florida trip.

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The kids and I had a wonderful time in Florida celebrating my grandma this weekend. David wasn’t able to get away, so I’m very thankful to my parents for making it possible for us to be there. We couldn’t leave until Friday morning, and while my mom drove down with Betsy on Thursday, my dad stayed behind and arrived at our house at 5:00 am Friday to drive us so that we could all sleep in the car. We arrived in Kissimmee (just south of Orlando) at 2:00 pm for the 3:00 service — just in time to freshen up and change clothes! We stayed near my parents so that they could help out with the kids, which was perfect.

I really, really wanted the kids to be there for the memorial service. We had some hard questions and tears from the kids and especially the little boys as they processed their first death and what that means. I hoped the trip and the service would demystify all of it a bit for them, and it did exactly that. It brought closure for all of us, especially since I was in India when my Granddaddy died.

It was a lovely memorial service, every part was meaningful. I could not believe all four of my kids sat through it after a 9-hour car ride, but I think it was a testament to how much they love their family and how engaging and comfortable the service was. Some people were dressed in suits and some wore jeans. We laughed at parts and we cried at parts — sometimes at the same time.

I told David that one of the best parts was that no one attempted to put my Grandma on a pedestal or paint her as larger than life; we just shared about her as a wonderful yet ordinary person, who loved Jesus and loved other people. We sang her favorite hymns. I think she would’ve been delighted.

I can’t help but think that as much as she would’ve enjoyed the service, she would’ve been really tickled pink at seeing so many people she loves enjoy each other’s company afterward. Laugh, cry, eat together, share hugs and memories.

In case you’re wondering, my grandma was one of 8 children. She had 6 kids and 17 grandchildren — there are 29 of us when you add in spouses. So far she and my granddaddy have 19 great-grandchildren. Her life was full of people. She loved well and she was well loved.

The best story I heard about my grandparents this weekend was from my aunt June, who married into my family. When she met my grandparents they asked about her family and she shared that her father had passed away when she was a child. Without missing a beat my granddaddy said, “Well I’m your daddy now.” And he was, until his dying day. Their love just wrapped people up and held them close, no questions asked. I want to be like that.

I saw friends and family I haven’t seen in years. The kids all had so much fun that they were very sad to leave on Sunday. Some of our family got to meet Gabe and Noah for the very first time. I loved seeing all of my kids swept up into the love of so many people, as you can see from the photos, I hardly had to lift a finger from the moment I got there.

Thanks to those of you who prayed for us! I’ll cherish these memories always.

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in memory.

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My mom’s mother passed away last Monday after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Our family gathered in Florida this weekend to celebrate her life. I had the joy of gathering memories from the grandchildren, which my cousin Lindsey read at the service, and I thought I’d share it below in case you want to get a glimpse into the kind of person my grandma was.

 

Our Grandma was a lover of children. First she had six of her own and in the blink of an eye it seemed, she had 17 grandkids too. Her life was filled up to the brim and overflowing with children. Our earliest memories include the delight she felt for us, the way she pulled us in tight for hugs and made us feel special every single time we saw her. Our Grandma was a safe haven.

She welcomed us with joy, always. She was strict and made us behave and we loved her all the more for it, for seeing that dignity tucked deep inside us, under all the layers of naughtiness, and helping us rise to the occasion and obey. She was also known to indulge us though, dispensing treats, sneaking us some of Granddaddy’s peanut M&M’s. More than one of us girls, found guilty of getting into Grandma’s jewelry cabinet, were joined by her at the vanity, as she helped us pick out clip-on earrings to try on.

Our grandma had a special closet in each of her homes, overflowing with toys, thrown open whenever we walked in the door. She thought of us at church rummage sales, picked out the most colorful clothes she found from the missionary bin for us to play dress-up. She always had us on her mind.

She made her life available to us. She raised us to know and love stories of our family—of her parents and siblings and Grandaddy’s.  She didn’t just tell the good stories, she told the really sad ones too, even the ones where she sinned. In doing so she pointed us to God and His faithfulness and forgiveness, rather than to the idol of family.

Time and time again she snuggled with us on the sofa to page through stacks of photo albums, of us and our parents and their parents. She raised us to know with confidence where we came from, who we were in our family, and therefore who we were in the world.

She loved to cook and give treats. I don’t think one person in our big family can sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner without tasting Grandma’s mashed potatoes and gravy and her sweet potato soufflé.

As if piles of kids and grandkids weren’t enough, Grandma worked for years in a school for severely disabled children. When we went there to visit her it was scary sometimes, and yet even as very small children we swelled with pride that our Grandma loved people that others didn’t love—and often pretended not to notice.

She wasn’t just a lover of children; she was a defender of them.

For most of our growing up years, Grandma lived in neighborhoods with other retired people. Many of her neighbors were kind to us, but some of our fondest memories were the times the “old folks” had her up in arms for scolding the children — any children. She shook her head when they shot us dirty looks in the swimming pool for being too noisy. She said, “Oh don’t you worry about them, you all are just fine.”

She was a strong woman like that, we’d like to say a feminist in the very truest sense of the word. Grandma knew who she was and she didn’t need a fancy job title or a long list of credentials to prove it. She trusted that God loved her and created her for a purpose, and she was at peace with that purpose.

Some people would look on her simple, quiet life and pronounce it oppressive, even stifling, but Grandma understood the truth: She didn’t settle for her life as as a wife and a mom of six and a teacher; she chose it. She knew the secret that many people search the world over and miss: that in order to find your life, you need to give it up.

She lived the joy of that knowledge, even in the hard years.

Grandma was feisty! She didn’t pretend to be perfect and got frustrated; sometimes with us, sometimes with Granddaddy. When we played Yahtzee or Mexican train, she invited the littlest ones to be on her team so they’d win, and her competitive spirit made her a sassy player.

When Allison was a teenager and went to give blood at the American Red Cross, she was turned away for being a pound too light. Grandma told her, “Sweetie, you need to fill your pockets up with rocks and turn around and go right back in there. They need your blood!”

Though Grandma had many opinions, she was also one who loved without judgment. Both our grandparents were like that. More than once they opened their arms and their affections to someone who’d messed up, whose choices they disagreed with. Despite whispers of, “Don’t you know what they did!?” Grandma and Granddaddy chose the path of grace. Theirs was a love that bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things, for one another and for other people.

Over the last ten years, our beloved Grandma got more and more sick with Alzheimer’s Disease. Sadly, for some of us grandchildren, the majority of our memories of her are of visits to the nursing home’s Memory Care Unit, with its kind staff and sunny butterfly garden. They’re of a grandma who increasingly slipped away from us as she grew unable to recognize her own family.

And yet, we remember that she loved us. Her face lit up when she saw us, even if she didn’t know our faces anymore. She never, ever stopped inviting the little children to come to her. She hugged us. She held our own kids on her lap, cuddling them close, nuzzling their soft heads with her face.

On one visit, when Alden walked in the room to see her, he knew in his gut that this time she didn’t recognize him. After her warm greeting, he decided to ask her, “How’s your grandson, Alden?” and was treated to a gush of loving words. “He’s doing well! He’s doing great in school and starting to get into sports.” Alden said, “And how old is he now?” and without hesitating she said, “He’s seven!”

Grandma’s love was so true that it could bridge the gap of all the years of illness and fading memory and tell 22-year-old Alden, “I know you. I love you.”

We miss her so, so much. The memories of growing up in her love are the greatest gift she left us. We are very thankful God made us her grandchildren, and we’re thankful that today she is with Jesus.



a lesson from vacation.

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Hello, friends!

We arrived home from our vacation on Friday afternoon sun-tanned, rested, and happy. An entire week away was good for our very souls. Best of all, we actually wanted to come home again.

Our house felt dear and cozy, imperfections and all, our yard a wide green respite after eight days in a high-rise, and our life in Columbia a gift, even the hard parts.

The very best thing our vacation did for us, I think, was invite us to live in the present.

Have you ever noticed how innately good kids are at it? Of course they can be as restless as the rest of us at times, but in their finer, truer moments they have a knack of becoming wholly absorbed in the tower of blocks that they’re building, or the spider meandering across the picnic table, or the weeds that have sprouted up between the house and the driveway — so much so that it often drives us fast-paced grown-ups crazy.

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I’m learning to slow down on the outside, but the tendency of my mind is still to race around and dwell anywhere but the present. I think part of this is my anxiety disorder, part is being an adult — having to be responsible and a planner  — and part is just bad habits.

On vacation I took social media off my phone. I kept my phone in my bedside table and my laptop closed and hardly checked either. I didn’t do it because those things are bad, simply because I know myself and I wanted to disconnect from anything that threatens to pull me out of the present moment. In short, I wanted to rest, on the outside and on the inside.

And you know what? It worked!

I did not think about homeschooling curriculum or swim team or friendship dynamics or New Members Class.

David remarked at the end of the week, “Can you believe we didn’t talk about church one single time?”

We didn’t even have to discipline ourselves not to, we were just far away and unplugged, so absorbed in the world right in front of us that included nothing more pressing than digging a very deep hole in the sand, choosing embroidery floss colors for a friendship bracelet, or figuring out how to sear the swordfish steaks we bought for dinner.

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That, my friends, is the magic of a week-long vacation.

And it’s something I hope I’ve brought home.

Lately I see myself with new eyes.

I notice the way I so often pull my kids — even David — out of the joy or concentration in their present moment — even with the best of intentions. I tell them we’re planning to go to the zoo later, or to meet up with their friends, or to order pizza for dinner. I ask David what our weekend plan should be. I talk about the things I want to move around in our house or buy for the back porch.

Heck, I pull myself out of the present with a load of worries and deep thoughts and responsibilities.

It’s hard to be grateful for the right here and right now when my mind isn’t in the here and now.

It’s hard not to be a pessimist and a worry-wart when my mind is racing a dozen different directions.

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Of course, like I said, being an adult requires a certain amount of living beyond the present. If the gift of childhood is dwelling in this moment, then surely the gift of adulthood is a bigger perspective of the world, of cause-and-effect. And so at home I open my computer and write on the blog, I answer texts and think about what to cook for New Members Class this Sunday night, and shop for groceries.

But in the other moments (and there are many other moments), I want to be right here. I want to kneel in the grass and pull weeds and think about nothing other than the way the soil crumbles in my hands. I want to sit at the table during school time and ask questions about the water cycle with my third grader. I want to read Mary Poppins and laugh as hard as my kids do at the idea of a tea party that brushes the ceiling. I want to watch that spider march across the picnic table.

There are gifts I can give my family that don’t include new shoes or a pack of gum or a Sonic milkshake. One of them is to let them live in their present.

If my children are peacefully playing Lego’s, I stop myself before I begin talking about our library trip later that afternoon. If David is digging up the back yard bed and drinking a beer, I don’t mention the difficult situation at church. Instead I can watch them and ask a blessing, that they find joy in their present.

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I realized this week that that’s a gift Jesus offers me too.

I feel that for too long I’ve equated spirituality with responsibility, with making plans and taking care of people and preparing myself for every possible outcome. I’ve made sure that I’m a good Southern girl, that people like me, that I don’t offend, and that I’m towing my end of the line.

And somehow in doing so I’m dwelling in this inner world in my head of obligations and fears and cares stacked taller than Wyndham Resort Tower 4.

Is that really being spiritual? Is it really obedience to Christ?

Jesus says, “Be anxious for nothing.” “Give thanks for everything.” “Cast your cares upon me.” “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He says I need to become like a child.

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Browsing the grocery aisle on vacation, Gabe said, “Remember when we drank juice during school-time and sat on the couch and read books? Can we do that again sometime?”

And so I came home and quit our twice-weekly swim class for the little boys. It was fun for several months and we loved the people and they learned a ton about swimming, but our mornings felt so rushed. We no longer had time for sitting and drinking juice cuddled up on the couch together with a stack of picture books because we were racing to finish worksheets.  I don’t like who I became herding my four kids up and out the door and back again two mornings a week. Somehow I couldn’t come home and shake myself out of the rut of rushing, both in body and spirit.

Gabe and Noah are five and three years old. If they want mornings at home to read books, then I’ll be right there with them, getting lost in the story.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the only way to be at rest is to homeschool or be a stay-at-home mom.

I guess what I’m saying that I’m learning is that there is busyness of the body and of the schedule, and busyness of the spirit. It seems that God is peeling back the layers of my anxiety, helping me to quiet my schedule a bit, but also showing me what’s beneath, that my calendar can have plenty of white space, but my mind can be striving and anxious and mistrustful that He’s taking care of things.

I came home from the beach deciding to be a recovering control-freak and worry-wart.

I can’t change this way of life in a week or even in a year. But I can take notice and decide, by faith, to change direction.

I can try a little bit every day to stop what I’m doing and to look my family in the eye when they speak to me, to show them by my facial expression and body language that there’s nothing more important to me in this minute than what they have to say.

I can thank God for this moment, right here and right now, sitting with my laptop and a cup of steaming tea, instead of wondering if there are likes on my Instagram or texts on my phone, whether we spent enough time on CC memory work today, and fret about how my anxiety will be during that zoo play date in two hours.

I can choose to stop before I say that negative thing and instead say something positive, something thankful.

I can ask God to help me be very, very patient with my children when they’re restless and discontent and complaining because only He knows the scars my own heart bears from those very sins.

I can believe with all my might in forgiveness, in second chances.

I can choose to live a life of childlike absorption, which is to say, a life of wonder.

It promises to be a bumpy journey, my friends, but I believe that herein lies the path to joy.

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vacation 2016.

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Hello from our first ever week-long, just-our-family vacation!

We’re at a timeshare resort in North Myrtle Beach that a generous person with our church’s domination offered us. We don’t know her, she just wanted to bless a pastor’s family. Words can’t describe our gratitude. Four days in, and it’s been absolutely perfect.

More soon, but for now, beach pictures!!

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new smyrna beach, 2016.

This was the first time in close to seven years that the whole McWilliams/Gentino family could take a vacation together. We loved joining our Florida friends, Jim and Tricia, at their family’s house in New Smyrna, and always have so much fun with them. We also had family come visit from Orlando a couple of the days.

It makes David and I so happy to see our kids become beach people; to be entertained endlessly with the sand and the waves, to want to wake up and go right back for more each morning.

Their favorite thing about the beach?

Judah: “Playing in the waves with my cousins”

Amie: “I loved riding in the tube on the waves with Daddy and falling out”

Gabe: “Building sand castles”

Noah: “I hold a crab!!!”

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may.

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Hi there friends!

May has been a very busy month for us! It’s funny that apparently the busiest month of the summer technically came before the summer started. We had 3 weddings (2 of which David performed), a ballet recital, our Classical Conversations summer practicum, and by this weekend will have taken 5 out of town trips!

Amie’s recital was very sweet, and family and friends came to watch her. She had a great year in ballet and enjoyed being with her friends in class on Monday afternoons. We’ve decided to “take a year off” in favor of doing swim team with her brothers (which she’s been at since January), and possibly neighborhood soccer. We’ll see where we stand next summer.

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I did something a little crazy mid-month and decided last-minute to take the kids to the Great Wolf Lodge all by myself. Some friends from our homeschool group, Classical Conversations, were going. Apparently the GWL has a homeschool discount week in May, so we jumped on board. David couldn’t take off work, but we’ve been several times now (we always go for one overnight), and so I felt pretty confident that I could do it. I had a couple of conversations with the kids about how it was going to be a little different trip without Daddy’s help, and we were all going to work hard at being grateful for this great gift and not complain (including Mommy!).

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They did fantastic! I hardly saw the big kids in the water park once their friends arrived; I just focused on being with the boys and they took turns choosing which area to play in. In the evening a friend watched Noah so that Gabe and I could go on all the big water slides together, which was so fun. Sadly Gabe got sick on Day 2 and Noah wasn’t interested in swimming without his brother, so we hung out with our friends and let Gabe doze while the big kids played, then packed up and headed home.

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Poor buddy. If he’s laying down at the Great Wolf Lodge, you know he’s really sick! On the drive home, Amie asked, “You barely got to go on any water slides. Did you have fun, Mom?” and I tried to explain how much joy it gives me to watch my kids have a great time. I remember as a child feeling bad for my parents for not getting to do “all the fun stuff” or get as many birthday presents, and now I understand completely how they didn’t mind one bit.

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Thanks to our family’s babysitting help, David and I spent two nights in Clemson for our friends’, Spencer and Chrissy’s wedding. David performed the ceremony and my brother Kenny and some friends did all the music, which made it even more special. We arrived home Saturday, and turned around for another wedding in Columbia. A couple in our church had a very unique, small wedding ceremony in the house they’re remodeling together. It’s a beautiful house, and we loved being able to bring our big kids along.

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Here’s a cute photo of our “reluctant napper.” He’s so close to giving up naps altogether, but sometimes just.can’t.make.it. without one. Here’s another:

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He’s pretty cute, isn’t he?

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This week was our Classical Conversations (CC) Practicum, which is a three-day conference in Lexington for all local CC campuses. The moms and/or dads go to sessions and receive training, and we have the option of sending our kids to the day camps. My kids love it! This year Judah and Amie were both in Geography/Drawing camp, and Gabe went to Play Camp. My mother-in-law and brother’s mother-in-law kept Noah, and next year he will join us.

I love the chance to learn new information, to shop for some of next year’s curriculum, and most of all to be with my friends and make some new friends. We get to chat during the breaks and eat lunch together, and I always enjoying picking the brains of more experienced home school moms.

I’ve loved this month, but also look forward to June, when things will calm down a bit.

Happy Thursday!



lately.

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Hello friends!

I had a pretty wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday — David and the kids surprised me with a new laptop! You’ve gathered from my complaining/intermittent posting that mine was on the fritz for a looong time, but I definitely did not expect a new one any time soon!

My last laptop was a refurbished Macbook Pro, which we bought in 2010, before moving to India, and I loved that thing into the ground. Now this one is the very first brand-new computer I’ve owned; it’s a 13″ Macbook Air, and I’m smitten. It’s so crisp! And clean! I have a “delete” key! And best of all — when I tap the keys, things that are supposed to happen, actually happen!

Anyway, sorry to gush, but this should mean that I’ll be blogging a little more frequently!

Here’s some of what we’ve been up to lately …

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Can you believe that our church, CPC, is nearly three years old? This is Noah and his buddy PJ, who’s been with us since the very beginning. He reaches for her as soon as he sees her.

I get tearful whenever I think of how our church family loved us through our adoption process and first year. Not only did they contribute generously toward our expenses, post-placement they prayed, dropped off meals, respected boundaries when our family needed to hunker down at home for awhile, encouraged, cried, laughed, prayed some more, and best of all, enveloped Gabe and Noah in love from the first day they met them, no questions asked.

 

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We already love our zoo, but it just opened a huge splash park/outdoor play place for kids, and we checked it out one morning last week. It was great! I’d say it’s geared a little more toward toddlers/preschoolers, but Judah and Amie still thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I think would enjoy it even more if we came back with some of their friends.

If you haven’t been yet, my words of advice are: 1. Park at the Botanical Gardens entrance, 2. Go early, like right when the zoo opens at 9:00 am. After 11 it got so crowded — and summer break hasn’t even begun yet!, and 3. Wear bathingsuits and pack a change of clothes for afterwards (I didn’t wear a swimsuit, which was fine, but my flip-flops got soaked, so be warned!).

 

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We’re pressing on to finish our school year by the end of May. We worked hard this year, and so at the end have been spending lots more time reading aloud, and it feels very restful. Some friends invited Gabe and Noah over one morning, so I took the opportunity to take the big kids to a coffee shop for school. We sat and sipped our drinks and I finished a novel about a group of kids during World War 2, and we did a few worksheets. Any moments I get to connect with just one or two of the kids at a time feel like a gift.

 

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The same friends that had the boys come play, noticed how much they enjoyed their son’s water table, and dropped one off for Gabe and Noah later that day (again: the sweetness of our church family)! I’m not exaggerating when I say it has already brought our little guys hours of delight. Noah finishes breakfast, strips right down to his skivvies, then races outside to play with the water.

 

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Speaking of Noah, this has been our set-up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, when the big kids are in swim class. Usually there’s at least a couple of other moms and a toddler or two. As of last week, Noah now does 10 minutes in the pool one-on-one with a coach to start getting him ready to join the others. He’s not technically supposed to start until he’s four years told, but he has been dying to get in the water, as you can imagine. He loved it so much that he burst into loud wails, when we made him get out.

 

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A couple weeks ago, my friend Jessica and I took a little road trip to Greenville, to meet one of our literary heroes, Jacqueline Woodson. We both love her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, and I’ve since read a handful of her other children’s and young adult books, and enjoyed them too. We had a great evening stopping in at M. Judson book shop for the book signing, meeting Jessica’s sister for dinner at the Trappe Door (a favorite Greenville restaurant), and then heading to First Baptist Church to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak on her writing and on growing up in Greenville and New York.

 

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On Friday night, some friends got married in Charleston, and we drove with Kenny and Shari and stayed overnight! I’ve never been to a wedding in Charleston, and the reception for this one was at the Yacht Club — it was lovely to be right on the water. We haven’t taken any sort of trip with Kenny (my brother) and Shari, just the four of us, since before we all had kids, and so we had the best time talking nonstop, squeezing into a hotel room, walking downtown in search of good coffee, hitting Folly Beach on Saturday morning, and rounding out our trip with fresh seafood for lunch.

 

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And finally, we had an extended family gathering last night for Mother’s Day, and my other brother, Danny, came in from Florence to hang out!

Now that I read back over my last couple of posts, I see that May is more an entire Adoption Celebration month, and that’s a very sweet gift from the Lord. It was a long year, but He met us in it over and over again. I love spending this month traveling and celebrating His goodness together.

I’m working on a Summer Bookshelf post for you all, and am having fun doing it! This has been a great reading year thus far! Any interest in a children’s bookshelf post too? I thought of compiling a list of our favorites.

Happy Monday!



one-year adoption trip.

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We decided to celebrate our first year of adoption with a family experience. David and I are terrible about keeping surprises from the kids, but we managed to keep our overnight trip a secret until Wednesday morning. We sat at the dining table doing school work, and David came in from CrossFit and announced that we were dropping everything and heading on an adventure!

Going on a “benture” is Noah’s favorite thing in the entire world, and something he requests daily (along with pumpkins, the Great Wolf Lodge, and the beach). Everyone was thrilled! So we booked a hotel room on Priceline, packed a suitcase, and hit the road.

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We had a lovely lunch by a pond at Table Rock. We have this picnic lunch thing down to a science, and now pack it on all of our road trips in order to save money and avoid eating that one extra meal out: tuna salad with crackers, hummus and carrot sticks, apples, and a dark chocolate bar.

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Nearly all of our adventures are sprinkled with a certain amount of misadventure (just ask anyone who’s gone along for the ride with us). But we’ve learned a lot about being flexible and having fun no matter what!

Somehow we took a VERY circuitous route to the end of the Art Loeb Trail outside of Brevard, NC, which David recently hiked with a couple of friends. He wanted to take the kids to do a little hiking and play in the Davidson River. What should have been a 2 1/2 hour road trip took about 4 1/2 hours in all, and everyone was a little stir crazy by the end! We also never found the exact spot David had in his head, but the kids seized the day and had a blast splashing in the river anyway. We planned to stay for several hours, but after about 30 minutes, they were freezing cold and ready to get dry and warm, so we changed clothes, loaded up, and went searching for another activity!

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We drove into Brevard and found a playground downtown (Franklin Park) that the kids loved. We played there for an hour until dinner.

David and I have been trying to eat at Rocky’s Soda Shop in Brevard for three years, ever since we discovered it back in our MTW days. Somehow it’s always closed when we show up for dinner, so this time we called ahead, and made it before it closed at 6:00 (I think they have later hours in the summer). The food is good, but it’s the whole old-fashioned diner atmosphere that we wanted the kids to experience, complete with chocolate milkshakes for the first course.

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We drove 40 more minutes to Flat Rock to spend the night, because we wanted to end up there the next morning. Our best find of the trip was a hotel with an indoor pool!

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We brought sleeping bags so the three oldest kids could camp out on the floor; I shared a full-sized bed with Noah, and David took the other bed (David jokes that my definition of camping is all of us sharing one hotel room). We got everyone tucked in at around 8:30, and David and I dragged the two chairs into the little kitchenette to huddle with our books and plastic cups of wine by lamplight, and Judah read Harry Potter in his sleeping bag. It was cozy!

We ate the complimentary hotel breakfast the next morning, and let the kids take another swim before packing up and checking out. We stopped by the Flat Rock Village Bakery for coffee to-go, then drove around the corner to the Carl Sandburg Home for the morning. You guys, this place is amazing! Friends have been telling us to go for years, and we just hadn’t made it yet.

The grounds are completely free; you only pay a small fee to tour the home, which we opted out of this time. So we walked the trails in the woods, saw the ducks in the pond, then wandered up the hill past the house to the goat barn. We met the four baby goats, then the kids got to run free in the field with the adult goats (or “ghosts,” as Noah called them). It was surprisingly cold and windy yesterday, but other than that, idyllic.

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I honestly didn’t want to leave, and if we stay in Flat Rock again, we’ll definitely be returning. There are more hiking trails we didn’t get to try out, and the whole place is tremendously beautiful and peaceful.

We finished our adventure with pizza at the Flat Rock Wood Room (which has fantastic barbecue too), and then hit the road to come back home! We contemplated an afternoon hike, but Noah was lagging, and we decided to end on a high note. Maybe next time!

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The full honest truth is that traveling with young children is not for the faint of heart, especially traveling with four young children. We’d gotten to a much more flexible, easy stage with our two big kids a year ago, and traveling these days requires much more stamina (and more packing; somehow packing for one overnight feels the same as packing for a week — and I still always forget something)!

But even though it’s more exhausting, David and I also decided it’s way more fun too. Doubling the kids doubles the excitement and energy for anything we do. The pool was full of shrieks and splashing and singing, and we just love watching our four kids enjoying one another’s company. There’s always a sibling to keep you company, and we love how the addition of Gabe and Noah makes our whole family experience the world around us differently.

We also couldn’t be happier that these boys love to travel as much as the rest of us do!

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bee city.

On Friday we took a field trip to Bee City outside of Charleston. It’s a charming little farm and petting zoo where you can feed many of the animals, and the kids were enthralled. We got to see exotic animals from some of our favorite stories and movies (lemurs! llamas! lynxes!). We held a baby alligator, a tarantula, and a snake, fed birds and chased chickens.

We learned from a reptile expert about alligators and scorpions and giant toads (and got to touch all three). Though we never did tour the bee farm, we ended up spending three hours exploring the place, with a break for a picnic lunch. The kids absolutely loved it, and asked when we can go back!

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