, we try to make use of their Math Seeds program. This was Charlie's primary math program last year. She still uses this when she needs a break from Beast. Both kids use the Mental Minute feature a couple times per week for regular practice with math facts.
  • Math Workbooks: Because the bulk of their schoolwork is done on screens, I try to incorporate breaks for their eyes and brains, and give them a chance to work those motor skills. I like these workbooks from Usborne for basic math practice because they are colorful and fun, but thorough! We use these 2-3 days per week.
  • Prodigy: Prodigy is a fun, video-game like math website. My kid LOVE this. We generally only use it for extra, fun practice and is rarely assigned during the week, but it is a great little review game if your kids are wanting some screen time and you'd prefer it be educational!
  • Math Board Games: We have a variety of math board games, mostly from Simply Fun, that we incorporate when we can! Beckett's current favorite is Sumology and Charlie likes Hook' Em.
  • Classical Conversations has a math strand with memory work they practice every day. We are so grateful for this memory work, as it has given the kids a phenomenal base for math skills! Even if you don't join CC, find yourself some skip counting songs! 


We tried using The Good and The Beautiful with both kids. I love their curricula! However, we really struggle with consistency when Mom has to facilitate every part of the day, so curriculum options that can be done relatively independently are so much more successful in this house! Don't be fooled... "independent" is still a lot of hands-on for mom, but it creates a lot more freedom to multitask (between two kids, housework, my own work, etc) than if I were also serving as primary instructor. 

  • Reading Eggs: both kids use Reading Eggs as their primary curriculum. I don't think it's as thorough as others out there, but it covers all of the basics (spelling, grammar, dictionary, comprehension, etc). Because my kids are voracious and confident readers, and because they'll get intense grammar & writing training through CC, I feel like this is enough practice for them right now. We use this 4-5 days per week.
  • Books! This really should be at the top of the list. We. love. books. And we encourage lots and lots of reading. I rarely assign specific books to my kids, but sometimes I guide them. I keep a wall of books in our loft that are chosen to support topics we're studying, we have a full library, and both kids keep a plethora of books in their rooms. We read aloud as a family, and love audiobooks as well. Raising readers is a GAME CHANGER. If you do nothing else as a homeschool parent, figure out how to inspire a love of books in your home, and they'll be off to a strong start!


  • Classical Conversations has weekly memory work for geography. Eventually, they'll be able to draw the entire world to scale and label all of the countries, major landforms, bodies of water, etc.
  • Seterra: this is an app we've found relatively recently and is a total game changer. It's free, very thorough, and the kids love it! I assign them one continent or region at a time and they practice for about 5-7 minutes per day. 
  • SLHN: Beckett is taking an online 50 States class through SLHN this year! 


  • Classical Conversations has two strands of history memory work. They memorize one history sentence per week about an important fact, event, person, etc. (There are three cycles of memory work, then they repeat). They also memorize a 161-point timeline of history + all of the presidents in chronological order. (This part repeats every year). As they get older (next year for Beckett), they'll dig deeper into the history with history-based writing assignments, then speeches, etc. 
  • The Good and the Beautiful: I LOVE the way TGATB history is set up. If we had more time and space in our days, we would be using this curriculum! We have dabbled in it, but struggle with consistency, so have set it aside it for now. However, if you're looking for a beautiful open-and-go curriculum, start here! 
  • Picture Books: Books.. books... more books! We love learning history through picture books. Each year, I do a massive haul from Thriftbooks to help create a wall of beautiful and diverse history books that align with their memory work or whatever we're interested in. I recommend checking out Read-Aloud Revival, The Heritage Mom, and Beautiful Feet Books for ideas of quality books to support your studies. 
  • Audiobooks: Audiobooks are such a fantastic way to get in rich literature on the go. Our family has gone through phases of being really intentional with audiobooks, and forgetting about them altogether. They're great for in the car, while you're doing art/puzzles/lego/chores, or listening to at bedtime!
  • Story of the World: this is another one we only turn on occasionally, but LOVE when we use it! Our family ONLY uses the audiobook version, and my kids love it! I've heard good reviews from other family who use the hard copy and do the activities, but I like the simplicity of just hearing the audio, jam-packed with great history to devour. 
  • Outschool: Outschool is a fantastic resource with a plethora of fantastic classes. My kids have taken so many. Currently, Beckett is taking a history book club, using the Who Was books. If you're checking it out for the first time, use this link for $20 off your first class!
  • Videos, shows, podcasts, and documentaries galore: we have a variety of resources we love for videos & podcasts. We use Brainpop, Curiosity Stream, TedEd, Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, Amazon, etc for videos. We use Apple's Podcast apps for podcasts, but specifically love Real Cool History. There are SO MANY incredible resources out there, you'll have so much fun searching around & seeing what you can find!


For science, I used to attempt to study whatever aligned with what we were doing in CC. This year, I decided to let Beckett choose the area(s) of study based on his current interests, and it's been the best decision I've ever made! He chose Chemistry and Coding, with a splash of Engineering. 

  • Classical Conversations has weekly science memory work. It will get more in depth as they get older. They also do a science experiment every week on Community Day.
  • The Good and the Beautiful: again, we love TGATB. I particularly love this curriculum because it reinforces that God and Science are not mutually exclusive (in addition to being beautiful and thorough!). This year, we're working through Chemistry. We are working SLOWLY through this curriculum, and doing a lot of fun supplemental chem activities in between. The goal is to do one lesson per week, but it's turned out to be closer to once every other week, if that.
  • Supplemental Goodies: Whenever I do a science unit, I compile a list of resources to enhance that unit. This is the example for Chemistry! Keep in mind that many of these books and tools have been gathered and gifted over years and not purchased all at once! (In the book list, Disappearing Spoon is our current audiobook!). 
  • Outschool: Beckett has taken multiple science classes through Outschool. Currently he is taking both a Minecraft Coding and a Chemistry in Minecraft class. 
  • Lego Engineering Clubs: for the first year, the kids participated in First Lego League. It was a great experience! Beckett has also just joined a Bricks 4 Kidz after school club at one of our local schools!
  • Grab Bag Checklists: This year, I decided to try something new with our sciences. Because we have collected so many neat resources over the years, and because it's difficult (and too calculated) to try to intentionally schedule them each into our days, I created these grab bag checklists. They have each of the cool resources we have on hand and that are appropriate ways for Beckett to learn and explore his subjects. When I'm planning out our week, I plug "Chemistry Grab Bag" or "Coding Grab Bag" into his days wherever they fit. Then when those times come around, he can choose whichever activity he's interested in. This gives him the freedom of choice, and relieves me of the decision-making!


I have gone back and forth on whether or not to do supplemental Latin work at home with my kids. They LOVE doing it, and I'm very excited for them to learn Latin. But it's one more thing to fit into a schedule (and I am committed to not over-scheduling!). Because I know the kids will get a thorough Latin education in their later years in CC, we have been extremely lax with our Latin studies this year, but we hop back in whenever we have time and energy!

  • Classical Conversations has weekly Latin memory work. The kids do this daily. When they get to middle school, it'll get significantly more in depth. 
  • Song School Latin is adorable and my kids loooove it. 
  • DuoLingo is free and Beckett really enjoys it. Plus it's completely independent!
  • SLHN offered an online Latin class that Beckett took this past fall!

Grammar & Writing

  • Classical Conversations has weekly memory work for English/Grammar. They do this daily.
  • Reading Eggs covers some grammar. 
  • Fix It Grammar: Because Beckett will use IEW next year in Essentials (CC), I decided to give him a jumpstart on his grammar skills using Fix It. We have been SO HAPPY with this curriculum. It's relatively quick and easy each day, but thorough! He does this 4 days per week, unless we are traveling. 
  • Writing Workbook: Charlie is still working on handwriting skills, so I chose this adorable writing workbook just because it's cute and I knew she'd love it. We call it "unicorn writing" and she does it 4-5 days per week, unless we're traveling. 
  • Typing.com: because Beckett has always had an aversion to hand writing (and most fine motor skills), we've tried to be intentional about introducing him to typing. He uses typing.com for practice. The goal has been to do it about 3 times per week, but I've recently cut it from his schedule and decided to make it a part of his daily morning routine this coming summer.
  • Night Zookeeper: at the beginning of the year, we were really consistent with this, but have taken a step back. The kids really enjoyed it, but I decided narrative writing wasn't a priority right now (it's in their long term plan) so it hasn't been something we've chosen to continue with on a regular basis. Charlie writes stories for fun all the time, which I much prefer over facilitated writing anyway!


I've tossed back and forth with what I want to do for Bible with my kids. So far, I've decided not to do a structured curriculum. I want them to know the Bible thoroughly, but it's important to me that it's not presented as an item on a to do list, or as part of a list of assignments. Here's what we're currently using in our home. 

  • Genesis Song: For CC this year, we are memorizing the first chapter of Genesis. This is the song we are using. 
  • Spiral Bible: Charlie has this, and it's so beautiful. It has been a great way to review stories and let her dabble in note taking in her Bible. She does it when she feels like it, not as part of an assignment.
  • I Am Bible Story Book and I AM Devotional Book: These are so neat. These are the books that Mom is attempting to work through with the kiddos. There are 40 Bible stories in the Bible story book, and then several devotions in the second book to go along with each story/name. I love the formatting. Admittedly, I have struggled with consistency on this, but the goal is to do a story OR devotion each morning. 
  • Action Bible: This has been the best investment for us. Beckett loves graphic novels, and loves the Bible. This combo is genius. He reads this all. the. time. I've never had to assign it, it's just come naturally. He's read all the way through (over 800 pages) once already and is almost half way through a second time. I love this thing so dang much!
  • Nighttime Devotionals: Brian is really fantastic at being consistent with the kids' nighttime devotionals. They each have their own he does with them individually. Charlie is working through this for the second time through. Beckett is working through this for the second time through.

We can't forget the electives and extracurriculars!!
  • Beckett plays sports through the local Catholic league. He's made buddies with the third grade boys at the local Catholic school and has played soccer and basketball with them so far this year. He starts baseball with the same boys this month! (As a homeschool family, you also often have the option of playing sports with - and receiving therapy/services from - the public school you are zoned for.)
  • Charlie has played with the same (county/rec) soccer team for 4 years now. They will be moving to a club together in the fall. This year, they also played basketball together though a local church (similar to Upward). 
  • Charlie does gymnastics and Beckett does Ninja Warrior at the same gymnastics gym.
  • Beckett takes an online Chess class that was set up through SLHN. 
  • Charlie takes an art class on Outschool. (This is extra fun because her cousins in Dallas are in the same class!)
  • Beckett takes piano with an awesome teacher who comes to our house every week (we got so lucky with her!). 

And that's a wrap!! I know this list is loooonnnggg. We like variety! But if you're just starting off, my biggest piece of advice is to KEEP IT SIMPLE (trust me: easier said than done). 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions! Send them my way anytime!

Christmas Letter 2022

Monday, November 28, 2022

Merry Christmas, sweet Friends & Family! I'm so glad you found your way to our little corner of the Internet. This is the space where I've tried to maintain a record of life and memories. It's not quite as nostalgic as old fashioned scrapbooks and journals, and there are definitely major gaps (consistency is not one of my spiritual gifts), but we sure do love looking back on the memories we've managed to document here!

This year has been yet another full of adventure. Neither Brian or I seem to be able to sit still too long, but both in our own way. Brian is always challenging our family to grow in some area or another; and I'm always saying yes to invitations and adventures (although I'm a total homebody in between)! Between the two of us, we keep our crew living our best lives - and I wouldn't have it any other way! 

Here's the rundown of life updates! 

B U C K   A N D   C H U C K

You all know that these two mini humans are the best thing that have ever happened to us, and they only get more amazing with age. The independence of older kiddos, combined with very sweet and fun personalities, is making parenting these two so dang fun. Of course, there are PLENTY of challenges, but we're grateful that each year with them is our new favorite ever. 

Recently, I was completing a writing assignment/journal entry for my therapist (more on that later!) on my personal parent goals and I was so grateful to reflect on what I wrote, and how intentional we've been about striving to meet those goals, that I wanted to share an exerpt here. I share mostly so that I remember, but also in case it inspires or encourages any family and friends to reflect on how you're meeting your own parenting goals. In writing this, I realized that many of the things I stress about on a daily basis are not worth my anxiety, and that the things that matter really have remained a priority in our home. 

I know that I want to have strong relationships with my kids. I want to hear their hearts and for them to KNOW they're heard. That what they think is important to me, and that I'm always on their side (even if that means correcting them because I want what's best for them).

I want them to feel confident. To grow up in a home that empowers and encourages them to be their best selves, and to not feel the need to compare themselves against anyone else. To know they are amazing and celebrated just the way they are.

I want their childhood to be full of play and adventure. I want it to be CALM and peaceful. Gentle and slow.

I want them to know and love Jesus. I want them to know their parents know and love Jesus.

I want them to see a healthy marriage. To know without a doubt that their parents are absolutely best friends and ridiculously infatuated with each other. 


We're on our fourth official year of homeschooling and we fall more in love every year. We can't imagine another way of doing life. The kids and I have fallen into routines that work well for our family. We have so much flexibility in our days, and are able to spend a lot of time living a life we've dreamed of for them, and striving to meet those goals I wrote about.

As I write this, Charlie is laying next to me in her Christmas pajamas, working through her reading lesson. She interrupts me as needed, but is able to work mostly on her own (thankful for awesome technology!). Beckett is upstairs, reading another book instead of knocking out his grammar lesson. This is an ongoing battle in our house, and one that I'm not even a little bit sad about. The amount this kid has learned from just constantly reading is AMAZING, and the fact that he has the time and freedom to just devour as many books as he'd like makes me weepy with gratitude. 

Beckett has always been our quiet, logical, smarty pants kid. As he gets older, he's finding his goofy boy side, which is equally entertaining and challenging at times! He's confident, kind, and genuinely LOVES his family deeply. He gets his servant heart, ability to have a conversation with ANYONE, analytical thinking, curiosity, bravery, and his light & carefree demeanor all from his awesome dad. 

From mom, he gets a love of books and a nice tan... to which I say YOU'RE WELCOME. ;) 

One of my favorite things about this kid is that he is always willing to try new things. This year, he's dabbled in tae kwon do, soccer, ninja warrior, tennis, chess, coding, Latin, piano, and engineering; among other things. He says that of this list, his top favorites are ninja warrior, tennis, and coding. He's decided that soccer, on the other hand, is not for him and doesn't plan to play another season. His parents totally support this choice (no offense, kid). His energy on the field definitely doesn't match his enthusiasm in other areas of his life, so we're moving on!

This year, I thought it would be fun to interview each family member with the same list of questions. Here's Beckett's interview!

What was your favorite part of this year? Getting to see Connor again

What is the thing you’re most grateful for this year? Family 

What is one prayer you have for the Christmas season? That nobody gets hurt. 

Who is your best friend? Brady Holke 

What is your favorite place we’ve traveled to this year? California, because we got to meet Orleatha and I got a new friend (Orleatha’s neighbor).

What is the hardest thing you’ve accomplished this year? It was kind of tricky to finish some of my piano books. I’ve finished two new piano books since winter!

What is your current favorite hobby or pastime? Either reading books or playing video games. Reading books is my happy place. If I get angry or something, I can just go up to my room, read for a little bit, and I won’t be very mad anymore after like half an hour. 

What is your favorite part of your day every day? Hanging out with mom.

My favorite thing about Charlie is her intense creativity and imagination! She is just a ball of joy, and she has the absolute best giggles. She loves all things girlie: unicorns, rainbows, baby dolls, crafts, pink, glitter, the cheesiest girlie music. She is my mini me in so many ways. She's extra, ya'll. She knows how to get what she wants. She loooves lists and itineraries. She's extremely cautious, doesn't like change, and is overwhelmed by too many people. On the other hand, she's incredibly affectionate and thoughtful, and she feels deeply. She's amazing. In more ways than anyone reading this could ever know. She's most herself at home or in small groups of people she's very comfortable around, so very few people get the true treat of REALLY seeing this girl shine. I'm so grateful to be in her inner circle. 

Charlie is a creature of habit and NOT interested in lots of variety and change, so she's been consistent in her hobbies and preferences. She spends a LOT of time with her dolls, putting that incredible imagination to good use. Most of the time, you'll find her in a fully-immersed conversation with a baby doll, LOL doll, Barbie, or Lego Minifigure. She also still plays soccer with her Ladybugs - who have now been together almost HALF of her life - and she still does gymnastics every week. She LOVES both. We've consistently offered new opportunities, but she knows what she likes! This year, we have convinced her to give basketball a try, but she's extremely apprehensive. She'll be playing with a team of primarily Ladybugs (her soccer team), so hopefully she enjoys her experience! Only time will tell. 

Here's Charlie's interview!

What was your favorite part of this year? Our trip to California, because we got to go to Legoland and Disneyland.

What is the thing you’re most grateful for this year? My Home

What is one prayer you have for the Christmas season? That nobody gets hurt

Who is your best friend? I don’t have a best friend. There’s too many people that I like!

What is your favorite place we’ve traveled to this year? Disneyland

What is the hardest thing you’ve accomplished this year? There’s a lot of things that I’ve accomplished this year that have been super hard, because I’m scared of a lot of things! 

What is your current favorite hobby or pastime? Playing with Avaya

What is your favorite part of your day every day? Playing with my dolls, because I basically play with my dolls every day. I’m counting Legos [MiniFigs] as dolls. 


When I think about attempting to summarize the work part of our life, I chuckle a little bit. Brian keeps the business side of things ever-changing and always interesting. He's so full of energy and so incredibly brave that I cannot at all comprehend how he musters it all, but boy am I grateful he chose me as his partner in life and adventure. It's been an epic ride. 

This season, we're finally wrapping up an extremely long and trying time with some drama we've had to navigate (lawyers and lawsuits and liars, oh my!). It's been very hard and very frustrating, but Brian has managed to continue to lead our family and teams with grace, integrity, and the most amazing calming presence. He's a unicorn, I swear. 

This picture is one of my favorites ever. He sent it to me after depositions one day. I love it because he RARELY lets on to how much pressure he carries, and then when he chooses to share (notice the sweat), it's in a light and funny way (whereas I would definitely be crying and complaining and whining about how unfair it all is).

But there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel, so please pray for our family as we finally walk away from a season of poopity poop poop. 

In other news: It's now been seven years since he launched All American Calendars (now Law Enforcement Services) and it's still going great. We're so thankful for the most amazing team who we love deeply. This year, we finally signed the papers to acquire (buy) a similar company from a sweet friend who is looking to retire. This is such an exciting development as we continue to grow the company we love. Brian has worked so hard to expand his relationship and opportunities to serve our Law Enforcement well. It's a very cool industry to be a part of, and we're super grateful for our tiny part in serving. 

We also just celebrated four years with the real estate company that we share with my brother. Brian and DJ have had a few entertaining years of trial and error as they figure out what in the world it looks like to grow a successful portfolio, but they've been brave, hard working, and willing to learn. Again - so dang impressive! I'm simultaneously jealous of and inspired by their willingness to take risks and try [what I think are] TERRIFYING things. But here we are: with 21 additional rental properties in the last two years, and now they're letting Brittany and me work on our first (and maybe last? lol) house flip!

And if all that weren't enough, Brian had a new idea and dream... so we've got a brand new adventure headed your way in 2023! We bought a building! And a web domain! We have lawyers! And supplies! This one's exciting, guys.

Want to follow along? Find us on Instagram HERE or Facebook HERE

Way more on that later. 

Here's Brian's Interview! 

What was your favorite part of this year? Going to the Akers’ Lakehouse.

What is the thing you’re most grateful for this year? Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the lawsuit. 

What is one prayer you have for the Christmas season? That we get some answers for Baby Ben.

Who is your best friend? Josh Frey.

What is your favorite place we’ve traveled to this year? Niagara Falls

What is the hardest thing you’ve accomplished this year? Resisting the urge to hire an assassin. 

What is your current favorite hobby or pastime? Dreaming about my new business.

What is your favorite part of your day every day? Devos with the kids at night.


Anyone who knows us at all knows how much of a priority travel is in our lives. It's a major reason we homeschool, a huge part of our annual budget, and something we spend a giant chunk of our time planning and executing. We LOVE being on the go (which is funny, cuz we also LOVE being at home!). 

The amazing part is that I generally only initiate a couple of trips per year. The rest of it happens because a friend or family member invites us to join them on an adventure, and we try REALLY hard to always say yes! We want our life to be filled with adventures with the people we love. And we are OVERWHELMINGLY grateful for the flexibility and resources to make it happen. 

This year, we made it to California, Texas, Niagara Falls (on both the US and Canadian sides), Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia. We did a couple of local trips here in Missouri, camped at a couple of places in Illinois, visited 3 theme parks, 3 National Parks, and lots of cool state parks. We visited tons of friends and family, took about a billion pictures, and made LOTS of memories

Our people mean so much to us. And even though there's never enough time to spend with ALL of the people we love so much, we're endlessly grateful for the opportunities we do have! 

And now it's time for MY interview! 

What was your favorite part of this year? Watching the weight come off of Brian’s shoulders as the court drama started to look up. There was a noticeable physical change in his demeanor, and it’s the most satisfying and liberating thing I’ve ever experienced.  
What is the thing you’re most grateful for this year? Other than my previous answer? I’m grateful for the army of amazing people God has put in my life. Go listen to the song Rescue by Lauren Daigle to hear the theme song for my journey.  
What is one prayer you have for the Christmas season? That our families can spend time truly enjoying each other, with as little stress over unimportant things as possible. I pray we can really focus on the Reason for the season. 
Who is your best friend? Brian (although I considered changing my answer after he said Josh... He’s the worst husband I’ve ever had...)

What is your favorite place we’ve traveled to this year? Niagara Falls

What is the hardest thing you’ve accomplished this year? Taking steps to overcome mental and emotional crap, including attending a RUQ conference and getting back into therapy.  

M E R R Y  C H R I S T M A S 

And that's a wrap!! You made it to the end of the the longest Christmas letter ever! We hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into our family, and that your holiday season is filled with time spent with the people you love most! 

UTAH is our new JAM | Our Ten Year Anniversary Trip

Monday, May 31, 2021

Ten years ago, when we got married, Brian planned an epic surprise honeymoon. He did all of the legwork and I had no clue where we were going until we reached our layover in Miami. He presented me with a travel guide (my love language) and I got to open it up to reveal our destination. It was dreamy, and still one of our favorite memories. 

Our Honeymoon in Antigua | June 2011

We love traveling and are committed to travel together, without kids, every year for our anniversary. We've had to get creative and make some compromises over the years, but we've mostly made it happen - and it's been the best thing ever for our relationship. Getting away, adventuring together, having alone time to be just us - it's a game changer. And something we are ALWAYS indescribably grateful for. 

Antigua | Alaska | Colorado | San Francisco | Wisconsin | Ireland | Paris | Cayman Islands | Belgium

Fun Fact: In our ten years together, we've managed to adventure through 15 countries and 25 states! We travel both with and without the kids, and it's definitely a huge part of our lives together (and a major reason we love homeschooling).

We've been talking about our ten year anniversary for years. We knew we wanted it to be an epic new location, and Brian planned to keep this trip a surprise again! We were both stoked. He planned an international, multi-country trip all by himself.  

And then that pesky global pandemic shut everything down (again), and we had to go to Plan B. (womp womp)

One of our many life goals is to visit all fifty states, so he suggested we pick a state we hadn't visited yet and make it happen. Again, he planned the whole trip as a surprise and I had no clue where we were going. 

After all of the work of planning the previous trip, and it being cancelled, Brian was very concerned about this trip. He was a bit disappointed and worried that it wouldn't be magical enough. Turns out, he was hecka wrong. 


Day One | Busting Out

  • Early Morning Flight
  • Picked up the Jeep
  • Visit to the Capitol + Memorial Grove Park
  • Dinner at Lake Effect

It had been two and a half years since we traveled without kids, so we were BEYOND giddy as we loaded up and headed to the airport. The epic feeling of calm and freedom knowing you ONLY have to worry about fun and relaxing is the BEST in the world. It's worth all of the planning and preparation a good vacation requires. Seriously. Go do it. 

We picked up the Jeep (our vacation car of choice), dropped our stuff at the hotel, and headed straight out to take in the sights. First up was Capitol Hill. We walked around, took in the beautiful architecture, people watched, and swooned over the mountain views. 

From there, we walked down to the Memorial Grove Park. This is a super neat area, because the city's war memorials are incorporated right into a beautiful, lively park. Our tour guide later pointed out how other memorials (like in Washington DC) are somber and quiet, but how this one encourages life to be lived, which is exactly what our soldiers sacrificed their lives for. It was a neat way of looking at it.

We finished our night off at Lake Effect - a super duper adorable and swanky bar right by our hotel. Our car rental gal had raved about it, and we were stoked to find out it was next door. Turns out it was the place to be, and most people make reservations or wait a while. ALSO turns out most people get dressed up to go, so I was only SLIGHTLY (or a lot) out of place in my yogas and tennis shoes. 

But we had a blast anyway, and the drinks were so stinkin' yummy. It was a great first night of vacay!

Day Two | The Great Salt Lake

  • Antelope Island State Park
  • Red Rock Brewing Company
  • Salt Lake City Library

On our first full day, we slept in (duh) and then decided to head out to Antelope Island State Park. We had read it was the place to see The Great Salt Lake, and man, it did not disappoint. Today would be a lot of driving, so we took the top off the jeep (hey, vacay!), grabbed some coffee, and were OFF! 

Antelope Island is so beautiful. It was quiet and serene, and luckily we had perfect weather. We took a short hike, spent some time just taking in the views, saw some fun little critters and hundreds of bison! We read about the history and stories of the island, and were just in awe by all of our surroundings. We knew we were going to LOVE Utah, and any concerns about this trip being "less than" our big international trip were totally put to rest. 

We headed back into the city and made our first of TWO stops at Red Rock Brewery. Ya'll this place was HECKA delicious. I ordered the Sweet Potato Cannelloni with a Paardebloom Beer, and I knew I'd be back for more of both.

After dinner, we decided to make a stop at the Salt Lake City Library. I love ANY room or building full of books, but this place was definitely one of the most beautiful libraries I had ever seen. If we weren't exhausted, and if I had been allowed to actually take books home, we would have been in trouble in that place. 

Day Three | Tenth Anniversary Done Right
  • Hot Air Balloon
  • Breakfast at Five Seeds
  • Big Cottonwood Canyon
  • Lunch at Current Fish & Oyster
  • Nap
  • Salt Lake Bees Baseball Game

Brian kept today's main activity a surprise as his gift for our tenth anniversary. We got up way too early in the morning (hello, 4am) and I had no clue how to dress. He just said comfy but cute, and pretty cold, but no too cold, and possibly windy but he wasn't sure... 


Anyway, we made the drive out to Park City and I was THRILLED to find out we were headed to embark on a hot air balloon ride. (Side note: I had totally guessed this and he told me I was wrong, and I BELIEVED him. You'd think I would learn by now.)

We had a quick,  disappointing hang-up when our balloon guy CANCELLED our trip due to wind, but quickly recovered when Brian just asked another guy at the same launch site if he'd take us up with him. Only as I type this am I realizing we just hopped in Hot Air Balloon with a guy we knew nothing about. 

Don't worry. We survived. 

It was extremely interesting to learn how the balloon was prepped for flight. They literally just used a fan to get the balloon started. Brian got to help prep the balloon, while I just took it all in. How. completely. amazing. 

Fun Fact: Brian is terrified of heights. For me, the ride was surprisingly peaceful and totally gorgeous. Brian had a blast too, but describes his feet as clenching the floor for dear life. His stomach flipped out every time I reached over the edge for a picture, and I was totally entertained! 

After our epic adventure, we headed to a local place for the yummiest breakfast EVER. We had vegetarian Eggs Benedict, the prettiest and most delicious pancake you've ever seen in your life, and couple of hecka yummy chai lattes. 

We spent an hour or so walking the cute little downtown of Park City, bought some tees for a very necessary wardrobe change (it got hot quickly!) and then headed toward Big Cottonwood Canyon for more gorgeous driving. I cannot emphasize enough how perfect it was to have a Jeep on this trip. If you're planning to take in these sites, make sure you can take the top off! 

After the Canyon, we checked Trip Advisor (our travel app of choice) to see where we should eat next. Current was at the top of the list, so we made reservations and headed that way. We were thrilled to see that Open Table had notified the restaurant of our anniversary and they had special little menus for us! It's the little things that make the experience that much more special! 

I think we sat outside for every meal of the entire trip, but this was one of my favorite settings. It was cool and beautiful, and had a very swanky vibe (again, in my yogas!). We ordered a couple of very refreshing sour beers, crab cakes (our fave!), fish tacos, and the best freaking tuna melt you've ever had. You need one in your life. 

This is also where our waitress told us we looked too young to have been married ten years. That sweet girl made my day!

After a quick nap (cuz we're old and we got up at 4am), we donned our yellow and headed off to a Bees Baseball Game! I had read that the stadium was worth experiencing, and the reviews were not wrong. It's a small stadium, so there's not a bad seat in the house, and the mountains provide the most stunning background to the game. Our seat was shaded, the beers were delish, and it was the perfect relaxing end to a phenomenal day. Also: Bees were my high school mascot, so I was feeling extra giddy about donning my new Bees visor. They are officially my new (also first) favorite baseball team. 

Day Four | I'm Never Coming Home
  • History Tour via Segway
  • Red Rock Brewery (again)
  • Bonneville Salt Flats
  • A Little Off-Roading
  • Street Art Festival 

I used to think city tours would be lame. I'm not sure why I was so dumb, but we realized a while back how totally amazing it is to let someone who knows what they're talking about teach you the history and culture of the place you're visiting. If you haven't started looking for local tours when you travel, I highly recommend it. We chose a Segway tour because we didn't want to be inside on a bus (a waste of beautiful weather) and I worry about long bike tours and my butt hurting by the end (funny, but true!). Plus Segways are so fun!

We learned about the Mormon pioneers of the city, how and why it was founded, and that the Mormon church still owns a large part of Salt Lake City. We learned about the Mormon religion, had lots of questions answered, and got to see some beautiful historic sites representing their history and culture. 

On the right: Brigham Young's House

After the tour, we hit up Red Rock Brewery... again. I can't help it, ya'll. It was just the most delish food ever. This time we ordered the same beer and sweet potato cannelloni, but also added sweet potato fries and avocado toast to the table. The avocado toast was so. freaking. amazing. that we ordered a second round of it and screenshot the menu to try and recreate it at home!

And then it was time. 

Even after several days of breathtaking experiences, I need you to know that this next one took the cake. And it almost didn't happen. Brian had written off the salt flats because he thought they were further away. But we mapped it and decided that the 3 hour round trip was totally worth making, especially since we both love the ride and we've got nothing better to do! So we created a makeshift cooler, loaded up some beer, and headed out!

Here's what you need to know about the salt flats: 

A salt crust ranging from a few inches to 5 feet thick forms a perfectly flat, uniform, blindingly white crust as far as the eye can see. The flats are about 12 miles long and five miles wide, covering about 46 square miles in total. Visitors from all around the world have traveled to see this pristine, otherworldly landscape about an hour and half west of Salt Lake City. 

Aside from the beautiful views, the salt flats are an international hub for car racing. Several speed records have been set at the flats, including the one-time land-speed record of 630 mph, established in 1970 and standing until 1983.

We drove out until there wasn't another person in sight. And then we just hung out. We talked, enjoyed the quiet, snapped a bunch of photos, and swooned over the beautiful salt and mountains. We sat on top of the jeep and just enjoyed the moment.

Once we were done sitting, it was time for some driving. This is the part Brian was most looking forward to, because you are allowed to drive as FAST as your car will take you while out on the flats. Our Jeep topped out at 110mph, which was plenty fast enough for me!

Once he finished doing that a couple of times, he entertained himself (ok, me too) by putting the Jeep on cruise control (at a safe 10mph) and surfing on top. He was giddy, ya'll. Living his BEST LIFE. Definitely one of my favorite moments with him, not only because it was hecka fun, but also because this guy DESERVES to let loose. And it's a treat to watch.


We didn't want to leave, but knew we'd be starving and burnt to a crisp if we didn't get out of there, so we finally decided to mosey on back toward the city. On the way back, we happened upon some off-road trails, and couldn't help but explore. 

That night, we finally got dressed in something other than outdoorsy clothes (I wore a dress!), and then we didn't take a single picture! We spent the evening on Main Street grabbing food, taking in street performers for a festival that was happening, and just enjoying our last night in Salt Lake City.

Day Five | Making the Most of It
  • Fly Fishing
  • Flights Home

Day five was our last day and we were not ready to give up on the adventures, so we decided to make it another early morning and book a fly fishing excursion before our afternoon flights. Neither of us fish much, nor had we ever been fly fishing, but someone we'd met had mentioned it and it just sounded like an experience worth having.

I am SO glad we chose to get up early and make this trip work. The photos don't even begin to do justice to the gorgeous surroundings, and the peace and calm of being in the river. It was just so quiet, and so stunningly beautiful. We each caught several fish, and were just giddy with the experience, minus the freezing cold toes. :) 

Even though this isn't the trip we were expecting for our ten year, it turned out to be everything we could have ever wanted in an anniversary adventure. What a treat to get away to such a gorgeous place and just enjoy each other and a new place. 

Here's to ten more years of adventuring together! 

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