Roadtrip ’16: Hoyt Reunion

After our great camping experience, we drove down to Columbia, SC, to spend the night and visit Ben’s parents’ old church where we got to meet people who knew them 40 years ago, which was pretty neat. Apparently Dad was a bit of a rebel back then, growing long hair. I’d love to see a photo of that! We drove past their old house, which was brand new when they bought it and looks a little bit different now.

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After church and a lovely lunch put on by some of the church folks for Mum and Dad, we drove west to Georgia for the long-awaited Hoyt reunion.

People came and went as they could; we were thankful we could be there a full week. Somewhere in the middle of the week we had around 70 people there! What a wonderful time visiting, talking, playing, eating Aunt Nora’s great food, swimming, dancing, and just generally loving being together. Pretty much everyone I talked to wished we could hang out longer and spend more time together. This reunion we had loads of little kiddies, which can make it tricky to visit in the evenings and which is probably why a bunch of us felt like it was all over too quickly.

Disclaimer: some of the photos on here are pilfered from Bryan, who managed to get shots of some things I didn’t.

During the day we met at Uncle Stan and Aunt Nora’s church hall for activities, meals, games, and more.

We went out for trips to a nature reserve one time, played baseball another day, and went swimming most days.

In the evenings we did a bit of a house-hop for visiting and endless games of Mafia. We also had people over to our cabin one night for a bonfire and s’mores, which was one of the highlights of the week for me, but somehow I didn’t get any photos of that.

We had the traditional evening of folk dancing, which is always riotous fun, twirling and hoping like crazy you remember the right steps and don’t break someone’s toes or something.

We got to do some swing dancing on the Friday night, which was great — another highlight for me.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Hoyt reunion without a talent show! We ended up having two of them — one more casual one on the Thursday afternoon and a more formal one at a beautiful church in the evening. So much amazing talent in one family is almost criminal.

It was great to see all the different licence plates from all over the States in the church parking lot. People traveled long distances!

There were a couple of trips to a nice restaurant in town called Grits (which, being the south, sounds like ‘gree-uhts’. Had it been the deep south it would have graduated to ‘guh-ree-uhts’). This was delightfully a kids-free event for me and Ben thanks to some kind cousins and grandma who babysat.

Our next few butterflies hatched while at the reunion. Man, they were pretty.

We were hosted by friends of Uncle Stan and Aunt Nora in a cabin on their beautiful tree-filled property that they use for guests and an office. Dan and Beth were such gracious and kind hosts. Beth has done a fantastic job of decorating in a really neat country-folk-meets-artsy style. That, coupled with the beautiful wood in the cabin, gave the cabin a really nice homey feel.

 

 

With our hosts and their grandson on the cabin porch.

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So, as wonderful and fun as these events are, there is a huge downside to them… they only happen once every 3 or 4 years. So, as a solution, I propose lots of little mini-reunions in the in between times! Not the same, but it helps with the withdraw symptoms. Come on round!

 

Roadtrip ’16: Camping in TN

After our visit to Monticello we started the drive down to Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee where we planned on camping for a couple of nights. We started off in the rain and the rain just got heavier and heavier, and there were predictions for a huge storm to pass over where we were going to camp that night. So on the drive down I’m frantically searching for an Airbnb place or something similar and nothing affordable pops up. I’m texting Lillian and she just takes it in her stride and says we’ll be okay, and all I can think is that I don’t want to set up camp in the rain. Well, Lillian won, because when we got to our campsite it was dry and sunny (the storm was on its way, but not there yet) and I got to cook dinner and the tent got all set up, and we even managed to get all the clean up done and kids in bed before the storm broke loose. Moral of the story: always listen to Lillian. :-)

The campsite was beautiful. Lots of big trees and the most beautiful and calm (and warm!) lake, perfect for swimming. Other than it being really muggy when we first arrived, and then the storm that first night, we had near perfect weather too. I wish we could have stayed there longer. We spent our time taking walks, swimming (lots), playing with fire, collecting firewood, roasting marshmallows, and all those wonderful camping things. We also kept an ear out for local accents — quite a treat to our East Coast ears, heh!

(The kids usually swim in their swimsuits, it’s just that on the first morning when they went to check out the lake with Ben, it was so irresistible that they just had to get in!)

Before we left home, we found some black swallowtail caterpillars on the dill in our veggie garden, so being typical homeschoolers, we decided to bring them inside in a jar and study them. Except that when it came time to leave on our roadtip, we weren’t going to just leave them at home, or give them to friends to look after, so we took them along! The first one hatched while we were camping and everyone was fascinated. They are so beautiful!

Laurelin’s 3rd birthday

In all the bustle of the end of the school year and then summer vacation, I’ve neglected to post photos of Laurelin’s 3rd birthday.

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Laurelin is now a full-blown 3-year-old and no push-over, in every sense of the word. She’s feisty, not afraid to push and shove people 2 or 3 times her size (we’re working on that…) and is learning to use her words to say what she means instead of whining or squealing. (On that note, check out her Twitter page, which we’ve started for her like for the other two girls. Some days when I need a laugh I reread their funny sayings on Twitter and that perks me right up!)

The other day at the playground I watched her run next to the merry-go-round, pushing it faster and then swinging herself onto it despite it going quite fast and the platform being about chest height for her. Despite her reckless feistiness, she is very funny, she’s caring, and she can play quietly for extended periods of time making up the most hilarious little stories if you just quietly sit and observe. She gives wonderful cuddles and I’m so thankful she hasn’t lost all her baby squishiness and smell. And yet… she’s turning into a little big girl before my very eyes, and I can’t help feeling just a little bit sad.

During our visit to New Zealand over Christmas, Laurelin was introduced to the wonders of Peppa Pig and has been watching it since then (such a cute show!). So it would be no surprise, then, that she wanted a Peppa Pig themed birthday party — which she got. Well, it was really just a glorified play-date with some decorations and a cake, but if you don’t tell, I won’t!

 

Finishing up the school year

It’s taken us a while to get used to this business of school finishing right in the middle of the calendar year and the starting again in August/September when we are so used to the school year following the calendar year. We have now pretty much slotted into the US school calendar and are starting up again with homeschooling in a couple of weeks. But in the mean time, let me share some photos of the kids finishing up their last school year. Esther just finished 1st grade (Year 2 for NZers), Marica finished 3rd grade (Year 4), and Laurelin finished being a 2-year-old, ha. She’s recently  started preschool for 3 mornings a week, so that will hopefully free me up a bit so the two older girls and I can get some more work done. Look who lost her two front teeth!

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The girls also took part in their piano teacher’s end of year recital and did so well. They made their parents proud! Their friend, Elijah, has the same piano teacher and also played very well in the recital.

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There was also a co-op concert where the kids took part, but I have no photos of that, unfortunately.

Last semester, Esther did ballet which is something she has wanted to do for years. We found a place nearby and signed her up. It wasn’t quite as traditional a ballet school as I was hoping for, and she didn’t enjoy it as much as she thought she would, so we might rethink the whole ballet thing. But we’ll see. Either way, she did really well with the little dance her class did and loved getting all dolled up for the event!

The rehearsal:

 

The the big concert:

 

And while we’re on the theme of end-of-school, I should include Abby in here too. She’s our pastor’s daughter and the great love and big-girl friend of my girls. This year she graduated from high school. She was a member of the NJHSA (North Jersey Home Schoolers’ Association) and was part of their beautiful and grand graduation ceremony. I attended with Marica. It was so encouraging for me as a homeschool parent to see so may other homeschooling parents come to the end of a race well done. As each student crossed the stage, it gave a little bio of what their high school interests and accomplishments were and what they were planning on doing in the fall. What an impressive bunch of students! Then the students thanked their parents and gave their mothers a rose, which I thought was a touching gesture. We also got treated to listening to the NJHSA choir — wow! They were fantastic, and I don’t easily say that about a high school choir.  We’re proud of you, Abby!