I’m not quite sure how Ross had never been to Helen, but we fixed that over Christmas break! We did ALL.THE.THINGS- including getting a sugary snack, reading all the funny socks, checking out all the locks on the bridge and admiring all the delicate trinkets in the Glassblowing Shop.

But our highlight was checking out Georgia Mountain Coaster!

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MEMORIES / gift 8.0 (New York)

Eight years ago, we decided to skip Christmas gifts and do a family TRIP instead. Little did we know, this would become our FAVORITE FAMILY TRADITION!

With Ross getting older, it was such a treat to take him to the place he’s always wanted to see- New York City!

I’ve had a few people ask, so here’s my take-aways:

We didn’t, but SHOULD have:

  • …walked the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • …visited museums.
  • …taken advantage of the FREE museum days! (Tickets must be reserved in advance. It’s only available on certain days.)
  • …had more time to explore Central Park.
  • …checked out Little Island and The High Line.

I’m GLAD we:

  • …used the SUBWAY! It was easy AND cheap!
  • …stayed at an AirBNB! We weren’t super close to the main attractions (to save money), but just a few minutes from the subway. It was really neat to experience a super-small apartment for 5 days.
  • …splurged to see The Music Man on Broadway with Hugh Jackman (or any Broadway play)!
  • …utilized the Roosevelt Island Tramway (subway fare) and Staten Island Ferry (free).
  • …ate at family-owned (no chain) restaurants.
  • …packed light! (We each only brought one backpack. It was very helpful with navigating subways and streets.)

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Maybe it’s just MY family, but we joke that we love the IDEA of camping.

In other words, we ADORE the outdoors, campfires and time together. But we always dread all the work it requires.

I get grouchy when no one volunteers to help me pack camping supplies.
Matthew gets grouchy when we arrive and everyone goes off to explore- leaving him to put up the tent alone.
The kids get grouchy when they realize they forgot to pack their pillow and extra blankets.

The good news is… there’s a SOLUTION!

TIMBERLINE GLAMPING ‘combines the need for modern comfort with a desire to be as close to nature as possible.’ My parents rented two nights in the spring at Lake Lanier, and it was SO MUCH FUN! (Click HERE to see photos!) My family was excited to go back this fall!

The weather was PERFECT!
The amenities were BEAUTIFUL!
But the best part… everything was READY, CLEAN, WARM, COZY and FUN!

This allowed us to use our precious time to enjoy EACH OTHER and NATURE!

May I also add that RUSTY has NEVER been happier?!?! These two days were, quite possibly, the BEST two days of his life! He drank fresh lake water, scared off squirrels and came face-to-face with several deer!

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Glamping at Lake Lanier

They brought baked beans.
They remembered worms.
They didn’t forget fishing poles.
The crammed all the condiments.
They filled the truck with fire wood.

And what my parents didn’t bring was supplied by the gorgeous glamping site they reserved on Lake Lanier!

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Blakely’s Baptism

The world teaches kids to celebrate sports, grades, trendy dances and every other fleeting distraction.

So, needless to say, I was THRILLED to be invited to document one of the ONLY decisions that will actually last!

Blakely was joined with friends and family as she made a public declaration that she devoted her life to Christ! Is anything more praise-worthy than THAT milestone?!?! There certainly isn’t!

Congratulations, Blakely! I share your mom’s prayer for you:

“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is.”

Romans 12:2

“Don’t be conformed to the patternsof this world, but be transformed bythe renewing of your minds so thatyou can figure out what God’s will is.“
Romans 12:2

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When my family walked into Calvary Chapel, the Smiths were the first ones who surrounded us with love.

When doubts and fears were flooding my mind about unenrolling the kids from public school, the Smiths helped us to see the joy, beauty, simplicity and GIFT of HOMESCHOOLING!

Whether through Contra, homeschool groups or (my PERSONAL FAVORITE) lessons with Epic First Dance, DANCING has been another amazing gift the Smiths have extended to my family!

All of these wonderful things would have been enough, but the girls and I also had the gift of shadowing Hailey on a beautiful, spring, GARDEN DAY! Hailey is not only an incredibly talented and gifted HARPIST, she is also very passionate about gardening, planting and sustainability.

We picked Spiderwort flowers to bring home, found African Violets for our tea, enjoyed delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, dried (and learned the health benefits of) red raspberry leaves and planted lots of green beans! It was definitely one of my FAVORITE homeschooling days!

Most of the day was spent working the land in old clothes, but, just for icing-on-the-cake, Hailey wore her mid-1800’s working dress for a few memories!

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Homeschooling Fun

Looking back, I wasted so much of my summer worrying about my upcoming plan to homeschool. Top on my ‘Unnecessary Worry List’ was the curriculum. Thankfully, in addition to having a wonderful family guide and supply me with the perfect (engaging and Biblical worldview) books, they encouraged me to allow each child to follow his/her own interests. What a concept, right?

When we began our study on animals, I challenged Ruthie to learn all about an animal of HER choice and TEACH US! She spent the next two weeks researching horses, jotting down notes and practicing her presentation. She invited the family over to my friend’s farm and did an EXCELLENT job presenting lots interesting facts on Zaida, the sweetest horse model!

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