Wednesday, July 13, 2016


After two Spring Breaks in sleepy {read that “AMAZINGLY DIVINE” in my vocabulary} Rockport, Texas, we decided to do something different this go ‘round.  We headed to Atlanta to spend back to back weekends with Jeff’s parents and stuff the week between with a little touring.

After celebrating Michael’s birthday and getting some cousin, in-law, sibling time in, we headed to Helen, a little German influenced town in north Georgia.

We talked his parents and sister’s family into going with us-- and I’m so glad they did.  Everything is more fun with some more Sanders-- and Moyes!

Boiled peanuts-- 2 votes, yes.  1 vote, no.

It was a gorgeous day to see north Georgia.  I forget we have some mountains-- thanks to the Appalachains.

Trying out some authentic German food with their cousins

This girl loves a little thrift shop. A German one is even better.

Taken for the sole benefit of her cousin, Hunter.

This store was a favorite for all of us.

Only Jeff and I cared for this one. ; )

And, oh yes, we made it to another national park and it was a beauty.  The trees hadn’t yet greened out but they were trying.   It was our first park with all the rivers and small falls.  The fog was enchanting.

Cades Cove was dreamy in the early morning hours. So glad we got our lazy selves out of bed to do it!

Laurel Falls - we loved all the water in the Smokies.

This girl comes alive in these parks- just like she used to when I'd push her around in a stroller.

I loved the history still standing in this park- churches and homesteads and clubs. We especially liked the churches.

Here is Julia's reaction to the early morning history lesson....and here is B's....

Boots?  Why boots, you say?  Well, it’s the only pair he packed--the ones he had on his feet.

Part of the old Appalachain Club-- interesting history if you like that sort of thing...

And then on to white water rafting-- The Pigeon River!

Excuse the quality here- I already had my phone in its high tech super duper water proof case! I have to admit -- I kind of enjoyed seeing my 12 and 14 year old a little scared.
(Cocky teenagers get on my nerves)

The kids did great.  They really didn't have a choice because our AMAZING GUIDE kept them busy the entire time! They obeyed his every command ---- and I told him he should lead parenting conferences.

A good friend reminded me it was National Pi Day so that seemed the perfect excuse to find a good place for pie.

And B gave us a 12 year old boy pose.

When you make reservations online and trust the pictures on the sites, it can be a little scary.  Jeff usually does this for us so all of the pressure is on him.  Our drive to this place, I can imagine he felt like a hot tea kettle about to screech. We all got a bit worried as we drove the rain guttered, pot holed roads up, up, up and up. I have no words to describe the, ummm, colorful, eclectic homes we rock and rolled beside on our trek up the mountain.  When greeted by dogs, goats, chickens and an albino turkey, Jeff never even stopped when the sign clearly read "STOP HERE. Check in HERE. Go no further." He bowled right on through and up the mountain to check out the cabin he'd rented online- and thankfully, the cabin checked out fine.  So then he obeyed and we drove-carefully-back down the mountain to be greeted by Miss Mary and her menagerie of animals- owner of Randall Glen Farms. Once we figured it all out, it was a magical place. It is a working ranch of sorts -- I'll let her describe it:

You can see the cabins above.  It was a wonderful place.
"Randall Glen is located just outside Asheville in the historic farming community of Big Sandy Mush. Completely isolated by mountains, this picture postcard valley is still farmed by original settler families and has no commercial development at all. We’re on Newfound Mountain at the very end of the valley, and have over a hundred acres of mountainside and rolling pasture filled with wildflowers, creeks, and forest. We’re surrounded by thousands of acres of conservancy land, and wildlife flourishes here. Our home farm, Randall Cove Farm, is at an elevation of 3100 feet and our Randall Glen mountaintop is at 3600 feet, giving us wonderfully cool summer air and great snow in the winter. We’re so high, in fact, that sometimes we’re actually surrounded by clouds.”


When I was there I kept thinking I would have loved to have stayed there when the kids were little.
She invites the kids to come down early and help the ranch hands feed the animals.  Julia accepted the invitation- actually, we all did.

When I went on a walk by myself, I got to watch a baby goat being born and watch the mother get it to its feet so she could birth her second one. Of course, I didn't take my camera on the walk.

We highly recommend this place but book early. Miss Mary is busy.

We left the farm to get some good grub AND to see the Biltmore House.  Both the Biltmore and the Tupelo Honey Cafe were super-- if I had to RE-visit one, it’d be the Tupelo Honey Cafe. ; )

Our next stop was Congaree National Park!!! Aren't you pumped about that for us ?!? Yes, Congaree. I know you've never heard of it. Neither had I!

Here's the deal-- or here is why it's a big deal:

"Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.  Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees."
Those are smart conservationist people words and but it was really beautiful. It was a bright blue sunny day- a beautiful walk through this unusual forest. Brighton still talks about how much he loved it.

The greens were budding out at all heights. And I love greens -- especially on a back drop of blue. I'm so glad we had this day in the Congaree.

Sweet moment-- rare and treasured......


We spent the end of trip back in Atlanta and took Jeff’s parents out on the town.  We hit The Pig and Pearl and met some sweet friends from home who were in the area too.  I’ll never forget Meema ordering sweet potatoes and creme brulee as her meal!

We then saw the city by Ferris Wheel.  Atlanta is a beautiful town.

It’d been a long time since I’d been to The Varsity so it was a stop we had to make.

I’m so grateful for these years to make memories with our kids.  My parents did a great job of planning things for us to-- vacations and such.  Those are the times we seem to remember the most-- not the day to day.  Jeff started counting the summers a couple of years ago and realized we didn’t have many left.  So this has become priority. And we are having a ball!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Farewell to Something Really Sweet

{I started this letter the last official day of homeschooling and I just couldn’t do it.  I was raw-- as raw as I had ever been as a parent.  Humbled and dependent on God in a way only parenting can bring about.  Blurry eyed, I had to stop ....... and pack for our road trip the next day.  If you are debating on whether or not to homeschool, maybe don’t read this and certainly don’t look at the pictures.  There will be no turning back for you.  It IS a sweet thing-- but don’t dare do it unless you know you are being asked by the Lord to do it.  And that you have your husband’s FULL support.  You will need it everyday.  I’ll write another day on why we are making a change.....after I write about the hundred other things I’ve thought about for the last 6 months!}

Dear Julia and Brighton,

When I walked into the dark-ish kitchen this morning to switch over the laundry, the little stack on the “present spot” on the kitchen table surprised me.  It’s not Valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day or my birthday!  And then I saw the note from Jeff.  Well.  I decided really quickly there wasn’t time to be emotional— we leave for VACATION tomorrow!!  Why else would I be changing the laundry over when it is still dark-ish?!

I made you binders each year to hold all of your work for the year.  You guys were pretty proud of those.  And this is the year you wanted home. ; )

Gone are the days you can go to school with bedhead, B.  You had some doozies.  {Veritas History}

Nine years.  And you two don’t remember it like I do.  I said yes to this whole homeschooling thing with fear and trembling.  As normal as it had become when I started, even I thought I was a little bit crazy.  But, yet, I had a desire to keep you with me a bit longer, to maybe help structure a foundation beneath you that might serve you well later:   Spiritually- to help you form a Biblical worldview from which you would shape your ideas about God and our culture, Emotionally- to walk with you as you experienced new feelings— good or bad— and to learn for myself how you responded in different situations, Socially— contrary to popular opinion the “social” capabilities are directly related to how social a family is.  We have NEVER lacked for social interaction.  Protecting the calendar feels a little like holding back the tide.  We FIGHT for those blank white squares!  Mentally— to teach you core school subjects but with my LIMITED knowledge to expose you to classic artists, composers and authors that have given us gifts of beauty for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Idealistic expectations?  Maybe.  But I really, really enjoyed trying.

We had Museum Week the end of February.  It was a great time for a break.  We would hit as many museums we could in Fort Worth or Dallas.

The big library downtown always had a great exhibit of some kind to add to our week.


One year of Museum Week, it ICED and we couldn’t go anywhere.  We were SORELY disappointed. We made something yummy and made up our own museum day with art books and poetry!

It’s hard to get my mind around the fact that the season of doing our school at home is over.  I think we knew we wouldn’t go all the way but there is no way of knowing when it’s actually going to be over— and Daddy kept telling us that, didn’t he?  Especially as you got older on the days when he’d come home and we were all a little war-weary…. mad and irritated with one another.  He kept saying, “Don’t waste these days.  You will miss this.  I promise you will.”

A quick review of cursive.   That pink still looks great on you.

B’s first book was my first book.  Little Bear.

I honestly couldn’t take it all in these past weeks.  This last semester proved to be our hardest and I have been concentrating on getting by minute to minute.  I have had no room for processing extra emotions.  The thing I thought of that would be the last - regular- thing was our breakfast time devotionals.  I will so miss that.  Not that we won’t ever have breakfast together again but the regularity of sitting down with our Bible study binder is really over.  The two of you will have different schedules now— with different school start times and practices before school starts etc.  I will miss this time the most.  I can’t tell you how many times I was stunned by how applicable our “lessons” would be to our last few moments or struggles over the last few days. Honestly, some days, I’d feel badly for one of you thinking, “They are going to think I found these pages specifically for them and for today,” when I really had just turned to the bookmark and picked up where we left off.  God was {and is} working whether we thought He was or not.  That 15 or 20 minutes across the table from each other could go a few ways— some mornings we all sat down completely frustrated with one another.  Angry words had already flown and the tone of our home had spiraled down…. and then we’d have to pray before eating.  Other days, we’d all be sleepy or distracted and you’d give rote answers to the question based curriculum.  But then, there were days when I wished we’d never have to leave the table.  Your answers were thought through.  You asked questions that made me think hard— and ponder later.  You guys would be vulnerable about your struggles and you’d actually listen to and empathize with each other.  Those were gifts to me— gifts that encouraged me to not stop.  To keep going no matter how many careless words had been tossed around before 8:45.  I needed that time.  It kept my heart on track.  And maybe yours?

So glad I got this picture that day-- but certainly an ordinary day of baseball and ballet-- and a trip to the beloved library.

Second school room in the rental while we built the house we are in now.  Close quarters, for sure.

I will miss this flexibility-- a Royal Wedding Watch Party.  What a fun day this was!  You girls were mesmerized much like I was when Charles and Diana were married.  

Abraham Lincoln, of course.  He is a great man to study.

If I remember correctly, this was a doll with a mud face and a grass skirt.  You both were so proud.

I have a slew of memories and without thinking long, the first picture that comes to mind is the two of you sitting at your desks in the playroom turned school room, feet swinging because they didn’t touch the ground, heads down and pencils wobbling, intent on doing a good job.  Then I remember being on the floor doing our math fact competitions and how worked up you would get, Brighton— tongue tied because you were trying to go too fast.  And ALL THE LAUGHTER from both of you.  And Julia, how you could memorize everything so fast, I’ll never understand.  You knew poems that we’d read maybe twice?  {I miss the poetry.  You both do too, but you will NEVER admit it!}  

Always shenanigans....

Your head must have been cold, but NOT your feet!

Other memories I have are times in the window seat reading and reading and reading— me reading to you, you reading silently, math with pictures, RECESS, sewing with Mrs. Cox, history through picture books- {I learned so much!} homemade museum week {I wish we could still do this!}, Panera days, the multiple exciting Amazon deliveries in August, Barbie and Ken mummies when we studied Egypt, when you wanted uniforms at home, line time with two students, trips to the library, Mrs. Winsor and Science Etc. “Miss” Barbara, online classes with Veritas. and how AMAZINGLY CUTE you both were. {I opted for science somewhere else because I’m not a big fan of “mess”.  I really do wish I were that mom sometimes, but alas, I am not.}

I always considered a musical instrument a part of their schooling.  For now, it’s piano.

Putting his history cards in order getting ready for a test


You two walked Gabe every morning before school-- adventures galore and the most memorable.... EMERGENCY!!!!!!!!  EMERGENCY!!!!!!!!!!

RECESS!  chalk, jumprope, homemade kites-- others were riding bikes, wagon contraptions and wrestling in the grass

Kids, we have had so much fun.  Every step of the way was a learning process for all of us. These last few years have seen some crazy days— especially as schoolwork has gotten harder and you two started producing hormones that cause you to act like aliens— but even in the midst of that, we’ve been together and I’ve learned to love aliens.  Hours and hours and hours we’ve spent together.  And I know you better…. and you know each other better……. and you know me better.  Better than you ever wished for, I am sure.  Reality will hit sometime in the fall, I am sure and I will miss you.  But that’s probably healthy— oh, I know it is.  {I can read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Garden of Verses without you.  So there.}  I will be ready for you when you come home— excited to hear about your day when you are ready to tell me.

Dude.  3-D.

Mrs. Cox’s girls.  Amazing woman.  She LOVED these girls--even mine in a position SO OUT OF CHARACTER.  Makes me laugh out loud.  What IS that?

Another example of flexibility.... school at the lake, like in October...

And Panera-- with cinnamon roll motivation no momma can touch.

First time we bought school supplies when they switched to CLPS {University model school}

First day of CLPS

Oh, let me just tell you...I only have about a gazillion reading pictures.  Nothing stopped this momma’s heart like her child sitting and reading quietly.  Look!  He has a stack beside him.  However, this did not stick with this one, but I can look at the pictures and remember...

Even better together...

Even better, better when she’d read to him....

Our first and favorite school room-- I worked extra days at Walgreens so we could build these desks.  Thanks to Jeff for getting it done!

The blanket....

It was a great nine years.  I am a different person because of the time spent with you— a better person.  I have learned so much about myself and what I am and am not capable of.  I’ve watched you two grow into very interesting, beautiful, well-adjusted kids—- NORMAL, maybe?  But, really, what’s normal?  I love you two— whatever you are.  Mine. That I know. I’d do it all again, a thousand times.  Maybe by the 999th time, I’d get it right.


Be still my heart...

I really do just have a really sweet husband.