Travel Day? No, Errand Day.

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Today’s not a real “travel day”. It’s more like an errand day which included a couple flights.

Today we went to complete our Global Entry interviews. We travel enough that the expedited customs and TSA precheck are totally worth it for us. If you’re interested, the process was SUPER simple.

1. Fill out online application, pay $100 non refundable fee (per person). The application took me about 20 minutes, and less for the kids. It’s a lot of standard “addresses for last 5 years” kind of stuff. You will need a passport and your driver’s license to finish it.

2. About 2 weeks later I got the emails that we were ready for the interview. You schedule these online at a location most convenient for you. For us, a short flight was easiest. (Or it’s a 5 hour drive…) The offices are all over the country.

3. Take your passport, id, and any other paper work and go do your interview. All three of us took 20 minutes…. combined. They even started on time! With a little running, (and a short discussion with a CLUELESS security agent), we even made our tight connection back home.

4. Wait for approval email. They say 7-14 days….I had the kid’s before we boarded out flight home. I assume mine took longer because I’m old, (and thus have more history…LOL!!). I’d be shocked if it’s not in my inbox when we land. (ETA – By 3 pm all were approved. Easy peasy!)

That’s it. Super simple. Good for 5 years. So worth it!! You can read more official stuff about it here.

Week in Review – 10/23/15

 

 

 

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FALL IS HERE!!!!

I LOVE fall. It’s absolutely my favorite season. Cool weather, beautiful colors, pumpkin spice stuff (though this year I have not indulged at all!), and FOOTBALL. It’s awesome. I hope your fall is starting well!

This week was our first real week back after our nearly 2 week fall break. Granted, that included nearly a week of “field trip” travel time, but being a girl of routine I am thrilled to be back in the swing of things.
As usual after traveling I was convinced I needed to eat better… so I tried the whole Eat to Live program and made it 2 days. I think it’s a record. I am thrilled with some stuff I learned and I am thinking about a smoothie dinner tonight.

 

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Monday was Scout Night. It was our monthly marathon – Little as a Den Chief, then scouts, then the monthly committee meeting.  I’m the committee chair so I spent some time texting an eagle scout candidate on how to wrap up his project. Fun stuff!

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Wednesday night was church ladies’ night. We normally do a monthly dinner, but interest has been waning and I felt called to step it up. This month I made salad and we met for game night. It was a blast. One of the sweet Titus 2 ladies brought me these beautiful flowers as a thank you. So sweet!!

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Most of the week was spent with school work… TKD… piano… chores… and general living. This is Big taking a Biology test on the ipad….

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Friday night was DATE NIGHT. A friend and I set up a couple on a blind date, and we all went so there wasn’t any solo weirdness (they’re adults…). It was so fun. Big baked cookies, we made a picnic dinner, and we all spent the night at the Corn Maze. It was so fun and I believe Date #2 is being arranged. I hope it works out!!!

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By the end of the week Boots was tired out. She was working on a nap on me while I was working on math.

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I fought the “tired out”s with a little java!

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As we head into the fall one thing I LOVE right now (and will be enforcing today!) is my Thankful boards. The kids call it my “Forced Thankfulness Program”, which is hysterical and makes me glad I have funny teens. Today, back to the rule “no thankfulness, no food”. Apparently salty treats are a big hit in my house…

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So, how was your week? Anything exciting upcoming?

Landry Academy – Mid Semester Review

 

This is a follow-up post to my original, Landry Academy – Week 1 – A (Pre)Review post about our first experiences with Landry Academy. We’re now most of the way through a semester and I think I can give a much more educated review. For what it’s worth, this is my review. I wasn’t paid or compensated. We paid for the classes ourselves (but hey, Landry Academy, if you want me to do a give away with a review of an international mission trip…. LOL!!).

 

In my earlier post I covered

What is it? How’s it work?

Before the Class Started

Class Start

Lessons Learned So Far

so I won’t belabor those. Feel free to check them out here: Landry Academy – Week 1 – A (Pre)Review.

 

Where we stand now:

We’re in Week 9 now with both kid’s classes. We’ve missed our first classes and had to coordinate extensions, etc. so I feel like we’re really IN it, if you know what I mean.

 

Big:

Big is taking a writing class, and it’s fabulous. The workload continues to be fairly light, but I’m pretty strict so it’s likely a reasonable medium. She enjoys the class. I’m impressed with the addition of grammar to the curriculum. The teacher is easy to work with, and provides great feedback. When Big missed a class it was easy to watch the recording, and we arranged ahead of time for early turn in / extensions. I had to email the instructor directly (I had Big do it to encourage responsibility but she needed to hear from me) which I actually really appreciate. Some kids might work the system and I appreciate the back up. As the ultimate endorsement, Little will take this class next year, hopefully with the same teacher!

 

Little:

Little has really settled into his classes. Again, with missing a class, he had an easy time watching the recording and making up the work. For art, he had everything turned in early, so that was easy to manage. With robotics (which is an INSANELY FABULOUS CLASS FOR ANY KID WITH AN EV3 SET!!!!) he struggled with the programming, a lot. He put a TON of time into it, and the computer ate his program… Then we traveled… Then he spent a TON more time on the project… He couldn’t get it to work in the end, but the teacher was great. He arranged (himself – a HUGE step in maturity here) an extra help session and worked through some of the issues. The teacher really was great and despite the issues he learned a lot. He’s learning to manage his time better because he misses Youth Group on Wednesdays if his projects aren’t turned in. It’s been a GREAT learning experience for him. I have HIGHLY recommended the robotics class to a couple of friends (the depth with which they go through the EV3 is staggering to me!).

The art class has been great, too. For me, I love that art, (which all too often gets dropped here), is a priority and is happening regularly. The projects and workload have settled down and I think it’s a great class. I’m really enjoying doing the projects myself when I can. I would highly recommend this one as well!

 

Time (not including class time of 90 minutes/week):
Big: Writing – 2 hours/week

Little: Art – 1-2 hours / week (Week 1 was about 8 hours… then it tapered into Week 3 being about 1-2 per week); Robotics – Average of about 5 hours / week

 

Mid Semester Opinion:

I think I mentioned this in the other post, but I’ve already purchased more generic semesters. Big and Little are both registered for one class in the spring. I am LOVING this format for electives and general classes that don’t need to meet more than once weekly. I can’t see doing this for a skills class like math (unless you’re really just trying to keep a kid on track), but otherwise the format is great. We’ve had ZERO technical issues with anything from dropbox submissions to class streaming to communications, etc. It’s been great. I think this is the first online class my kids have taken that has had zero technical glitches.

 

I’ll hopefully follow up with a final assesment later in the semester. Please feel free to leave comments or questions if you have any! I’m no expert but maybe I can help!

Amsterdam with kids – Madurodam

Without a doubt, our favorite day trip during our Amsterdam visit was to The Hauge. The Hauge was SPECTACULAR and if we ever visit The Netherlands again we’ll stay in Den Haag and spend our time visiting the area! Since we were staying in Amsterdam we took the train from Schipol to the Den Haag Central Station. It was about 50euro for the round trip tickets. When we got there we bought 3 all day bus passes for about 18euro. I think there might have been a cheaper way to do it, but since we wanted to see the Escher Museum and Madurodam, we thought it was the best option for cost and ease. We bought all the tickets at the respective stations.

 

We had a great visit to the Escher Museum and then headed to Madurodam. OH MY WORD!!! We wished we had budgeted a whole day there!! It as 48euro for entrance (which I thought was steep…. until we go in there!). In short, Madurodam is a miniature Holland. It has 1:25 scale miniatures of the major highlights of The Netherlands, and lots of cool hands on activities. There’s also and AWESOME playground, snack bar, and more. Armed with a picnic we totally could spend a day there.

 

I was amazed at the detail of all the displays (and there were a LOT of them)…

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We loved seeing the models of the places we’d been…

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…and of places we wanted to go.

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I wish I had taken pictures of the playground. It was so cool and even my 13 and 14 year old LOVED playing on it. We enjoyed every minute of our time at Madurodam and highly recommend it as a day trip (a full day!) if your kids are worn out with the business of Amsterdam. The Hauge is SO worth a look and I’m so glad we took the recommendation to visit Madurodam. It really was our favorite activity for the week!

Amsterdam Public Transport

 

 

After a long blogging break – I’M BACK!!!! Sorry for the quiet time, I just needed a break. Y’all know how that is. So, I’m back… from outer space… with no sad look upon my face… (Gloria Gaynor? Anyone?)

 

Well, since my travel posts always seem to be the most popular, I decided to return with a bang and a little tutorial / review on working the public transportation system in Amsterdam. The kids and I just went for a few days, you know, for a FIELD TRIP (homeschooling rocks!), and I’ll be sharing a series of posts on Amsterdam, day trips we took, and stuff we learned. I’ve traveled with my kids since they were little but this was our first international trio trip, so the curve was steep!

After stalking AirB&B and not finding anything in my (cheap) price range, I found a smoking deal on a hotel near the Schipol Airport. Now, this isn’t a “cool” option, but it was CHEAP through Hotwire, and the place was GREAT. As a result, I planned on making high use of the Amsterdam public transport. I looked online and researched a ton, but I didn’t find a lot on actual “how it works” – so here’s the skinny.

 

Day One –

The kids and I bought 3 3-Day Amsterdam Travel Tickets. We bought them at the airport, and they were 25Euro each. (Later in the week we needed another day, so we bought a single day for 15 Euro – yeah, I can’t figure out how to make the “euro” symbol work on my laptop). The tickets cover almost all your travel needs in the Amsterdam area. (You can see specifics HERE.) If you go out of the area – Den Haag, Utretch, or longer out-of-area bus rides, then you’ll need to buy a ticket specifically to those locations. For a reference, I think our one day, round trip from Schipol to Den Haag was 17 euro each. Day bus passes in the area were 6 euro.

 

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Each pass comes with a built in map. Super handy.

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This is the location in the Schipol Airport where you buy train passes (and tickets for long rides).

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Handy time schedule, constantly updating, to find tracks and train information. The Amsterdam train system is awesome in providing a TON of useful information for travelers.

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So, when you decide where you’re going to go, you just scan your card and head to the train. Buses and trams have the scan box on them, so you just scan when you get on. The machine will beep ONCE at you when you get on.

 

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We mostly rode the train to the tram and then branched out throughout the city. So, when we got on the train we could make sure we were headed in the correct direction with the AWESOME signage everywhere. Next stop, arrival times, delays… EVERYTHING is on the list. SO, SO, SO helpful!! (I grew up on the T in Boston – and in the day – you got a HEAVILY accented local calling next stop… Good luck with THAT!).

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Even on the longer ride trains there was information everywhere. And, people were so kind when we asked for help. I got lost a couple of times, but bus drivers and THE KIDS totally kept us going in the right direction. By the end of Day Two I turned over the transit control responsibilities to Big. It went much smoother.

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You’ll hear it a million times, “Please remember to check out.” on the transits. It’s hard to mess it up (though we did once….we later checked in with the NS guys and they laughed it off…they’re AWESOME!!)

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Again, one beep on, two beeps off…

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That’s it – Amsterdam travel in a nutshell. Was the “Amsterdam Travel Ticket” the cheapest way? Maybe, maybe not. We used the hop on/hop off a TON, so I think it was for us. If you’re planning on a “there and back” approach, you may want to look at the single trip tickets. Either way, travel on public transit is so easy, so clear, and there lots of help when you need it. Please, don’t be intimidated like me!! My 14 year old managed it flawlessly and you can too!