Monday, March 31, 2014

We have an expiration date.

Every morning we walk out the front door and we never know if we will have the chance to walk back through it. Whether we accept it or not, life is very short and super fragile. If you knew you were going to be called "home" in the next hour, would you have automatic regret for the life you've been living or would you be content knowing you've lived this life to the fullest? That's the funny thing about life. We all KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that one day we will be called home. That one day our time on this earth will end and we will no longer make great experiences or get to leave behind wonderful memories.  Yet so many people live as though they will go on forever. We hear over and over, people say, "When I retire, I'm going to travel the world, I'll do THIS or THAT when I stop working, when my kids are older I'll take them to disney world". Why wait? You may not have your health later, you may not have your children, you may never get the chance to experience the dreams of your life if you keep putting it all off. We are all here on borrowed time and it will eventually expire. For some it will be sooner than later.

We know this all too well. We know just how short and fragile each and every one of our lives is and can be. When the phone rang to notify us that my brother was killed in Afghanistan, our dinner table had just been set, the kids were watching a movie while I made dinner and we stopped EVERYTHING to go be with family. The food all remained on the plates and in the potts. You know why? Because NOTHING is more important than family, friends and even complete strangers. Nothing can compare to human life and interaction. Things are nothing compared to love and memories and relationships. And when I received the phone call, after having just drivin 3 hours to go coach a swim meet, notifying me that my 2.5 year old son was just diagnosed with cancer.. I STOPPED. I stopped everything to be with him because even a job is not as important as my son. My husband and I decided that no matter what, one of us would always be with him throughout his battle. We had no idea where his battle would take us even though we had lots of hope and faith. His little life is what we lived for and all we wanted was to create many more wonderful memories with him.

My brother and I had plans. He was going to come back to the U.S after fighting in the war and we were supposed to all go out to Colorado for vacation that following summer. He was going to come back and we were going to have BBQ's, hang out at the beach, go camping and our kids would get to spend some time with their uncle. Instead, we have past memories to cling to, a niece who was born 9 days after he died and hope for seeing him once again. Time is short. Do not waste it.

I know it's hard to conquer all the plans we would like to accomplish. Especially the plans that take time saving money or having to work towards, but at least start small and head in the right direction. In the end, it's the memories, experiences and relationships that matter most and not the things. Our past trips are not spent thinking of what we bought but rather what we did. Who fell where, who laughed so hard, what we saw, what the kids said, etc. Our family seeks out the experiences because when it's all and said and done, that is what the kids will always remember.

Do not waste anymore time. If you don't like your job, change it. If you want to do more with your children, do it. If you want to travel, start going places. We are not promised another day on this earth and no one is excempt from that. One day that time will come and while some may have a notice, many others will not. Get out there and live the life God gave you... you never know, it could expire soon.

"I tell you not to worry about everyday life - whether you have enough."
-Matthew 6:25

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Easter and Spring Hair Bows.

Hippity Hoppity Easter is on it's way... I think!! It's been so cold here and just last night we recieved snow and sleet. Hmm, not the typical spring that Williamsburg is used to. Each and everyone of us is ready for summer. We are over spring already. :) In the mean time, I've been filling my Etsy shop with some springtime bows and headbands. You can find me right HERE! If you are interested in something a bit different,  I do make custom listings for special made products. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How do our kids learn?

What does an actual day of un/homeschooling look like for us? Well, to be honest, we do NOT follow any curriculums, plans or schedules. We know that Wednesdays are homeschool PE days and Fridays are spent at Busch Gardens with other homeschoolers. Other than that, we do whatever pleases us on any given day. The kids learn while on the go, by hands on activities and from lots of documentaries on Netflix. If the girls feel like doing workbooks, we do them. If Montana wants to do discovery kids on the computer, I let him. When an opportunity arrises to learn a certain topic or interest, we explore all that it has to offer. That is why we are un/homeschoolers.

So many others wonder what our days look like. How exactly do our kids learn is what they want to know. Kids are going to learn whether you want them to or not. It's programmed into them from the day they are born... it's natural. I don't feel the need to sit down and do worksheets over and over when we experience things such as time in a natural setting. Dinner is at 5, bedtime is at 8, they look at the clock and see when that is and know that it comes after 4 or 7. It's natural. Plus, they fight going to bed so they look constantly. :) We do money as it comes. They put change in their piggy banks, we count it, add it up and spend it when the time allows. All of this is an everyday occurance in our house and we would rather spend our other time doing things that interest them/us and that are fun. Going outside is a must for each and everyone of us in the Oatman household. Rain, shine, snow or wind, we head outdoors and experience the life that God gave us. We study storms, clouds, bugs, plants, oceans, rivers, beaches, you name it. It's all hands on for us. The kids love it and so do we. This is our way to learn... the Oatman way!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mini Vacation to Sunny Florida.

Well, it looks like we took a last minute trip to sunny Florida for about three days. It's a 12 hour drive from Williamsburg, Va to Orlando, Fl. If we leave at 4am we will arrive at 4pm. The kids do rather well and are used to the long days in the car filled with yummy food and tons of movies! It's not the best of times but it could be worse. :) So, last weekend we hopped in the Suburban with my mom and brothers and tagged along for a quick trip towards the heat. We planned on going to all Anheiser Busch Parks such as Sea World, Busch Tampa, and Aqautica and we ended up doing exactly that while getting sun burnt, laughing, eating and walking our way through three separate parks. The kids had a blast and it was exactly what we needed from this cold weather we've been having here in Virginia. I just can't believe the weather that Virginia has had lately. It's just not normal for this area and we are all more than ready to get rid of it and welcome the spring. Bring on the spring or summer, either is fine with me! :) If you haven't been to any of these parks, you really should make a point of visiting at least one. They are all great, well taken care and a ton of fun!! 

Our first stop was at Busch Gardens Tampa. It's a bigger park than Busch Gardens Williamsburg and has a ton more animals. Of course the kiddos loved that aspect of it as well as all the walking trails and added kiddie areas. We would love to have those kid areas here.. seriously!! We didn't see them for what seemed like hours. :) They were built just for their ages with all kinds of climbing ropes, trails and hidden areas. They had a ton of FUN!

Our second day was spent at Sea World and then hanging out at the Disney hotel pool. This is the day we ended up getting a little burnt but the kids had a blast! I mean what child wouldn't have fun seeing dolphins, seals, whales and then swimming the rest of the day in a very nice pool? Oh yup, mine had an amazing time. 

Our last day was spent at the water park, Aquatica. I was already burnt so I tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible but the kids were good to go for hours. I lathered them up in sunblock and sent them on their way!! No one wanted to leave and they complained that next morning when we had to load the car and make our way north to the frigid temps in Virginia. When we left that morning in Florida it was 72 and by the time we made it to Virginia it had dropped to 39 degrees!! Holy cow that's cold and what a difference. Please send us back south!! :) They all had a great time and it was such a nice break from the crazy weather we've been having. Enjoy the photos and have a great Sunday!! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Longboarding through the cold days.

What do we do on some warmer days around here? ... And by warmer, we are talking a whopping 50 degrees or so... we skate. The past two weekends have been 65 and that has been absolutely A-MAZING so we go longboarding of course. We head for longer and bigger hills and we look for less traffic. This sport has just recently been picked up by us but it feels like we've been doing it forever. The boards we have make it feel like you're truly surfing on ocean waves for real. The only difference is the road rash you get from eating concrete... does not feel nice. :) I'd much rather fall in water and get thrashed in the waves no doubt. However, with the weather around here not looking like anything close to beach weather, this will have to do. That's not a bad thing because all the kids enjoy it, my brothers love it and we like the thrill of heading down hills. Here are a few more images of us having some fun. Enjoy. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Unschooling at the Virginia Aquarium.

One of the museums/aquariums that we are members of is the Virginia Aquarium. This is probably our second or third time being members for this place. We try to switch up by alternating each year between The Virginia Living Museum, The Norfolk Zoo and The Virginia Aquarium so that the kids don't get bored with one place. 

The aquarium is a nice little museum with lots of animals, fish, and exhibits. The kids really love the stingray touch tank as well as all the other hands on activities. I'd say we spend about 20 minutes at the touch tank alone. It becomes a game of seeing how many rays they can touch with each visit. This aquarium does a good job of teaching the kids and guests about what exactly lives and grows in the waters surrounding Virginia. It's not super big but it's nicely done and the kids love going. The photos below where taken with my iphone so they aren't anything to write home about but you get a small idea of what the museum is like. Enjoy and happy unschooling day to all!! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

St. Patricks Day Craft.

Here is our St. Patricks Day craft. This winter has been a long one and we are all more than ready for the warmer weather, the beach and the outings. Please, hurry up and bring the sun!! Even though spring is not my favorite season out of the four, I'll take it as long as it brings on the 70's. :) In the mean time, we are trying to keep busy with going to museums, doing crafts and playing games. When the weather hits in the 50's we go outside for as much as we can. These 3 NEED to run and be free outside because one house can only take so much abuse. It's been so much colder here than in years past.. kind of odd for this area really.

We created this cute little clover craft a day or two ago. They came out pretty sweet and all of them were named accordingly. :) Our arts and craft time is a favorite around here but it was always a favorite of mine growing up as well. I would always choose art over anything else and my kids do the same.

Four Leaf Clover Craft Creatures:
1. Cut out 4 hearts in green paper that are about one inch in size.
2. Cut out a circle in a different shade of green that is about the size of a cereal bowl.
3. Glue the hearts however you please and then add a stem.
4. We added a mouth and then some wiggly eyes.
5. A little bow was added to each wherever they pleased with a mini bead on top.
5. Hang it up and love your creation!! :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Skydiving with Wounded Wear.

This past September, my family and I were invited to attend Jumping for a Purpose at Skydive Suffolk which was put on by Wounded Wear. If you haven't heard of Wounded Wear, you should really check them out. They are doing some amazing things for soldiers who have been wounded by the war. The owner and founder Jason Redman is such an awesome guy who he himself is a wounded warrior. His heart is huge for helping those who have been physically and mentally altered because they were fighting for our freedom. Just in case ya'll didn't know... Freedom is NOT free!! And if you are new to our blog, my awesome brother, SGT Paul Dumont Jr, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 19, 2009. Not a day has gone by that he is not thought about. That is why I decided to take to the sky to jump out of a perfectly good plane! During the entire flight up, I thought about only him. I wondered if he knew what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how much I truly missed him. This life without him has not been an easy one and all I want is to make him proud of who I am, what we are doing and to continue living the dream. My brother was a guy who took risks, who lived on the edge, made people laugh out loud, and always left us with an amazing memory or two. I want nothing more than to do the same. 

On September 14, 2013 I boarded a plane with about 14 other people (some of them wounded warriors) flew up high in the clouds with the hum of the plane blocking everything around me out. I thought of my brother, his sacrifice, my family waiting below and I prayed. I prayed I would land on the ground (safe of course), I prayed for all the soldiers who sacrificed so much for our freedom and I prayed my brother knew what I was doing for him. It's not everyday I jump out of plane and it's not really something I gave much thought to until it was offered to me. However, I did it and NOTHING will ever compare to the moment that I stood on the edge of the dock of the plane, looking down and counting 3-2-1 as we rocked back and forth to flip out backwards. That was it... it was such a freeing moment. We fell, and we fell fast! Those seconds of free falling were such a rush until he pulled the cord and we began the slow decent into the landing area. It was neat to see everything down below. It was all so tiny and it made me realize just how small we all are on this place called earth. We really are insignificant to the vast space around us. What a neat and surreal experience. Then we landed and I shed a tear or two just for the fact that I did something so out of the norm for me and I knew my loving brother was with me on that jump. It's a moment I will never forget. Isn't that what life is all about after all? ... living for the memories and in the moments. I'll take that memory with me throughout the rest of my life here on earth and when I get to heaven, I'll share all of it with him. 

Thank you to Wounded Wear for such an amazing experience and most of all, thank you for your sacrifice to our amazing country. We owe so much to you all!! Thanks! 

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly possessions."

Colossians 3:2

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Traveling with kids.

Traveling with kids.. ahhh that sounds like such a horrible idea is what many people would think. I mean who really WANTS to go on vacation while dragging along your mini me's? The screaming, crying, jet lag, long car rides, potty breaks, the mess, the loads of luggage.. oh my word that does not sound like fun! And so, that is why many people I know plan their "vacations" as though they would their honeymoon. The kids will stay with grandma and grandpa and the parents will fly off to somewhere romantic to enjoy the piece and quiet. While that can be fun once in awhile, it can also be a whole lot of fun with your kiddos.. I promise!! If we all waited for the exact moment that everything worked out the way we planned, saved the money we needed and had the kids lined up for their long stay with family members, we would miss out on so many neat experiences with our little ones.

Chris and I have pretty much always gone on vacation with our kids. There have only been two times in the past 10 years that we went somewhere without them. The first being when I had a wedding to shoot in Mexico, which was gorgeous but was not all that fun unfortunately. I had just lost my brother to the war a month prior and my mind was nowhere tropical. :( The second was this past October when my inlaws had taken the kids for a few days before we were to meet up with them again. As a last minute whim, Chris and I booked a flight to Disneyworld and walked around EPCOT for the day. It was super short but amazingly fun while we reminised about our wedding down there 10 years ago. So, yes, small trips with no kids are still fun, but the trips with the kiddos are just as memorable!!

In the past 9 years, while having kids, we have been to Alaska, Hawaii, 32 other states, Germany, Austria, and the Dominican Republic. The most important thing to remember while traveling with kids is to GO WITH THE FLOW!!! If we were to try to make everything always run smoothly (no spilled drinks, food rubbed all over the clothes, forgotten blankies, messed up nap schedules, jet lag, the complaining, bickering, etc.) our trips would never have been fun. It's all about living in the moment, taking it for what it is and remembering to have fun. I mean it is a vacation/trip after all and this is what life is all about.. creating wonderful memories. Plus, just remember that those long days on the road will be counteracted with the awesome days off the road. The journey and the experience is afterall what you are seeking.

So how do WE do it, is what many want to know. How do we travel, where do we go, what do we  pack, etc. To tell you the truth, we are last minute kind of people overall. We plan small trips spontaneoulsy and bigger trips months out to accomodate finances. The other question most people want to know about our travels is, "how do you travel in a car for weeks with 3 kids?" Well, our kids are good travelers and we started them out young. We never stayed home because we had an infant and they learned to sleep while on the go right from the beginning. So needless to say, they still sleep in the car when they get tired. yay for us, right? They love to be gone and consistanly on the go. It's a good quality to have in a child for the traveling parents. Our kids can also sleep pretty much anywhere and that is also something we instilled in them from the get go. Plus, our kids didn't have a choice when our son was diagnosed with leukemia. We HAD to be accomodating to any kind of help and from that experiece, we learned to sleep in the same bed, on couches, on the floor, and in cars. We also pack lots of different items to keep the kids entertained, we stop about every 4 hours, we listen to music, play games and take naps. (In another post I'll share what we pack and how we plan/pay for our trips!)

Traveling with kids is much like living life.. you really have to be flexable. However, you don't have to have a life altering event to make your kids adaptable to the traveling lifestyle. Kids will learn to sleep, eat while on the go, and adapt to their surroundings if you offer them that possibility. For example, if your kid skins their knee after falling and the parents make a big deal about it, the kids will also make a big deal about it. Instead, give them love, clean it up and go on with the activity. That's pretty much the same with traveling. Don't make driving in the car or flying on a plane a big deal. It should be something that is enjoyed by the whole family and something that the kids will look forward to for years to come. In the end, it really is about being laid back and being able to go with the flow.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Our unschooling games.

We like to play games to help us learn. The kiddos love games and it's way more fun than sitting, staring at books, and writing needless things. They learn just the same, comprehend the same amount and continue to keep asking for more! There are many benefits to playing games together with the kids that alot of people don't realize. It promotes family bonding while builing math, thinking, and language skills. It's also a good learning tool for kids who struggle with education the "traditional" way. Our son is dyslexic and hates anything that has to do with letters, visualizing them or writing them down, yet he will play many games that do have different words or letters in them. It's one of our favorite reasons for schooling at home - helping the child learn in a way that suites them! 

There are several games that are our favorites and happen to be played over and over. Unschooling is all about learning in such a way that the kids LOVE what they do, seek out the information and WANT to learn. Most of the time at their age, they don't even realize they are learning because it is so fun! I hope we can keep that up for many years. :) Here are a few of our favorites and why! **I will see if I can eventually add photos for each game.**

Candyland & Chutes and Ladders: 
- colors (Candyland) 
- counting
- taking turns
- cause and effect

UNO: we love this as a family
- taking turns
- color combos
- matching numbers
- following rules
- remembering simple things such as saying UNO at the right time. :) 

- allows creativity
- encourages counting
- learn geometry
- problem solving
- strategize; think about which pieces to play first as opposed to saving for last 
- it's competitive and requires good sportsmanship- :) 

- great for counting
- works on strategy skills
- teaches patience 
- you can play it over and over!! 

Brain Quest:
- learn many subjects
- retain knowledge
- memorize educational facts
- all around fun and interesting