Thursday, April 30, 2015


We put our house up for sale over Labor Day weekend. For the first couple of months, we wondered aloud and silently what we would do if the house sold right away. We had a great many lookers and a few serious ones. But nothing worked out. Then the months wore on, and as the time of our departure rapidly began approaching, we wondered aloud and silently what we would do if the house didn't sell at all. We knew for sure we were going to go ahead with our trip, but we didn't like leaving this large piece of unfinished business. We needn't have worried. About a month ago, a couple came to see the house and fell instantly in love with it. They said it was everything they were looking for. They presented us with a full-price offer and didn't make any demands. It was all so easy, we began to feel like it might be too good to be true. But, today we signed the papers and collected the money, and everything is official. And now, we can walk away truly unencumbered. This is the first time since 1999 that we have been completely debt-free and completely homeless. It is a great feeling! And, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

One Week

Tonight is our last night in our house. The house we built, and have loved, and have created so many memories in. We will spend the next few days with family and wrap up a bit of unfinished business. And, then, one week from today, we will turn the page on a new chapter of our lives. I'm not going to lie, change is hard, and leaving a world full of mostly knowns for a world full of mostly unknowns is a great challenge. It has already been a tearful week, as we've said good-bye to some amazing friends and neighbors, activities, possessions, and the here and now, and as we've looked forward to an uncertain future. There are so many emotions: fear, excitement, nervousness, elation, sadness, curiosity, et cetera, et cetera. And, so many questions: Have we truly prepared well? Do we have everything we need? Do we have more than we need? What if...? What if...? What if...?

As we've shared our travel news in the preceding months, we've heard that we're brave, that we're adventurous, that we're crazy, that we're ALL GONNA DIE! (People haven't come out and said that last one in words, but sometimes it's not hard to read between the lines.) The truth is, we are a little brave and a little adventurous and a little crazy. But, isn't everyone? Just to face each new day, with whatever personal challenges it holds for us, we all have to possess some quantity of each of those qualities. Your brave and my brave may not look exactly alike, but it is brave just the same. And, sometimes, the line between brave and crazy really is a bit blurred. The Watts aren't completely brave or completely adventurous or completely crazy, but we do have just enough of each of those qualities to face what's next for us. Just like you. Here's to the future! Let's do this!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Where in the World are the Watts: Part 2

About three months ago, I made a post listing our travel itinerary for the first couple of months of our trip. We have been busy since then trying put together some firm plans for the next phase of our trip, and we've now secured a place to stay for every night through the end of November. The day of departure is fast approaching, and we are getting so excited! If you have been to any of these places and have any great tips or recommendations, please feel free to share in the comments. (If you want to see where we'll be between May and July, click on the word "post" in the first sentence.)

July 25
Rome, Italy
July 26-29
Florence, Italy
July 30-31
Venice, Italy
Aug. 1-4
Salzburg, Austria
Aug. 5-6
Zurich, Switzerland
Aug. 7-9
Vex, Switzerland
Aug. 10-14
St.-Imier, Switzerland
Aug. 15-20
Larochette, Luxembourg
Aug. 21-23
Ghent, Belgium
Aug. 24
London, England
Aug. 25-Sept. 3
Beer, England
Sept. 4-24
Spittal, England
Sept. 25-Oct. 1
Thorton Dale, England
Oct. 2-8
Edinburgh, Scotland
Oct. 9-17
Inverness, Scotland
Oct. 18-20
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Oct. 21-22
Bushmills, Ireland
Oct. 23-24
Connemara National Park, Ireland
Oct. 25-31
Limerick, Ireland
Nov. 1-27
Duncannon, Ireland
Nov. 28
Ferry boat to Cherbourg, France

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Memory Master

If you've been following along for a while, you may remember that one of the cool opportunities the kids have in CC is to become a "Memory Master." Kids who earn this honor work extra hard during the year to memorize every single piece of information, across seven subjects, presented during the 24-week school year. This year, that included over 400 pieces of information:
  • 161 events and people in a chronological timeline and all 44 presidents, in order
  • 24 history sentences, including the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights
  • 120 locations and geographic features in North America, including all the U.S. states and capitals, and most of the major features, like rivers, desserts, mountains, etc.
  • 24 science facts, including the first 12 elements of the Periodic Table and the parts of 8 body systems
  • Latin rules and vocabulary and the entire text of John 1:1-7 in both Latin and English
  • English grammar facts, including the principal parts of 11 irregular verbs
  • Multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, basic geometry formulas and unit conversions. 
Student must pass four oral "proofs," including one with a parent, in which they may not miss more than three items per subject; one with the other parent or other adult, in which they may not miss more than one item per subject; one with a CC tutor, in which they must recite every piece of information without any mistakes; and one random "spot check" with the director, which covers about 20% of the year's information, and in which no mistakes are allowed. 

Weston decided to go through the process again this year and finished up his last proof yesterday. He was incredibly successful, and we are so proud of him! 

Proud Memory Master

The back of the shirt, featuring just a small sample of the memorized material

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

End of an era

Unbelievably, the boys and I attended our last class day of CC yesterday. (Ruth will complete her semester next Tuesday.) CC has been such a huge part of our lives for the last five years, and it is truly hard to believe that we have come to the end of that era, for now. I didn't have a clue what we were getting in to when we first signed up all those years ago. I just knew that I needed to not feel alone on my homeschooling journey. And that was certainly one of the big things CC offered. But, it has been so much more than that. We have been challenged academically, encouraged personally, nourished spiritually and fulfilled in more ways than we can count. We have made friends that feel like family, and we have pushed ourselves to do things we didn't know we could do. We could not be more thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of something so special. We will miss the program and people tremendously, but we will carry our experiences from this chapter of our lives into the next and will undoubtedly be better for it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Necessity is the mother of invention

Yesterday morning, my favorite "three boy," who has recently gotten rid of most of his toys and was, I think, honestly just looking for something creative to do, had found some scissors and shredded a little book and some important papers of mine. Some time after we had cleaned up that mess, and I had chastised the boy for touching things that don't belong to him, I found him hiding in his room with a black marker (dry-erase, not permanent, thank goodness) writing all over his body and the floor. Before I could pull all of my hair out, Jeff suggested that Clay probably just needed a good, authorized art project. Since we are lacking in craft supplies, and since I'm not one of those super crafty moms that relishes a good art project anyway, I came up with something that worked within those parameters: "painting" with water in the garage. Clay loved it and spent the rest of the morning happily working on that project and staying out of trouble. They say "necessity is the mother of invention," but I'm just wondering why I couldn't have come up with that plan before so much destruction took place in the house.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Saying good-bye

This past weekend has been marked on the calendar for a while as the time when most of the remaining stuff must go, because we didn't want to leave things for the last minute and because we wanted to return the trailer we've been borrowing for months and months. Whatever we'd been holding on to "for just a little longer," has now been removed, and we are now basically down to six bar stools, five mattresses on the floor, a handful of dishes and our travel bags. And, even though we've been serious about getting rid of stuff for months, there was still so much stuff. Most of the items were easily gotten rid of, without a single thought, except "Why do we still have this?!" But some of them held more of our hearts and required a bit more than just a cursory glance and a casual toss in a bag.

For instance, Clay had somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand stuffed animals, which he has been reluctant to part with. He has a special small friend to travel with (O. California) and a couple of long-time friends (Nemo and Oosh) in his box of things to keep. The rest had to go, so Jeff told Clay it was time to let other boys and girls have a chance to play with these friends. Clay didn't cry or get upset and, true to his nature, actually seemed happy to share them with someone else. But he did kiss and hug each one and then shared a special message with each individual, like, "Have fun!" or "I'll see you later." It was the sweetest little ritual.

When it was time to load up Jeff's over-sized recliner that we've had since Ruth was born, Jeff stretched out in it one last time and delivered a heartfelt speech to it. All the boys then followed suit. It's been a good chair and a good friend, and it will be missed.

There was also another kind of good-bye. In the storage closet upstairs, there was a box of my old journals, some dating back to my high school years, that I have been holding on to all these years. I've moved them countless times and, though I never really go back and read through them, I have felt incapable of getting rid of them. It just seemed like too much history to dispose of, too much of myself to say good-bye to. I have specifically been avoiding cleaning out that closet because I didn't want to have to decide what to do with them. But, yesterday, when I finally went up to tackle the closet, I had a revelation: I know who I am, and I don't need to dwell on who I was.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is value in self-evaluation, in looking back at where we came from and realizing how we need to change or how we've already changed. But, sometimes, we get so caught up in the past that we let it rule our futures. We let the past define us, and then we are afraid to become something new. We carry it with us for years and years, and it becomes a heavy, paralyzing burden. I threw the whole box of journals away, and I'm not sad about that. It's actually a relief to not move that box again. I'm not defined by my past, and I am free to step into the future uninhibited. Are there things from your past that you need to let go of? If so, I would like to encourage you to go ahead and do it. I don't think you'll regret it.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

You know what's better than scowling?

From time to time, someone around here gets knotted up and a scowl appears on that person's face. The other day, Weston was the one bent out of shape, and Jeff asked him why he was scowling. From across the room, and completely out of the blue, Clay responded, "Scallops are better than scowling!" The entire household erupted in laughter, including the scowler. Since then, any time someone puts on a grumpy face, someone else will say, "You know what's better than scowling?" It is then very, very difficult for the grump to maintain his or her grumpiness. If you don't believe me, give it a try the next time you're around someone who can't seem to put on a happy face.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Weekend

Another fun stay at the MCM Elegante in Abilene.

So blessed to spend the weekend with some of our very favorite people!

We enjoyed the beautiful weather and plenty of outside time.

We had two different egg hunts:
a fairly easy one for the little boys and a more challenging one for the big boys.
(The little boys may have had to help the big boys out when they got stuck!)

The bluebonnets and other wildflowers are absolutely spectacular this year!
We couldn't resist taking our obligatory bluebonnet pics
at the front entrance of our neighborhood when we got home.
(If you want to see a bigger version of the collages, you can click on any of them to open a photo viewer that makes the individual pictures easier to see.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Dentistry by the numbers

It's never much fun to go to the dentist. It's less fun when you have a relatively large family, and the majority of them have dental issues. We were in the dentist's office today from 8:30 until 12:00, being seen by 3 hygienists, 2 dental assistants and 2 dentists. As a group, we came away with five cavities, one diagnosis of periodontal disease, one diagnosis of gingivitis, two prescriptions, one plan for another round of surgery, ten follow up appointments, three recommendations of countries offering quality dental care, and several thousand dollars missing from our pocketbook. This is especially frustrating, because we do take dental hygiene seriously and try to implement healthy brushing practices in our home. Obviously, it isn't working. So, we've ordered a water pick and electric toothbrushes, and one of us will soon be wearing a night guard. So many fun times! At least we had the foresight to schedule this appointment at this time, so we can get everything taken care of before we leave on our trip. And, thankfully, our dentists and everyone in their office are wonderful to work with.