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Charter School: One Year Later

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Tyler just finished his first year in our charter school of choice. I really had no idea what to expect from charter school. I just knew that public school was not an option anymore and homeschooling was not something that was viable for our family. Turns out, this charter school is absolutely hands down the very best thing that could have happened for our family. And this year we hit the sibling lottery jackpot- Mason and Zoey got in via the sibling lottery back in February and Maia was number 1 on the waitlist. We got the call a couple of weeks ago that Maia had gotten a spot. So next year we will have all of our kids in one charter school. Do you hear that sound? It’s the angels singing. I’m not saying that this charter school is perfect. It’s not but the truth is, no school will ever be perfect. You just have to decide what you can live with and what is a deal breaker. For us, any issues at our charter school are minor and acceptable compared to the total nightmare of our assigned public schools. The positives far outweigh the negatives in our experience. 

1. Smaller class sizes. At his old public high school Tyler had anywhere from 28-35 kids in his classes. Sometimes there weren’t enough desks and there were never enough text books. Now he has 15-18 kids in his classes and everyone is really engaged. 

2. Active parents. The fact that there is no free transportation and no lunch program means that parents have to really want their kids to attend this school. It requires a lot. There’s a very active Facebook page full of parents, and everyone is super involved in the school. It’s amazing! I feel like we joined a family, instead of a school.

3. Strong academics. Tyler learned more in one year than he has in the previous 3 in public school. The standard classes are the equivalent of the Honors classes in our public school system. Tyler’s grades went up simply because the teacher spent the entire class period teaching instead of dealing with behavioral issues. 

4. Required service hours. Tyler is required to do 40 hours of service per year. I love this. It forces teenagers to look outside themselves and offer service to other people. And teenagers are notoriously self-absorbed as a general rule. Tyler helped the football coaches collect and catalog gear at the end of the season, he helped them run a skills camp for the younger players, he helped teachers move furniture…he got involved. 

5. Sense of community. Tyler played both varsity football and basketball. He made a ton of friends. Matt and I made just as many friends. We tailgated with the football parents, we did dinners with the basketball parents. I had girls nights with other moms that I met. It’s a culture at this school and I love it so much.

6. Uniforms. Do you know what you see at public high school? Girls wearing booty shorts and bikini tops with high heel sandals. Boys with their shorts down around their knees. Know what you see at charter school? Uniforms. It’s awesome. I love it. No fighting over what clothes they want to wear and nobody knows who the more affluent families are because everyone is wearing the same stuff.

7. Extra supervision. My poor kids. They have no idea the amount of extra eyes that are on them every day. I have good friends who teach in the lower school (grades K-5). I’m friends with coaches in the middle school. I have friends who substitute teach in the upper school, I’m friends with the registrar, and I saw the admin assistant so much last year because of Tyler that she’ll let me know in a hot minute if something is going on. Nothing goes on with my kids that I don’t hear about. I love that. 

8. One campus. This might be my favorite thing. All 4 of my kids will be on the same campus. The lower school, middle school, upper school, athletic center, fine arts building, and STEM building are all self-contained on one property. If one of my younger kids has an issue, Tyler and Maia are right there for help. We never have to adjust to a new school again- Zoey will be on one campus from 1st grade until she graduates high school. I love that!

All in all, putting our kids in this charter school has been the best decision we could have ever made for them and for us. Our quality of life has increased ten fold over the last year. Charter school isn’t for everyone- it’s a lot of work for parents too- but for us it was so worth it. 

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10 Truths About Turning 40

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Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 40. 4-0. Forty. FORTY. Y’all. I am 40. And you know what? Forty rocks. You couldn’t pay me to go back a decade. My twenties and early thirties were spent raising babies and toddlers. My late thirties were spent recovering from raising babies and toddlers. But 40? 40 is the gravy. I’m happy, I’m secure in who I am, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. 

1. Numbers on the scale mean nothing. I’ll probably always carry these extra 10 pounds. Ok fine, 15 extra pounds. But life is too short to not eat cake. 

2. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to true friends. A lesson learned the hard way, unfortunately. I have a lot of friendly acquaintances. But I have only a few true close friends with whom I can share anything and everything. And that’s just fine!

3. Keeping up with the Joneses is overrated. Seriously. It’s overrated. I have learned to be content. 

4. Beauty truly does come from within. Wrinkles happen but the very best wrinkles are laugh lines because they radiate joy. I’m a firm believer that a person’s inner joy shows on their face. I hope mine does. 

5. Happiness is a choice. Just like being angry and bitter is a choice, happiness is a choice you make. So choose happy. 

6. Life is too short for fear. This is my mantra anytime I have to do something out of my comfort zone. Life is short. Embrace every moment! Fear means you’re alive!

7. Gossip makes you ugly. Truth. Gossip is a useless time suck that only serves one purpose- to hurt others. Rise above. 

8. The only opinion that matters is yours. You can’t find peace or happiness from living up to others opinions or expectations. The only opinion that you need to listen to is your own. 

9. Create a life you don’t need a vacation from. Another lesson learned the hard way. I don’t want to spend 358 days of the year counting down until my 7 days of vacation. I want to spend 365 days of the year enjoying my life. 

10. It’s okay to not be liked by everyone. I used to be a people pleaser. Now I’m a reformed people pleaser. You cannot make everyone happy. So I don’t waste my time trying. If someone doesn’t like me, that’s ok. I like me and that’s what matters. 

It’s taken me 40 long years to learn these lessons. But now that I have? Life changing. I had the best weekend celebrating my birthday. Matt and my sister planned a surprise family cook out for me and my parents came with Camden to celebrate with us. It was awesome and exactly how a birthday should be spent. 

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Cheers to 40, friends. I’m ready to rock this year!

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5 Things Friday {7.21.17}

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Y’all. It is hard to come back from vacation. This week has been hard. HARD. We jumped right into summer camps and appointments and stuff. So much stuff. We have 27 more days of summer vacation. I plan to make the best of them. 

1. We spent most of last weekend at the pool in between thunder storms. I’m so impressed with how well Zoey has been swimming this summer. She used a puddle jumper float last summer even though technically she could swim- she just wasn’t comfortable enough to swim without it all the time. This year she has turned into a little fish. She can swim the entire length of the pool by herself and is counting down the days until she’s age eligible for swim team next summer. Mason is going to do swim team with her next year so that will be fun! 

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2. One of the biggest blessings that came from Tyler getting into his charter school last year has been the friends I have made. One of those friends happens to be the music teacher for the elementary grades and her daughter is Zoey’s best friend. So she took Zoey with her to the piano lab camp and the show choir camp at the school this week. Zoey has had the best time. She can already play a couple of songs on the piano! Plus she got to make some new friends before school starts!

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3. Speaking of charter schools, we finally got the call that Maia has a confirmed spot with the other kids. I’ll have all 4 kids in one school next year. I’m still in shock! We are the only family to get 3 kids in to the school via the sibling lottery in years. We totally should play the mega millions! So I washed all of her uniforms from her old charter school and got them sold this week so I can order her new uniforms for her new school. This week has been a whirlwind. I had to get Maia signed up for volleyball skills camp because tryouts are the first week of August! I had her sports physical scheduled that week but had to get it moved up. It’s been pure crazy. But so worth it!

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4. We also went for Maia’s third orthodontist consult this week. She gets braces started on August 3rd. We loved this office and decided to go ahead with his plan. Maia has severe crowding with a crossbite on one side that is affecting the alignment of her jaw. She’ll be in braces for 3 years and we’re going to be poor. But this office does 0% financing for 20 months with a $800 down payment making it only $168 per month. I downloaded a 25 meals to make with ramen noodles cookbook in preparation. Ha! 

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5. With our week being so busy we didn’t get to spend long hours at the pool so I settled for long soaks in the hot tub during the day. But I had to cool it down because hello 98 degrees outside. So it’s more like a lukewarm tub right now….feels just like the pool water. 

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New York Trip Day 3: Niagara Falls & Casino

So yesterday we left off when we were on the observation deck at Niagara Falls. After we enjoyed the view we made our way down to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour. 

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We didn’t even have to wait in line, as soon as we got down there they were filling up a boat so we got to load right away. It was so funny to watch the kids trying to put on those blue rain ponchos with the wind swirling around. After several attempts that ended in kids with their heads shoved through the arm holes they were finally all decked out and ready. We took some pictures before the boat launched. 

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Once the boat tour started I was really glad that my iPhone 7 is water resistant! Or I wouldn’t have gotten any good pictures at all because of the spray from the Falls. It was intense.

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The Falls were so very gorgeous up close. I’m so glad we decided to do the boat tour. Amazing!
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See that platform up there? That’s the observation deck that we were standing on in some of the earlier pictures. It did not seem quite so high when we were up there. 

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After the boat tour we decided it would be fun to climb the stairs that are right next to the Falls so we could see them really up close. We totally underestimated how wet we would get. Ha!

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The view was spectacular! It was a rough climb and the kids were good sports about getting totally soaked. I saw more smiles out of Tyler during the climb than I did for the entire rest of the trip. What can I say? The boy loves a challenge. But it was so worth it to get to the top. 

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Zoey and Mason are in there somewhere. They were smart, hiding behind the adults to avoid the spray. Ha! I snapped as many pictures as I could in a couple of minutes because that was about as long as we could stand the massive amounts of water spray smacking us in the face. The wind was intense and it was a hard climb back down. But I would do it again in a hot second, talk about some amazing memories! After we arrived back up at the top of the Falls we had an hour or so to kill before meeting everyone at the casino for dinner, plus we were soaking wet, so we decided to take a trolley tour.

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By the time the trolley tour ended it was time to walk up to the casino. We stopped for a picture in front of the Hard Rock Cafe Niagara Falls on the way.

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We ate dinner at the all you can eat buffet in the casino and it was so good. I think we gained 10 pounds each just on Sunday. Never in my life have I done 2 all you can eat buffets in one day. I regret nothing.

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After dinner Matt’s dad and uncle took the kids to the arcade so the adults could lose some money in the casino.

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Poor Tyler. He almost made it into the casino but at the last minute they asked for his ID so he was stuck in the arcade with the kids. I paid him $20 to watch the little kids. Money well spent considering when we got back Matt’s dad was asleep on a bench and his uncle was in the bathroom. Ha!

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Matt was very excited about his $10.64 winning on the penny slots. He felt very good about it until his aunt came out and said she won $480 on the same penny slots. Ha! I guess sometimes it does pay to be a gambler. We had a great time even if we didn’t win a jackpot. It was a really fun trip and I’m so glad we went. We left early the next morning at 8am for the 12 hour drive back home. 

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New York Trip Day 3: Family Reunion & Niagara Pt 1

We knew Sunday was going to be a busy day for us because our first stop was the family reunion brunch that was also a graduation celebration for Matt’s second cousins and we wanted to make it up to Niagara Falls before meeting everyone at the casino for dinner. The brunch was fun. We got to see family and friends that we hadn’t seen in 20 years, the food was excellent, and we enjoyed chatting with Matt’s older brother and his family who were at our table. 

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After we ate for 2 hours- it was an all you can eat brunch and we ate a whole lot- we had the kids change into more casual clothes so we could head up to Niagara Falls. It took us another hour to get out of there while plans were made and changed and then changed again….and again. 

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Finally we were ready to go! The kids were so excited to see Niagara Falls. We had to stick to the American side because we didn’t have our passports with us. But that was fine. Matt and I have already done the Canadian side but we’d never seen the American side. It was beautiful and so much fun! The kids were vibrating in their seats the minute we started crossing the bridge.

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We drove separately from Matt’s brother so we had a few minutes to enjoy the view while we waited to meet up with them. It was gorgeous. The kids were totally enthralled. 

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Before long our group was all together and we took a bunch of photos. Even Tyler consented to appear in some photos. That was the magic of the Falls. 

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The kids wanted to get closer and see more of the Falls. We decided to take the boat tour, called Maid of the Mist, which also included access to the Observation Deck. It was AMAZING and if you’re going to do Niagara Falls, I highly recommend shelling out the money for the boat and the observation deck. It was worth every single penny. The views from the deck were spectacular.

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Tomorrow I’m going to share all of our pictures from the boat tour, the trolley tour, and the casino. The boat tour pictures are by far my most favorite from the trip. You’ll see why. ha!

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