Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Sea World, Storms, and Salvaging the Day

We have just returned from a really, really fun weekend away in Orlando for Fall Break. I wanted to write about it while it was still fresh on my mind, because one of the reasons I've been failing to blog a lot is I'm not setting aside time every day to do it and then the time passes and I forget!

Last Friday, we packed our bags and dropped James off with our church's children's ministry so that he could go to Sea World with them for a little over 24 hours. They went to Orlando to have a sleepover at Sea World and then tour the park all day on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Eddie, Will, and I packed our own bags and headed to Orlando as well! We had a room at Port Orleans French Quarter, a first for us. I love to try new Disney resorts while we are in town and explore as much as we can. We were really looking forward to it! We've stayed at the sister resort - Port Orleans Riverside - twice and really loved it. This was one of my favorite places that I've stayed. (Although, Eddie will tell you if it's a moderate or a deluxe, I'm happy!) When we arrived, Will had been asleep for close to two hours and was not happy to wake up.

We checked in and ate quickly at Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, the cafeteria at French Quarter. Eddie and I shared their Shrimp and Grits and it was DELICIOUS! I loved it so much I had it again the second night! After we ate we went to our room and settled in for bed!

Before we headed down we knew that the threat of rain was HUGE on Saturday. Tropical Storm Nestor was making landfall and we would have to wait him out. Will and I had plans to go to Magic Kingdom on Saturday morning, but decided we would just wait until some of the rain cleared toward the afternoon. Sadly, the Sea World crew decided it wasn't worth it and they cancelled their Saturday fun. We got a text about picking James up fairly soon after we woke up on Saturday morning so we headed out to grab him. 

While we were on the to pick James up, I made a reservation for brunch for the four of us at a restaurant at Yacht Club. I am a huge fan of resort visiting while I'm at Disney World so that we can see other places. Having brunch at a resort where we'd never stayed was right up my alley!

The restaurant was just ok. I've recently had to go gluten free because it doesn't love my body and I was worried that some of my choices would be limited. Disney is the best place to dine with allergies and intolerances, though, and everyone was really helpful when I was picking some gluten free foods!

Yacht Club itself was GORGEOUS. It was obviously a deluxe hotel. 

After we ate, the rain stopped (!!!), and we walked around the resort outside. The winning point of this resort is the POOL. It has a sandy bottom pool, a lazy river, and a pirate ship slide! WHOA. It's also within walking distance of Epcot and Boardwalk and has boat service to Hollywood Studios!

Since the rain lifted, we asked the boys whether they wanted to head to a park or back to the resort to swim. They chose swimming and they stayed in the pool ALL afternoon long! It turned out to be a GORGEOUS day!

We wound up back at Sassagoula for dinner again before heading to the room to watch some football and head to bed early. I'll post part 2 of our trip later! We had a great weekend!

Friday, August 16, 2019

What Does Reading Aloud Look Like?

People always make me laugh when they tell me their kids don't LIKE to hear them read aloud. I feel like it's really similar to the whole, "My kids won't sit still in church," argument. Well, they may not get it the first time you read aloud to them if you've never done it before (just like they won't sit still the first time they're old enough to go to "Big Church"), but if you practice, they'll get it! (I will mention that there are times when James would rather read to himself. TOTALLY OKAY. You don't want to discourage reading here. I tell him that's fine and that Will and I will read without him. Sometimes he joins us later, sometimes he doesn't. Read-alouds shouldn't replace the reading a kid is doing on his/her own. It should enhance it!)

I started reading to both of my boys when I was pregnant with them, but that doesn't mean we haven't had seasons of squirminess! We practice how to listen well and if they seem to not be listening, I stop reading! Easy peasy! There's no pressure to read a certain amount each day at our house. I want to encourage reading, not discourage it.

{This is during me reading! Blocks, Legos, etc. keep them busy and quiet. They ARE listening even if they're playing!}

A few things will make it easier for you to begin to read aloud to your kiddos...

1. Pick really awesome books! I'll share more of my favorites with you in another post, but this is pretty darn critical for read-aloud perfection. If you pick lousy books or books that are too high or too low for your kids, they aren't going to be very interested. Know how I pick great books? I scour the internet and I think about the books I liked when I was a kid. If I read a book that we own and it completely stinks when I read it out loud, I put it in our Salvation Army box immediately and get rid of it. (Just a warning that typically the first reader/early reader books are horrible and a lot of times anything with a tv character isn't great.) (I'll also mention that just because a suggestion reading level is above where your child reads, that doesn't make it a bad read-aloud! Kids can comprehend far above their own reading level when YOU are reading it to them!)

2. Find your time! My best suggestion is to try reading out loud over several different times of the day. The BEST times for us are times when the boys are occupied with other things that they can do while they listen. A mealtime is a great time to read because typically kids are busy, but not distracted. Bedtime is also great because they're snuggly and quiet and it's time to settle down anyway. We also like reading after school while playing with blocks, small toys, and play dough.

3. Don't get discouraged! If you feel like you're fussing at your kids to sit still and be quiet you're not picking the right time (or the right book). Switch things up. If you get discouraged that they aren't listening, no one is going to enjoy it!

4. Don't be worried if they're moving around! Listening, for kids, looks active sometimes. James is almost 10 and Will is 7 and they both still play, stand on their heads, flip and flop, etc. while I am reading. As long as they aren't talking or making noises, they're welcome to do all of that!

5. Recognize that while you may find a "sweet spot" of reading aloud to your kids, it may not always look that way! We've moved reading aloud around to various times in our day, we've sat all over our house, and we've played and kept ourselves busy with lots of toys! It doesn't look the same today that it did when they were 5 and 2!

6. Audiobooks are ok! I'll talk more about this in another post, but listening to an audiobook counts as reading!!! There are some books that we've found are just BETTER when someone else reads them aloud to us. (This is especially true if the dialect is different!) Audiobooks in the car are AMAZING. You have a captive audience! Turn that on while you're driving around town AND when you're going out of town! 

There are a few things are consistently played with at our house during read-alouds. I'm linking them below for you. Please note that I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase through the links shared, I will receive compensation.


We're always finding new ways to play quietly! I'll share more another time. Just keep in mind that anything kids can do with their hands (building, coloring, molding clay) where they can focus on what you're reading is the key. You can use things you have around your house! I didn't purchase these items with the purpose of read-alouds in mind. You have plenty of things already that you can use!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Our Read-Aloud Family

Friends! I feel like it has been so long since we've talked! I know I recapped recently about our family's summer break. We've now been back in school for over a week and so far it has been great! We don't have any complaints at all! (Well, very few. The early start always gets us!) We are easing back into the routine and the busy-ness of real life and we are enjoying it!

Over the summer, I tried to spend a LOT of my time reading. My Kindle Oasis (not-an-ad) is on of the best purchases I've made in a long time because it's WATER PROOF which means I could take it into the pool with me. On our last trip to the beach, I even purchased a float so that I could float and read and it was GLORIOUS.

One of the topics I read several books about was READING. I picked up a book by Sarah Mackenzie called The Read-Aloud Family.  I devoured it. I know it sounds so nerdy, but the idea that others loved reading aloud as much as I do (and ALWAYS have) and that I could beef up my kiddos brains and help improve their test scores by doing something we enjoy? AMAZING.

I want to share everything I know and love about reading aloud with you. ALL the details of how it has looked for us over the years. Eddie and I are both BIG readers. We love to read on our own when we have the time and one of our very favorite things to do is to browse a book store (especially a USED book store!).

As a child, I was also a big reader. I often had my nose in a book AND I often stayed up late to read as a child. I loved The Baby-Sitters Club, The Boxcar Children, and Judy Blume books.

I started reading to James when I was pregnant with him. I read often! Because I was already reading often to James, Will also reaped the benefits of the read-aloud in-utero! I'll share some of our favorites soon from those early years.

And in case you've never seen it, I made James do a book review of Charlotte's Web when he was 3. HERE.

So...all of this to say that we have been reading as a family for YEARS and YEARS and have read hundreds and hundreds of books. Is it something everyone always enjoys? Nope. Have I figured out what works for us over the years? YES. Am I SO EXCITED to share my tricks of the trade with you? I definitely am. I cannot wait to share all that I know and love about reading with your children! I'm hoping that you'll also share what you love about reading with YOUR kids and what your favorite read-alouds have been!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The First Week of School!

Well, we have survived the first week of school!

James is still a little miffed about having to go back in the first place, but two of his very best friends are in his class, along with a handful of other really good friends and really SWEET kids so he is going to be JUST FINE. (He's probably reading so that reminder is for him!)

Will LOVES his teacher, his class is awesome, and he is loving 2nd grade. 

It was a BUSY week back to school. We had a dentist appointment on the first day of school. NO CAVITIES this time! Poor Will has had a few because of some underdeveloped baby teeth. James also had NO DAMAGE to his teeth. I can't remember if I shared this on the blog or not, but in November he fell in the shower and broke one of his front permanent teeth and it has been repaired twice already. THEN he got hit in the mouth last week, but x-rays showed no more damage to it. However, Dr. L. got him a mouth guard and told him to WEAR IT! Lol!

I think we had baseball practice THREE nights this week. The season is gearing back up - we start on August 17th - and they're trying to cram lots of practices in before the school year gets ramped up.

We are back into our "no screen time during the week" part of the year, which is my FAVORITE thing. Sometimes the TV and the ipad are the bane of my existence, although I do understand the need for them in some situations. And yes, I'm the adult and we could have no screen time every day, but we just really push it during the school year. And it is glorious!

We have been reading like crazy people at our house and I'm going to share some thoughts on reading very soon!

Overall, it's been a great week back! We all survived and lived to tell the tale! 5 down, 175 to go!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Summer 2019!

Well, as of Monday morning at 8:00AM, our summer will be officially over. (Unofficially, we will continue to work on our summer goals list. Will pointed out yesterday that we aren't nearly done so we will keep it taped to our backdoor for a while longer.)

School starts on Monday and we are both excited and sad. I was going through pictures this morning and I realized I hadn't shared here in this spot in SO long that there is nothing documenting our summer of fun!

This summer, I didn't hire a babysitter like the two previous summers. Will's history with babysitters is often peppered with poor behavior and he asked to go to Y Camp instead. However, instead of that I signed them up for several church camps and sports camps in our area and they LOVED it. There was only one week this summer that they really weren't into. So that may be our new summer normal.

Here we go...picture OVERLOAD!

Starting WAY back at the middle of May...

Preschool Graduation night! This was my second full year as preschool director and it's been so fun!

I got to go with a cutie little first grader on his field trip to the dairy!

{The milking parlor was a little stinky and yucky.}

We finished up another baseball season! (This one was a little tougher than fall ball was. We played UP this season at a lot of our tournaments. Hoping it will make us better overall!)

Field Day at school!

The last week of school was full of fun like awards ceremonies and parties. James got Reader of the Year for 3rd grade and 3rd-5th grade at his school. It's all of my elementary school dreams realized!

For Memorial Day weekend we went to Lake Oconee.

We spent a TON of time at the Y pool this summer. 

Disney World for Will and me with some SWEET friends!

{This was AMAZING. We walked into Festival of the Lion LATE and got a front row seat and then the kiddos got picked for the show! It was amazing! Mine and Christen's phones were DEAD so the sweet family behind us took and texted pictures.}

{Slinky Dog Dash was AMAZING. This was our first visit to Toy Story Land.}

{Will and I went to a passholder event at Typhoon Lagoon and we really enjoyed it!}

{Meanwhile, this kiddo participated in the first camp of the summer - Baseball Camp! He loved it, but it was HOT.}

We headed up to Lake Blackshear the second weekend in June for a little fishing. It rained almost the whole time we were there, but we sat on the screen porch, played games, and read.

The next week brought Basketball Camp! This one was SO FUN. The boys LOVED it. Will got to snag a picture with one of his favorite high schoolers! Eat your veggies, Will!

{The Conners are one of our favorite families EVER. Coach Conner is just the nicest, kindest human being.}

We knocked off "Pick Berries" from our summer goals.

And then later that afternoon, we had a little accident. Will was on his top bunk and was pulling an elastic band up from the bottom when it snapped and popped him in the face. Screaming. Crying. Blood everywhere. We headed to the pediatrician's office and got glued up good as new!

That weekend, we headed to Palm Coast for a few days. It was SO FUN!

On our way home, we stopped in Jacksonville for a Jumbo Shrimp game. It was also SO FUN. We got to throw on the field, hug LOTS of mascots, and participate in a contest on the field between innings! We won tickets to come back so we're hoping we will be able to make it down in August.

We took a cake decorating class!

{Super Hero themed!}

The last week of June we had VBS and Softball Camp (Camp #3!)

We saw Toy Story 4!

We read ALL THE BOOKS. I have a long post about reading coming up soon!

Water Balloon fight!

We headed to Lake Blackshear again the weekend after July 4th. Less rain, more fun!

We bumped into our sweet baby cousin at the pool one afternoon which made for LOTS of fun. Sweet Liam loves to play with the big boys!

Baseball practice has begun again!

MORE pool time. {I told y'all. We've spent HOURS there this summer.}

This kid rebels against uniforms and when he dresses himself, he chooses some interesting get-ups!

Last week, we got haircuts and cupcakes one afternoon!

Found in my bed...

Which brings us to Open House at school last Thursday. We met our teachers, saw our class rosters (HOORAY FOR FRIENDS THIS YEAR FOR WILL!), and got a little more excited about 2nd and 4th grade! It will be here before we know it!

We hope y'all have also had an amazing summer!