Our Sweetest Tradition

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Last year, we started a new family tradition of baking cookies together and delivering them to our neighbors. It was Brian's idea. Personally, I do NOT enjoy baking, and the thought of engaging in small talk makes me physically sick (this is not an exaggeration). However, this magical tradition has quickly become my ultimate favorite.

This year, I'm behind on everything (it's become a pattern). All of the things I thought I'd facilitate to make the season more magical and memorable are not actually happening. So I'm so glad we carved out a few hours (even past kiddo bedtimes) to spend some intentional and relaxed time together, doing something sweet for others.

The whole baking experience was a huge improvement from last year. I still depended heavily on break and bake (take it or leave it, neighbors), but the kids are at an age where they are actually independent and helpful, there were no tears, and their little personalities are so fun to interact with.

At one point I had to run out to the store and when I came home, I just melted at the scene through the window. The trees are decorated and lighting up the house, everyone was donning their Christmas jammies and aprons, and Brian and the kids were gathered around laughing and goofing off as they arranged cookies together. I could have just stared through that window for ages. (Do I sound like a Lonestar song?)

Later in the evening, Charlie got uncharacteristically sentimental when she very sincerely told Brian and me that we were the best family ever, and then proceeded to pull us in under each one of her little arms as she announced, "group hug!" I hope that moment sticks with me forever.

Today, we got to deliver the cookies together. I had less of a say in what the kids wore this year, so they don't look as magazine-worthy, but hey! The cookies are delivered and the neighbors were all so surprised and grateful. You win some, you lose some!

Charlie was MUCH more outgoing this year. Last year, she barely wanted to walk to the doors and refused to say anything to the neighbors as they tried to interact with her. This year, she was ready to put on a show with her best cheesy ridiculousness and wish everyone a Merry Wistmas! Beckett, on the other hand, has never really been shy and is always ready to answer questions or strike up a conversation. He's his father's child in this way.

The other Christmas tradition-y things on my list may or may not get done this year, but that's ok! I hope we make this one a priority for years and years to come! Do you think I'll be able to convince them to crawl into that power wheel and ride around the neighborhood when they're teenagers?

We Loved You Too, 2019

Sunday, December 1, 2019

After several years that seemed to be teeming with chaos, we're thrilled to have had a couple of years of just plain enjoyable calm. I keep waiting for something crazy to happen, and honestly sometimes we get fidgety and consider creating our own chaos. Another kid? Foster care? Something else to shake things up? But this year a sweet mom reminded me that it's ok to just enjoy the (relative) calm. And so that's what we've done.  Life is good, and we're grateful to be looking back on a fantastic 2019.

Today we put our Christmas cards in the mail, so I figured it's time for another rundown of the year. I spent some time looking back at last year's review and really, not a ton has changed - and we're ok with that!

B U C K   &  C H U C K

Oh, where do I start?! These two kids are our favorite people on the planet, and we are absolutely obsessed. Is that normal? Doesn't matter. We're sticking with it. We LOVE doing life together with these two mini-humans!

Because of the chaos of our lives, and because our family unit is a top priority, we have chosen to homeschool. We don't know if that will be the case forever, but for now, it's allowing us to do life together in a way we love! We have curricula we use, but a large majority of our "school" is just adventuring together and learning as we go (plus reading a whoooole lot of books)! We have created a culture of learning in our family and the results are phenomenal already. It is such a liberating and fun approach to education, and I'm still mind-blown that we get to do life this way!

We are part of a (Classical Conversations) homeschool community that meets weekly for a more structured & formal education setting, and we get together regularly for field trips and play dates. We also have other friends in the area who homeschool and have been amazing families to build relationships and do life with!

This year, Charlie started soccer! The first game was rough, but there has been a slow improvement since then! Brian is coaching her team, and I'm not sure who loves it more! It is so much fun to watch BOTH of them in this fun new adventure. Charlie actually is really good when she wants to be. She'll be playing indoor soccer this winter and is already signed up to play in the spring!

In addition to playing soccer, Beckett started Tae Kwon Do this year! He looooves it, and I love watching him. Because the classes are all ages and the schedule is flexible, Brian has decided to join in, too. They are soooo cute getting into their uniforms and heading off to practice together, and I'm glad they have some time to bond while Charlie and I have some girl time at home!


I've said it many times before, but I can't seem to express how impressive Brian is. The way he manages to work harder than anyone I know, while also keeping our little family as his top priority, is just magical. He's a unicorn, ya'll.

It has been four years since he launched All American Calendars. To say it's been a wild ride would be a monumental understatement. He's been hurt by people he trusted, stolen from, lied about, and sabotaged. We've navigated law-suits and contracts and court cases galore.

But. God is GOOD and integrity matters. And there are also super friggin' awesome friends in his corner. It has been a REALLY great year. We're so grateful for his team at AAC, who has worked their tails off to make this year the best so far, and for the fantastic support system that has seen him through the chaos and FINALLY to a point where we THINK the bulk of the messiness is behind us.

In addition to running AAC, Brian celebrated one year of his new venture with my brother, DJ! Last October, they started Ten31 Properties with the goal of buying six rentals in their first twelve months. I am SO proud to say, they succeeded in that, closing on their sixth property just two weeks before their anniversary. They are now up to owning seven rental properties, five of which are currently rented out and the other two not far behind!


Travel continues to be a passion and priority for this crew! We want to go ALL of the places and we're SO pumped that the kids are totally awesome little travelers. We're on the road so often that it feels odd if we go a couple of weeks without one or all of us needing to get out of the state. This year, as a family, we traveled to Tennessee (twice), Kentucky, Texas, Illinois (dozens of times), Wisconsin, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Florida, Boston, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine, for a total of well over 25,000 miles! That doesn't include dozens of trips for just the adults (either together or solo).

The travel highlights of the year are hard to narrow down! 
  • We got to spend the first five weeks of the year in Tennessee, which allowed for Brian to be in the office, and all of us to catch up with the family and friends we love there!
  • The kids got their first passports and took their first international trip! 
  • I was able to escape for a full week for a baby tour, visiting the two newest additions to the family (Brooke in Dallas & Ben in Chicago). 
  • We crossed off our shared bucket list item of visiting the northeast in the fall - AND got to do it with both sets of grandparents.
  • We got to spend Halloween in Dallas with and rock a huge family costume theme that included all 6 adult siblings and all 7 cousins!

W H A T ' S  N E X T ?

Well, we couldn't sit around too long without making a major change, so 2020 has a new adventure in store for us! We're waiting til next summer to make the big reveal, but we are SUPER stoked about our current project! Any guesses what's coming?

Hint: I'm not pregnant. 

Buck is Six!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Today we got to celebrate six years of life with this awesome kid!! Beckett has recently discovered MARIO and is OB•SESSED, so we surprised him with Mario-themed everything and setting up THREE gaming stations in the playroom. He was thrilled. 

Per our tradition, we had one big family day to celebrate. The day started with cake for breakfast, followed by lots of video games (a special treat in our house). We took a break in the middle of the day for lunch at Chili’s - which Beckett chose because we have never allowed him to use the game screens and he knew his birthday would be an exception. Tricky kid. 

After lunch, we headed to Beckett’s first indoor soccer game ever! He had a huge cheering section, which made it a bazillion times more special. He has really come to love soccer, so playing on his birthday, surrounded by family, was a perfect addition to the day. Plus, his team sang Happy Birthday to him, which was so sweet to watch. 

After the game, we headed home for presents, dinner, and Mario themed cookies! 

Five was a great year for Beckett. It started out a little rough, but he has matured so much and has come to be a great helper around the house, a fantastic homeschool student, and a sweet, affectionate son and brother. Parenting is HARD, but we're so honored to be Mom and Dad to this fantastic kiddo. 

This year Beckett had his first international trip, started Kindergarten, and began taking TaeKwonDo! His favorite past times are playing with hot wheels, reading, and spending as much time on screens as mom will allow!

First Snow of the Season!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Today was the first snow of the season, so like any normal children, Buck & Chuck BEGGED to go out in the snow to play. I'm over here giddy for the opportunity to kick them out and have some silence, so I set off to make it happen.

The kids were THRILLED at the idea of playing in the snow. (You know where this is going, right?)

I scoured the house for supplies, but alas, there are NO WATERPROOF clothing items in this entire house. I mean, REALLY. What kind of midwesterner am I? I'm failing my children.

Against my better judgement, we loaded up and headed out. One hour, $60 dollars, two stops, and a fair amount of griping and bickering later, we had the basic necessities for snow play. Of course, during that adventure, my brilliant children realized that winter and snow mean COLD and started whining before we even got home that they in fact did NOT want to go outside and play. Threatening to return their snow play goodies only backfired when they both agreed that that would be the best course of action.

Whatever man. I'm committed now.

I told the kids they were absolutely going outside, gladiated potty breaks and artic-worthy bundling, and 20 minutes later, shuffled those fluff-balls out the door. To my surprise, they were actually thrilled to be out there and put their new snow pants to use.

I checked the time as we headed out, swiped a couple of photos, and scurried back in.

The kids lasted exactly 19 minutes and honestly, that was about 16 minutes longer than I expected.

A Week in the Life, Day 4 | Play Day

Friday, October 18, 2019

Once upon a time, we skipped all the academic stuff today. Whoops. 😉

Lucky for me, my kids are still young (plus they’re doing fantastic academically) so there’s a lot of flexibility in our days. We had planned to do math, Spanish, and reading this morning before our outing. Instead we had a relaxing morning getting ready, doing chores, & having breakfast together. Then we headed to the playground for an epic play date with friends! 


Between my sister-in-law (Brittany), my college friend (Stephanie), and her sister-in-law (Missy), we had seventeen kids at today’s play date! I L.O.V.E getting together with this crew. Steph & Miss are actually part of the reason we decided to homeschool in the first place. Their kids are fantastic and we love getting the crews together to play and build relationships. Plus, these ladies are the type of people every momma should have in their lives! 


Later this evening, we had soccer! I LOVE soccer nights. Beckett is on his fourth season with the same kiddos and Charlie just started this year (with dad as coach). We would encourage athletics whether we were homeschooling or not, but because the kids are not in a pubic school environment, we feel it’s even more important for them to do sports. In addition to soccer, Charlie does gymnastics and Beckett does gym & TaeKwonDo. 


A Week in the Life, Day 3 | RoadSchool

Thursday, October 17, 2019

One of the reasons that homeschool fits us so well is that we are on the road A LOT. We travel a ton and have gotten in the habit of being on-the-go when we're in town, too. Our classroom is where ever we want!

We are quickly becoming pros at doing school on the road (aka RoadSchool). Sometimes that means taking our bookwork wherever we are (camping, family's house, vacations, etc) and sometimes it just means making use of the awesome technology at our disposal and doing it in the car! Yesterday was a car school day, plus a full day of learning at the children's museum with friends!

We were able to do reading, Spanish, math, and memory work all in the car. For reading & Spanish Beckett has an app that reads aloud along with a book. It works in both English and Spanish and he follows along as the story teller reads aloud. It's perfect for the car! Charlie uses Teach Your Monster to Read app on her iPad. For memory work, we use our CDs and all sing along. For math, both have apps that are supplementing the content they are doing in their standard curriculum. Easy peasy!

Then the rest of the day was spent at the Magic House with friends! We LOVE the Magic House and are so grateful for our membership there! The kids can play (and learn) independently while the mommas talk (win!) and the staff is excellent. In this shot, one of the staff members is working with Beckett on types of rocks, density and mass, using a balance, and some other goodness. They spent a good hour in the science room, exploring topical maps, learning about butterflies, identifying types of consumers by their skulls, using really cool microscopes, and more. And that was just the first room!

Most importantly, I love that they just get to PLAY so much. That's how small children learn best! Being able to create and enjoy environments where MOST of the day is spent playing, creating, exploring, using their imaginations, and being with friends has been SUCH a gift.

Right: Beckett & his friend Jonathan from CC

A Week in the Life, Day 2 | Classical Conversations

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It's Day Two of my "A Week in the Life of Our Homeschool" series and today I get to share one of the "staple" days in our week: Community Day! This is our consistent Tuesday routine that we look forward to so much! 

Charlie's CC Class

Common Misconception of the Day:

Common Misconception: Homeschoolers are antisocial, unsocialized, or deprived the opportunity to hang out with other kids. 

Our Truth: I understand how this stereotype came to be, but it is definitely not our reality (nor is it the reality for ANY homeschool families I know -- which is quite a few). I like to joke that we're so on-the-go that it's actually the ACADEMIC aspect of homeschool that is difficult to fit in. There is definitely no lack of socializing!

What Today Looked Like:

8:30am - Scheduled departure time
9:40am - Actual departure time
10:00am - Classical Conversations
1:00pm - Playground
2:00pm - Home | Lessons & free play for kids. Chores for mom.

Today's Story:

Tuesday is CC day! Classical Conversations is a homeschool community and we LOVE it. CC is a classical method of education, which basically means the kids do a whole crap ton of memorizing. The amount of information seems overwhelming, but it’s incredibly impressive how well they do with it! 

This morning, I got an extra little reminder of why I appreciate the freedom and flexibility of homeschool life when Beckett (usually a 6:30am riser) was still asleep at 8:30am - when we are usually leaving the house! Charlie and I sat ready to go, waiting on him to get up, only for him to take his dear sweet time. I decided that if my five-year-old (who rarely sleeps in) was still sleeping at almost 9am, then his body apparently needed it! Thankfully, it wasn't too long before he woke up in a great mood, ready for the day, and with no signs of illness (which was another concern). So we headed out the door over an HOUR behind schedule. And it was liberating. 

On CC day, the kids are introduced to their new memory work for the week, study music or art, give presentations to their class, and do a science project. Then they have lunch together and play! 

Today's Science: Sun Prints
Throughout the week, we study the same memory work, with the goal of having it mastered by the time we return. Each week (for 24 weeks), we have new information in 7 subjects: Math, Science, History, Timeline, Latin, English, and Geography. 

CC is AMAZNG. They repeat the same information every 3 years through the elementary years, add in writing during the middle school years, and then speech/debate during the high school years — all built on the concepts memorized from age 4. It’s kind of like the alphabet - you memorize it as a kiddo, then use it more and in different ways as you grow! Even better: the whole program is Christ-Centered.

Music Theory: Tin Whistle Practice
The best part of CC is the actual community! We get together with our friends regularly, and I am SO grateful for the other moms! They are FAN.TAS.TIC and so encouraging. Exactly the type of people I want to surround myself with! 

On the way home from CC today, Charlie suggested we hit the playground. This season is my happy time, so I was all about it. We popped through Starbucks (obviously) and hit a new (to us) playground in the area. I sat for an hour and sipped my coffee in silence while I watched Beckett find friends to play tag with and Charlie find a new friend to play babies with. We could have stayed there forever, except my coffee ran out and we had other things to do. 

As soon as we were home, we switched out our CC whiteboard and reviewed our newest memory work. Below is a little peek at what some of that looks like. Review looks different every day. Often the kids review on their iPads. We also have CDs we listen to in the car, a neat coloring book we're working through, and flashcards (that are mostly neglected).

We squeezed in a math board game, some learning palette time, and a little reading. Then, the last thing on the list was their iPad time. I don't care what anybody says - I LOOOVE technology in our house and the amazing opportunities it provides the kiddos. I'm amazed at the challenges they take on through their math apps and am SO grateful for the extra independent practice! They use their iPads daily (on timers) for math, reading/phonics, piano, and CC memory work.

Beckett (5) is assembling a Times Table and Charlie (4) is working on subtracting from 20.
Today was a full day, so we didn't finish up with our official checklist until around 3:30. But it was a good, good day!
Beckett reading & Charlie playing with letter magnets

A Week in the Life, Day 1 | Renaissance Festival

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

We’re early in our homeschool journey, but already I get a lot of curiosity, questions, and skepticism about homeschool life. I get it, because I was actually extremely anti-homeschool until it came time for us to make the decision for ourselves. 

Homeschool fits our lives so perfectly that I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. That isn’t to say that we’ll NEVER go another direction, but for now, we’re LOVING it. I can definitely say we’re living our best lives! ;) 

This week, I decided to document what our days look like. I'm excited to record it for our own memories, to share with our friends and families what it looks like to do homeschool in our family, and address some frequently asked questions (and concerns ;)).

Common Misconception of the Day:

Common Misconception: Homeschool is a reproduction of traditional school, just in one's home.

Our truth: This has been one of the hardest mindsets to overcome for this public school teacher! Homeschool does NOT mean replicating how a traditional classroom would look and function. It's soooo much more relaxed and liberating than that!

What Today Looked Like:

6:30am - Pretend to wake up
7:30am - ACTUALLY wake up. Get ready, clean some, prep for the day, etc.
8:30am - Math for both kiddos 
9:00am - Leave (memory work in the car)
10:00am - Renaissance Festival
5:00pm - TaeKwonDo 

Today's Story:

Mondays are usually our sleep-in and stay-at-home day, recovering from crazy weekends. However, twice a month our homeschool community gets together for a field trip (which I get to plan, cuz it’s my happy place) and this week the trip landed on Monday. We started the day knocking out an early math lesson, and then spent the rest of the day at the Renaissance Festival, which aligns with our history memory work for the year (more on that later).  

One question and concern that I know is often directed at homeschool families is how we know we’re teaching the “right” thing and how we’re sure they’re getting everything they need. 

Here’s the thing: no matter HOW your child is educated, they will never learn “everything.” Our goal is not to check all of the things off some magical master list to guarantee success. Instead, the goal in our family is to teach HOW to learn and a LOVE for learning. We want our kids to enjoy new experiences, appreciate science, history, and culture, and (of course) be voracious readers. That way, no matter what they’re interested in, they’ll be motivated and equipped to learn more. 

Last week, in preparation for the Ren Faire, we checked out and perused a stack of books on knights and castles, and started reading Magic Tree House: Knights at Dawn, and took notes on what we learned.

The Festival was SO much fun. They got they got to attend to a fantastic demonstration on glass blowing, see some incredible acrobats, hear story telling, experience a jousting tournament, visit fairies and mermaids, eat turkey legs, pet neat animals, and more! Dad got to join in the fun too, which always makes everything way better.

Beckett's favorite part of the festival was the acrobats. He and his friend Anna just talked through the whole performance about how amazing it was. They were mesmerized and adorable!

Charlie's favorite part were the fairies. They were allowed to search the garden for small shinies, and trade them in for a "big shiny" (basically fish tank rocks & sea glass) and the kids were sooo entertained. It was magical!

It was a very fun day, and the perfect blend of learning and adventure! The kids were exhausted, but intrigued. Beckett read up on Castles all the way home! Charlie read for a little bit and then crashed hard!

Opening Weekend + Charlie's First Soccer Game!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A year and a half ago, the whole family converged to cheer on Beckett in his first ever soccer game. We decided to replicate that awesomeness and invite the whole crew to cheer on Charlie for her first game ever! Nana, Papa, Papaw, Uncle D & Aunt B, Eli, and Avaya all showed up to cheer this girl on. WE ARE SO GRATEFUL for our family! 

Charlie only turned four two weeks ago and is still the oldest girl on the team, so our expectations were extremely low. However, we were pretty impressed with how well 5 of the 6 girls played! It was fun to watch. 

Wanna know about the 6th girl? The one that was just kinda totally stubborn and stinky? Of course... That would be my child.

She basically just pouted, groaned, and acted totally uninterested. This was a total bummer because she has been excited for MONTHS about playing soccer like Beckett, and I was excited too! I even made bows for the whole team (it’s how I roll). Of course, when the time actually came to play, she was in a MOOD. 

Actually, to be honest, she’s been “in a mood” for a couple of months now. Four was my hardest year with Beckett, and so I keep joking that she’s looking to out-do him. So far, she’s a total over-achiever. She has MASTERED stubborn, sassy, and opinionated. I don’t know WHERE she gets that from!

What’s even more fun (we thought) is that Brian is coaching Charlie’s team! He’s PERFECT at being patient and fun with a bunch of 3 and 4 year old girls. He’s doing great! And those five out of six girls are responding impressively well! (Ha!) We think Chuck is partially jealous to have to share her dad. 


He's so cute, though! 

Thankfully, Charlie did have a couple of promising moments. We could tell she WANTED to get into it. I don't know what her little four-year-old emotions were doing to her, but we're hoping to see some more excitement & confidence as the season progresses! 

The second game of the day was Beckett’s! It has been SO FUN to watch his progress since game one. It’s also extremely encouraging to remember how much of a difference a couple of years makes — maybe Charlie is not doomed! 

Beckett LOVES playing soccer. He is giddy and happy and totally energetic when he’s out there playing. He’s improved on focus and following instructions (although he still needs work, for sure). I can see him loving this sport for a long time. 

We love that he has been with the same great coaches and sweet team for four seasons now. It’s suuuuch a sweet blessing to see them growing and improving together, and so awesome to know the boys and their parents. I pray that they continue to play, grow, and bond together. 

The weekend was supposed to have two games per team, but today’s games were rained out, so we decided to just grab a few pictures while they were suited up. In true Charlie fashion, she was a stinker. Luckily for us, Papa caught these perfect depictions of current life with Charlie Grace on camera. 

Finally, we resorted to bribery. (Thanks in advance for not judging)

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