Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Home Again...

We are home!! I can't beleive what we accomplished in 32 days. The last leg of our trip was everything family and Disney. Brad and his mother (Mimi) joined us in Vero Beach for some well-deserved R&R. Just enough rest to get us ready for Disney World. 

We celebrated Bradley's 10th Birthday at Disney World. His only wish was to ride the Rocking Rollercoaster for the first time. I rode with him and cannot give you a review since my eyes were closed shut the entire time. I really dislike going upside down.

Our weeks of mild tempatures really did not prepare us for the heat and humity. There are much better months to head to Disney - November and February are our favorites! We spent an afternoon at DisneyQuest, which is a five-story gaming center for kids. It was a blast and a bonus to be out of the heat. Tip - go there at 11:30 am when the rest of Disney World is at the parks. You will be one of a few guests and will not have to deal with the night crowds of Downtown Disney.

We even got to ride the new Snow White Mining Train in Magic Kingdom!! Another tip - rest during the day and go to the parks after 7pm. While the majority of the Park is gearing up for the nighttime parades, shows and fireworks, you can pack in a ton of rides with wait times usually less than 10 minutes. What is the best time to ride the new rides, Space Mountain or anything else with long wait times such as Peter Pan? 11:30pm!! Everyone is leaving and the Park seems to not change the wait times. Example: Mining Train said it was a 45 minute wait. We got on the rollercoaster in 15 minutes and was able to ride twice before the park closed at midnight.

After a great week of family vacation, Brad gave me a true gift! (Yet another reason he is the original Mr. Awesome.) He flew back to Houston with Eliza which meant for the last days of our trip and long drive home I did not have to take care of a 2 year old!! The kids were thrilled because that also meant they could stop watching Barbie in the car!!

We headed to Legoland - a much anticipated location that we have always talked about visiting. Lego City and some of the other parts did not disappoint but honestly the time to take your kids is between the ages of 4-6 years old. We missed the window a bit and it wasn't too impressive after 4 days at Disney. 

The kids were overly impressed with the Holiday Inn Express in Winter Haven. (For all the fabulous places we stayed the past four weeks this place won them over.) The hotel gives each child - under the age of 12 -  a Lego package when they check-in and there is a TV at each booth in the restaurant. The kids got to build Legos and watch TV during dinner which is not normal in our household.

Our last destination was one of my favorites and a first for us. We stopped in Sandestin! The sand and water on the beach is pristine and a wonderful place to celebrate the end of our journey. The entire resort had so much to offer and definitely made it on the Hancock list of future vacation destinations. It was very special for me to actually be able to play with my older children without worrying about a very active two-year old. Sandestin was the cherry on top for the end of our adventure.

The ride home was uneventful with everyone watching movies that Eliza could not watch and only a handful of sibling fights. (And our last dozen hot donuts from Krispy Kreme,)

A great trip always ends with you ready to come home. Our house was full of love and ready to welcome us along with endless hugs from Eliza. It feels so good! The pets all survived though my garden (and waistline) were not as fortunate. This past month was truly a blessing and something we will never forget.

Next Summer? Robert has declared we have to take a summer off and can pick up this adventure in 2016! We will see what happens, but for now we have a lifetime of memories.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!
India, Adair, Bradley, Robert, and Eliza

Sunday, August 3, 2014


As I sit here with our family together and think about the past three weeks, I feel so blessed for the opportunity to share this time with my children. I have gotten to know each one of them a little bit better and they have certainly learned a little bit more about their mother. (The good, the bad and the ugly.)

You don't have to go on a 32 day road trip to know your children, but for a full-time working, overcommitted Mom this was one way to make sure my children had 100 percent of my time and attention. I couldn't say "just a minute" or "hold on" while I thought of the mile-long list of to do's waiting for me. My list was filled with what they wanted to do and what I wanted to share with them.

We laughed, cried, screamed, teased, snuggled, learned and just had quality time together. Each one of them impressed me with how they stepped up to the plate and helped me, their siblings and their selves. I don't think we give children the credit they deserve or enough opportunity for them to be independent.

I have a renewed appreciation for the human race - from the strangers that would offer to help me with luggage and doors or pick up our trail of junk to the numerous hotel staff and waitresses that would take the time to sit down and get to know us and our journey. Complete strangers truly went out of their way to help me as a Mother with four children flying solo on the road.

Also, I've been overwhelmed by the outpour of invitations and offerings from friends and family across the globe who offered their homes, vacation homes, invited us to meals, suggested so many great places to visit or just kept me in stitches with texts, posts and messages.

This week has been a great way to finish our trip. We have enjoyed the beach time and lazy schedule. I had plans for us to study the ecosystem of the Marsh and tour a sea turtle rescue center. None of which occurred. 

We slept late, swam till we were prunes, played more putt putt golf than the law should allow, and really rocked it in the water slide races.

The kids learned Gyotaku, Japanese Fish Painting, with real fish. Word of caution: the t-shirts smell terrible after the art dries!

The boys are very popular at the Pool Party and Adair wins Sister of the Year Award for patience with her little sister in the pool.

The highlight of this week was having Brad meet us at Vero with his mother. The entire trip has been missing a very important element - my awesome husband and super dad, Brad!! Poor guy wasn't living the bachelor life these past three weeks, but rather dealing with a very persistent kidney stone and the unpleasant procedure to rid him of it.

We are blessed to have him with us and look forward to enjoying this week before we head home.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Here's Robert...

We are at Vero beach. My favorite part of the trip is hanging with my family.

In DC I really liked the natural history Museum with all the rocks! 

I'm off to find Mickey Mouse and better not be late or he will start celebrating! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Miss me?

This is Adair again. I want to tell you about going from learning to fun. Sure going to museums is very cool but beaches are pretty awesome too. I was glad for a break when we finally got to Hilton head. We ended our learning part of the trip in DC I've been there before but we got to see things I didn't know were there. We went to almost every monument. We saw museums at the monuments that no one knew were there. As soon as we got to Hilton head I noticed we all sort of relaxed. Yeah yeah don't tell me that everyone does. Being at the pool and beach made everyone really happy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bradley's Perspective

Today my mom is making me write the blog. We are at Hilton head at the Disney resort in south Carolina. We were having fun at the Beach. If you have kids I would recommend this trip but if your kids are over 16 then let your kids drive.

Are you having fun my mom told me to say that... Oh yea!

Life in the Low Country

After the hustle and bustle of Northern VA, South Carolina's Low Country is the perfect place to recharge. 

We have done nothing but hang outdoors under the oak trees and swim until the evening hours. The smiles, giggles and fun returned to this brood. 

The boys played bean bag toss and shuffle board, while Adair patiently played Mermaid for the majority of the day thanks to one demanding two year old. 

The boys found a hiding place in the kitchen so they don't have to help with chores.

I have enjoyed shrimp and grits every day and the beauty of the Marsh. Tomorrow we might even make it as far as the beach! 

The decision to head to Hilton Head early was the right one for this family. 

Lesson Learned: Flexabilty is the key to this adventure!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Final Chapter of the History Tour

What a week in Washington, DC! Wednesday we spent the entire day at Mount Vernon touring and really enjoying the new Education Center and Museum. It provides a nice overview of the Revolutionary War with some great interactive exhibits that the kids loved. (Snow falling on you while Washington crosses the Delaware is pretty cool!).

Cameras help engage them for our last leg and thank goodness for the bubble blankie!

Eliza enjoyed Mount Vernon's gardens as much as Mommy. 

Wednesday was also the night that Robert finally protested no more museums!! I wish he had used the skills he had learned about a peaceful protest but he chose a full-out war over the smell of the shampoo and my insistence that he shower. (I had no idea a 7-year-old could have such terrible B.O.! Did he acquire that skill at camp?) We are very lucky that we were not thrown out of the hotel or on the front page of the paper because the protest was LOUD (his and mine)!

A good night's sleep always refreshes children and mother. Thursday we headed to the Spy Museum...a Robert bucket list item since he was 3 years-old. The museum did not disappoint as we trained to be international spies, learned the history of espionage, and enjoyed seeing the many gadgets from James Bond movies. The kids had a ball and found plenty of gadgets to take home thanks to the awesome museum shop.

We finished our DC tour at the American History Museum to see the Star Spangled Banner and visit the American President's and First Ladies' exhibits. Even Adair cheered a little bit when she heard that was the last museum of our tour. (Eliza has been chanting for two days No More Museums!)

Lesson Learned: Krispy Kreme has been our secret weapon for stamina both for children, mother and grandmother. I don't think I can eat another hot donut EVER!

Change of Course - Due to the unpeaceful protests of the whole group I'm changing our itinerary and foregoing Asheville, NC. (Very sad to miss Biltmore Estates but feel this family needs some water, beaches and R/R).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We are Back...

After spending the entire day Monday in the hotel doing nothing but watching television, playing video games and going to Whole Foods to get some of our favorite foods, we are back in business!

We welcomed Zaza to our big adventure Monday evening and kicked-off DC with a private night tour of the monuments and our Nation's Capitol. Before you get too impressed the additional charge was minimal for the six of us to have our own driver and tour guide and be picked up at our hotel. It didn't matter how loud the toddler tantrum was - our family was the only ones that had to endure it.  (There was no time for Zaza to get acclimated she had to jump right in). 

We saw the Vietnam, Korean War, WWI, WWII Memorials, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, White House, The Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, Washington Monument, and everything in between. We heard great stories and history on each while deciding on our  own time when to get out and when to drive by. It was a great overview of the city and start to our DC trip.

Today I successfully got four children and one grandmother on the Metro from Old Town to the Smithsonian. We, and the rest of the summer vacation crowd, enjoyed the Air and Space Museum - think lines like Disney World. We had a great lunch and time at the Native American Museum with no lines, great food, and a wonderful area for children on the third floor.

After letting the boys run around on the Mall, we headed to the National Art Gallery and ended our day at the Natural History Museum. There was total disappointment when we found out the dinosaur exhibit is closed for renovation, but all was right in the world once we hit the gems and minerals exhibit. A rock lovers paradise!!

We ended our day with everyone making the Metro back to our hotel. The energy level for the younger folk is definitely back. Hoping to find a way to bottle that for the 39+ crowd!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A kids view

Hi I'm Adair. I want to share with you my points on Williamsburg. Well actually mostly the governor's ball. We were all really excited to get there. We went to a tavern for dinner.  Once we were done me and Robert sparred with wooden toys. Crowds gathered around taking pictures. I guess no one heard the Hancocks were in town!

We put each other in the stocks and pretended to decapitate each other. Even Eliza commited a crime worthy of the stocks! 

We saw a long line at the governors palace and knew it was time to go in. We enjoyed learning how to do the pleasantries that you do at the beginning and end of each dance. The people who ran the ball did a couple of dances first. 

Then they started picking people to dance, too. They would tell us what to do and then we would go over it and do it to the music. Everyone in our family except for Bradley danced at the ball including Eliza. No one had to ask for me and Robert to dance they could tell we wanted to. I danced probably three times. Every dance but one had at least one Hancock in it. 

When mom danced  Eliza  could not stand the thought of mom dancing with anyone except dad. It was a hour long but felt more like 10 minutes . I wish we could of danced all night. I was having a great time even though I couldn't get my lefts and rights right. I wasn't too good but neither was anyone else so I was not embarrassed. 

It turns out that no matter what the age of the man it is still hard to talk to him. What am I supposed to say to a man who asks me if I danced before because it seems like it? Anyway after what seemed like 10 minutes the ball was over.
I have to say I wondered the whole time if you were supposed to wear a sun hat to the ball. Robert danced so many times they started calling him Master Robert. What about a title for me? Mrs. Adair. No more like Lady Adair. 

By the end of the day I could see why so many people work at Williamsburg. Guess who found a college summer job! Even though you don't get paid much it is an awesome experience. Most likely that is. I hope that many more people get to come and experience the same fun. Including you.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Little Reinforcement

I'm not going to sugar coat it. Today was tough! It's a miracle that I still have all four children as each one of them did their very best to make today hard.  I was no innocent bystander barking (a polite way to say yelling) at them and pretty much convinced it would be best to just park the car and walk away. I certainly gave them plenty of ammo for future adult therapy sessions.

Exhaustion for all of us hit like a brick wall today!

We pick up ZaZa at the airport tomorrow. No one should take on the sights of DC without backup especially if you have been with 4 children for 11 days by yourself.

The day did end nicely thanks to a sweet friend and my SIL's mother, Sue Conklin. Sue welcomed us to her home with open arms, great food, LEGOS, and lots of love and smiles. It was like chicken soup for the soul and made a really bad day end on a really great note. Thank you so much!!

We left Sue heading to Alexandria. Everyone is in bed looking angelic. It almost makes me forget about today and remember yesterday when we were all smiles loving each other at dinner and laughing while we danced at the Governor's Palace.

Not really! Though I do love each of those children to the moon and back!

Here's to a fresh start tomorrow. 

Lesson Learned: It's okay to call for reinforcements!

Sneak Peak...we will have a guest blogger tomorrow - Miss Adair!!!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dreamers, Idealists, Rebels and Loyalists

What a whirlwind the past two days have been! We arrived in Williamsburg on Wednesday and took the night off so we could rest up for our big adventure. The five hour trip from Charlotte included a series of videos called Learn Our History that gave the kids a good overview of the Colonies, Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.

We were ready to start bright and early on Thursday. In reality, getting four kids up and out meant we arrived at 12:30 to the Visitor's Center acting like wild animals. It was the first time in 8 days that I thought perhaps this might have been a bad idea. The woman behind the counter promised it would get better and that today would be fun. We headed to the costume rental -  as Adair has been counting the days till she could re-live Colonial life -  to find out we were too late. It was closed for the day. Nothing like a tween pout at the bus stop to kick us off.

We jumped on the bus (and I praised God that you could roll a stroller on) and spent the next 45 mins riding around Colonial Williamsburg as I misunderstood the name of our stop. We finally realized we were to get off at Capitol. We entered Colonial Williamsburg to be front row for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was wonderful.

Two blocks in we discovered Mary Dickenson's dress shop and pretty much three days of my budget went to clothes for the kids. It was magical as their attitudes changed as soon as they were children of the 1700's. We strolled the streets and took a carriage ride soaking in the smells, flavors, and sights of Williamsburg. I have to admit that it felt a little like the first day at Disney World when you are having fun but really don't know where you are going and how to enjoy the place effectively.

This is where all four children could have spent the morning. Thankfully everyone turned around by the afternoon!

Our only family photo so far this trip. Where is Bradley? Our day ended with all four kids being recruited for the March to Yorktown.

We had one Loyalists in the family. The rest were Rebels waiting to take on the British at Yorkstown!
Today was our favorite day. We spent the majority of it in Jamestown. We learned about the Powhatan Indians, life in the Fort, and step foot on a re-created ship that sailed to Virginia in 1607 to establish the first permanent English colony. 

Everyone enjoyed removing the animal hair to dry the hide.

Bradley was ready to protect us in James Fort. He has been searching for a militia uniform rather than the Colonial wear of boys. A true rebel and idealist at heart!

Adair was a pro at carrying the water. She also thinks going to William and Mary could be pretty darn cool since she could hang in the Triangle. I see a summer job in her future ;)

We can't even imagine living on a ship this size for 144 days. It really makes 32 days in a minivan seem like a luxury! Best part of Jamestown is when Robert sniffed out the nachos and declared that Jamestown had the best nachos in the world!! I have to admit they were delicious!

The day ended in Yorkstown. Everyone loved the Continental Army Encampment and the demonstration of the artillery firing and medical practices. Historic Yorkstown is adorable. I have visions of renting a house here one summer.

The highlight of the day was learning about Celestial Navigation and how to steer with the stars, take a noon sighting, and an actual example of how algebra can apply to everyday life (well at least in the 17th century).

Lesson Learned: My four children include a dreamer, idealist, rebel and loyalist. Today will be one of the best memories I have from their childhood.

A Big Shout Out: I do have to give them a shout out for putting up with my intense history course. They have only read books about what we are seeing, played Colonial games and instruments - we now own a jaw harp, and immersed themselves in history. No one is asking for electronics or begging for TV. (Until nighttime when I turn them on so I can enjoy a glass of vino!).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trust in Jesus

I have to start with life's lesson today. We had a great time in Atlanta - so much fun that I made the decision to stay longer and drive at night to Charlotte. Bad idea...rush hour traffic may be worse than Houston and driving in the dark during a heavy (just doesn't describe it well-enough) thunderstorm is one of my least favorite things.

It was that rain that blinds you from the cars in front of you. The kind of storm that even when I'm not the driver I'm gasping, wincing and holding the car seat in a death grip sure we won't make it. I was a little panicked (a safe panic as not to cause alarm or put our sweet children in anymore danger). I had Adair helping me navigate the road by reading signs and adding a young pair of 20/20 eyes to the road. I was also praying - usually in situations like that my prayers consist of Please God...Please God...I never really get the prayer out and assume he knows what I want to say to him.

Adair confidently spoke up. "Mom, I just saw a sign that makes me feel safe. It was a billboard that said Trust in Jesus." Just like that I started to breathe, relax, and act like the Captain of this ship.

Trust in Jesus...three words that can change the course of the situation to a sense of calm and control. God is so good.

Atlanta was fun. We checked out the Georgia Aquarium and the Atlanta History Center. We liked the Aquarium but the History Center was our favorite!

We enjoyed farm life at the Smith Family farm. Who knew there were sheep and chickens in the middle of Buckhead!
We toured Swam House which was built in 1924 by the architect Philip Trammel Shutze. Eliza let us know it was not an impressive Cinderella castle but she did enjoy playing tea party in the children's room.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Civil War exhibit. It was the perfect overview of the four years of the war and everyone from 11 to 2 enjoyed it. We spent 3 hours in the exhibit (it's really not that big) and Adair told us she felt a little rushed. I loved seeing what parts of history interest each child. Even Robert the one that usually says something is boring or not fun found his interest. The history of firearms and ammunition that was used during the war and the difference between the technology in the North and South.

Monday, July 14, 2014

LaGrange, GA?

We left beautiful Alabama on Saturday to head to LaGrange, GA. What? You've never heard of LaGrange, GA. It is well worth the 20 minute drive from Callaway Gardens to visit Explorations in Antiquity Center.

Developed by Dr. James Fleming, The Center includes a walk through an archaeological garden where full-scale replicas of structures relevant to daily life in Biblical times bring history to life. We toured the life of a shepherd, farmer, and village and had a clearer understanding of the history and culture in the Biblical world. (Thank you Jo Lynn Anderson for the recommendation!)

They have wonderful tour guides or you can opt for a self-guided tour which was the perfect pace for our brood. Adair did a magnificent job of following the guide book and keeping her brothers engaged while I observed what two-year-olds did in biblical times.

She was so dirty and having so much fun. If you are concerned about the markings on her face it's just lipstick.

Our tour guide kept us informed and referenced several bible verses that speak of daily life. We finally have a visual for what it was like to thrush grain!

Bradley and Eliza enjoyed the tent.
This really is the closest we will get to the Holy Land anytime soon and the kids enjoyed it. We left LaGrange and headed to Callaway Gardens to the butterfly garden. What a relaxing way to end our Day 3 tour. We sat in there for an hour hoping a butterfly would land on us.

And some took the hope into there own hands until no fun Mom reminded them that was against the rules.

We were all smiles reflecting on this day until the dreaded Eliza tantrum as we checked into the hotel. We sat on a bench for 30 minutes while she screamed she didn't want to stay there. I have to agree with her that the Inn was something out of National Lampoon's Vacation but didn't expect a toddler to already have such discerning tastes.

The hotel won us over with their delicious food and Southern hospitality. Do you see an ongoing theme here?

Day 4 was all about water fun! We headed to Robin beach at Callaway Gardens where we swam in the lake and the older kids played on Aqua Island obstacle course. A really great price. For $10/hour they can play out there until they are so exhausted they have no ability to help you lug all your beach junk back to the car.

We then headed over to Mr. Carson's vegetable garden where I dreamed this was my vegetable garden. It really was beautiful and inspirational. This is where PBS's Victory Garden was filmed.

We loaded the mini and made our way to Atlanta late Sunday. First stop...

Lessons Learned Day 3/4 - My children are hotel snobs. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Montgomery - Cradle of the Confederacy and Birthplace of Civil Rights

Montgomery, AL was the first stop on the adventure. This is where we were going to kick-off our studies on the Civil War, Segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. As I turned on the computer so we could watch some videos on BrainPop and read articles on Time Magazine for Kids, my 9-year-old informed me he has already learned everything he needs to know about Civil Rights in third grade.

I do appreciate his confidence in the public school system but question his depth of knowledge. I don't even think there is a grade for social studies on report cards in elementary school.

Adair read us some stories on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott before we took to the streets of downtown Montgomery. We started at the Rosa Parks Museum and Children's Annex. We boarded a time machine and traveled to Ohio, St. Louis, Philadelphia, the Civil War, and other significant historical events before we stopped at the very famous bus stop in 1955. This was a great overview of the movement and gave the kids a great understanding of how it all fits together.

The Rosa Parks Museum next door was just as informative. The guided tour kept the kids' attention and I even learned a few things. The kids had a really difficult time understanding how human beings could treat each other with such hate. I love that they live in a time of no color and truly accept each person for their differences. We spent some time discussing courage and bravery and the importance of peaceful protests. It was a great lesson on self control and making a purposeful decision on how you respond to people when they are not treating right.

Did they really listen and pay attention? I have no idea except they spent the majority of the afternoon bewildered that adults would throw balloons at other adults that were filled with water and urine. (spending way too much time trying to figure out how you would actually fill a balloon like that up?)

We have all decided that Southern Food rocks and particularity love the cheese grits and banana pudding! We didn't make it to the Edmund Pettus Bridge or the White House of the Confederacy but we had a good time at the Park in Old Town Alabama and driving by the State Capitol. We also enjoyed learning about the Tuskegee Airmen from WWII.

Day 2 Lesson: Two year olds have final veto power and you really are at the mercy of their bowel movements.

Friday, July 11, 2014

We Survived!

We (I) survived the past 72 hours, which had nothing to do with my perfectly planned trip. Tuesday morning a stomach bug took two kids down (for maybe three hours) and took me for what I was sure my last day on earth. I lost an entire day of packing, prepping and completing various projects! I woke up Wednesday in a fog realizing that I had very little time to get everything ready for our launch on Thursday!

5:00 am on Thursday came very early and I finally got us off at 6:45 am. Let's be honest - all of the enthusiasm, excitement and inner strength I had on Monday was a distant memory. I was feeling a bit defeated before I even drove out of the driveway. The good strength and commitment for this trip grew stronger with every mile we drove and we drove a LONG way!

We made it to Montgomery, AL and the stretch from Mobile to Montgomery on I65 North was so beautiful and peaceful. God gave me a great lesson this week. He simply reminded me that life is not perfect, there will be days that don't follow my plan, and I'm traveling with 4 children that each have their own definition of fun. He also reminded me that if I lean on him, show patience, forgiveness and kindness the day will end with great memories and a smile.

Last night we went swimming at 10pm under the full moon and cool breeze. (Yes, I let my children stay up late when they have been a hostage in a car for the past 10 hours).  We laughed and ate pizza and went to bed ready for what lies ahead...

Tip for Day 1:
So how does one survive 9 1/2 hours on the road with 4 kids?
I find money talks...I made it quite clear before we left home that for every complaint during the ride to Montgomery I would deduct $1 from their spending money. I only collected $5 ($3 of which was my own fine for have to practice what you preach and they called me on it!) Also, I completely got over my fear of my children going deaf from headphones and drove in a completely silent car. It was like driving while meditating. Silence is a pure luxury in my house!

Sneak Peak into our plan for Today - Today is all about Civil Rights!  Rosa Parks Museum, Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church....How far do you think we will get?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Here we go...

The minivan sets sail on 7/10. I prefer to launch my adventures in the early morning when the little brood is still asleep. It cuts down on whining and the dreaded question...are we there yet? Hope to make it 9 hours today and start the history tour in Montgomery, Alabama!