Author: InCahootsBlog

Planning a Family Trip to France: Real Time Travel!

Planning a Family Trip to France: Real Time Travel!

Oh boy, you guys, stuff has gotten real and a lot has happened! We’ve booked a trip to France for our whole family! (I still can’t believe it’s happening!) A few months ago I was daydreaming about a European trip, and I promised to bring […]

7 Beach Safety Tips for Enjoying Florida Beaches with Kids

7 Beach Safety Tips for Enjoying Florida Beaches with Kids

Beach safety is the hidden side of our love of the beach time. Since our mother is a born and raised Florida beach native and lover, through the years she has passed on many tidbits of beach safety wisdom that make our beach days much […]

Johnson Beach Two-Fer: My Pensacola

Johnson Beach Two-Fer: My Pensacola

Despite appearances, the main event when we go to Pensacola isn’t eating (and eating) and coffee; it’s the beach! Our favorite beach is locally known as Johnson Beach: our mother grew up going there, we’ve gone to it since we were kids together, and now it’s been a delight to make those same memories for our kids. It’s a pristine beach without massive condo towers to spoil the view, and nary a touristy vibe in sight.

Johnson Beach Pensacola

Since it’s a National Seashore you do have to pay to enter: $20 will get you entrance for a week, and an annual pass is $40. As you drive in, you’ll see the main beach area on the right; it has showers to rinse off, restrooms, some covered picnic tables, and lifeguards on the weekends. It can make a great home base for little kids, but does get crowded on the weekends. If it’s too crowded, keep on driving down the beach; the road runs in between two sides of the water — the Gulf side on the right, and the Sound side on the left. The Gulf side can make for bigger waves, and is honestly usually prettier to look at, but if you’re in search of more tranquil waters for your littles, cross the road to the Sound side. (Hot tip: They tell you to park with all four tires off the road. DON’T. They also tell you they won’t tow you out if you get stuck in sand. So if you’re parking on a very sandy side of the road, leave at least the edge of two tires on the road.)

Johnson Beach Pensacola
Sound side
Johnson Beach Pensacola
Gulf Side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know how many hours we’ve spent on these beaches, but they never get old. Our favorite treats growing up were the cans of soda we were allowed to have on the beach, but a recent addition to the treat rotation has been a snoball stand less than a mile down the road from Johnson Beach. They bill themselves as authentic New Orleans snoballs, and these NOLA natives can attest that they are indeed authentic!Snoballs near Johnson Beach Pensacola

 

(They may be double the price of the ones near us, but the beauty of snoballs is that they’re still very affordable. And well worth the beach memories. 😉 ) New Orleans snoballs are hard to describe: they’re NOT snocones at all. Snoballs are made of fluffy, silky-smooth snow, and come in dozens of flavors made of cane syrups. Natives get their favorite flavor drizzled with condensed milk.

 

 

Snoballs near Johnson Beach Pensacola Snoball flavors near Johnson Beach Pensacola

 

Gulf Island National Seashore Johnson Beach

13333 Johnson Beach Rd

Pensacola, FL

 

Dave’s SnoBalls

13820 Perdido Key Dr

Pensacola, FL 32507

Summer hours: Open daily 1pm-7pm

 

 

Greek Food Two-Fer: My Pensacola

Greek Food Two-Fer: My Pensacola

Don’t you find that often the best food is in the smallest, most out-of-the-way places? It certainly holds true for some of our favorite food in Pensacola — amazing gyros! May we introduce to you The Original Georgio’s Authentic Greek Food, aka the Greek stand. […]

Fosko Coffee Barre: My Pensacola

Fosko Coffee Barre: My Pensacola

Charming, chic, cozy, and inviting, Fosko Coffee Barre should be on your must-go list in Pensacola, Florida. We’re always on the lookout for fun spots to add into our Pensacola rotation, and this coffee shop shot to the top of the list! It’s definitely the […]

Why My Children are Taking French Lessons

Why My Children are Taking French Lessons

So, we’ve started French lessons for our two oldest children this year! And I’m so glad we did. That sentence sounds ridiculously pretentious to me, so allow me to back up and give you the background, before I tell you why we started French lessons for our kids. . . Did your grandparents ever use code of some sort so you wouldn’t know what they were talking about? My great-grandparents immigrated to the States from Canada, and consequently French was widely spoken in my father’s family, to the point that French was both my father’s and aunt’s first language. (When my father was in middle school it wasn’t considered cool to speak French, so he refused to speak it. Consequently he lost a lot of his French, something he still regrets.)

When I was growing up, my grandparents would switch to their Canuck French whenever they didn’t want us to know what they were discussing. I’m pretty sure it was usually whether or not we would be getting ice cream for dessert (of course we were, because grandparents), but the mystery would drive me crazy, and I wanted nothing more than to figure out what they were saying! We were raised with little bit of other French around us. We called my grandparents Mémere/Mémae and Pépere/Pépae (essentially “Mimi/Grammy” and “Pop/Poppa” in French; a French lady told my brother those names are used in the French countryside also). My grandmother taught me a Christmas carol in French (Il est né), and called me her belle catin. (“pretty doll”, which I just learned means a VERY different thing in France than it does in North America! Please don’t look it up. Quelle horreur!) But that was the extent of our French language exposure.

When I was in college I took French for my foreign language requirement. Despite my family background, it actually took my piano professor to get me to take French! I was going to be all academic and learn Greek, but he convinced me French would be more useful for music study (he was right). Between that and a memory of my vows as a young child to figure out what my grandparents were saying, it didn’t actually take a lot of convincing.

And guess what? I fell in love with it. It helped that my first French professor was fabulous, but also it was a latent love for the language come to life. I loved the challenge, the beauty of the language, and the window it opened up into another culture and mindset. It was a new world. It felt like traveling. I wound up minoring in French, but it never worked out for me to study abroad. Needless to say, what French skills I did acquire have suffered since graduation, even though they have definitely helped me get around when we’ve visited France since then. (But heck if it doesn’t feel just like this!!)

All that to say that I have had dreams of my children being fluent in French for many years! I mean, I have dreams of me becoming fluent, but that’s another story… (If my kids want to branch out into another language someday they’re certainly welcome to, but French is the language I can give them the most help with now.) Plus we are fortunate to live in south Louisiana, which takes its French heritage quite seriously, and has numerous French language resources. (In what other U.S. city can you randomly see a “no parking” sign in French??)

French New Orleans No Parking Sign

For a long while I was determined to just teach my kids French myself; I mean, why couldn’t I?? I knew enough to get started, surely! But as the months passed and we didn’t get very far, I was afraid that I was seeing that dream begin to fade… I was trying! I got this French calendar, found some French storybooks, flashcards, songs, found some really helpful blog posts, and we reviewed some stuff… It just… wasn’t really getting very far. And I felt like a bit of a failure as a homeschooling mother that I couldn’t/didn’t teach my children a subject that I knew.

Then one day I had an epiphany of sorts that went something like this: This is something I value for my children. This is a subject that can be outsourced. This is like learning an instrument which will take years of slow progress. I gladly pay for music lessons. I can’t do it all. Why don’t I pay for French lessons?? Allons-y! Let’s go! To cut short an already too-long explanation, I researched my options in my area, and decided that since there were no classes available that fit what I was looking for, private lessons were my best bet. My two oldest children have been taking joint private lessons through our Alliance Française, which is part of a world-wide network. It’s already been awesome!! I feel very privileged to have both the availability of lessons and the resources to take advantage of that availability. We’ve been doing them every other week (not enough, but all my sanity could stand the last few months), but plan on taking weekly lessons through the summer. In a couple of years I’ll start my younger two kiddies in a lesson together. Every week their teacher hands me a sheet of paper with a breakdown of what they learned that day. Some weeks we have specific songs to practice (the ABCs in French), sometimes a book they read so we can read it at home also, this week we had flashcards. We take the list and materials home and practice.

French books

Here’s my list (so far) of why I’m glad we’re doing private French lessons for my kids: (if you’re here I assume that you’re already convinced of “why” a foreign language is a good idea, and are muddling through the “how” of it with me.)

The accountability: We have an outside (good!) pressure to practice and someone else pushing us to progress. I’ve found this supremely helpful in numerous areas!

The help: To me, not having to research/plan/think about it is huge. My brain space these days feels limited, and being able to let someone else take point in an area that’s important to me has been massively helpful. Plus I have two kids getting taught at the same time –win!

The sustainability: This is similar to the previous point, but I was surprised at how comparable the price was to music lessons. Expensive, yes, but not so much so that I can’t budget and make it work. I can see us doing this for a long time and hopefully really achieving some mastery in the language.

The expertise: As someone who has a Masters in teaching piano and is, how shall we say?, strongly convinced of the benefit of having a trained music teacher to properly lay the foundation of learning an instrument, it took me an embarrassingly long time to make the same jump for language learning. An experienced teacher knows how to sequence material to maximize success, knows where students stumble and how to help, and knows clearly what needs to be accomplished to meet the learning goal. Hire a good teacher. 😉

The resources: We now have access to a lending library in French of books suitable for babies all the way up to adults. It benefits all the family, and is a huge boon to have lots of material to read to my children. Our French teacher has already alerted me to French immersion summer camps available when my children are older. If I have a question or want my kids to learn something (grammar is in their future ;), I can ask their teacher. People who do this for a living know where to get what, or at least know who to ask! We’re not just getting lessons, we’re gaining access to a whole network and bank of knowledge.

The immersion: This may not apply to everyone, but I’m not fluent in French. I can’t immerse my children in the language the way someone who’s fluent can. Granted, once a week isn’t very much, but it’s a start. Even if I was fluent, I wonder if it would be harder to expect my children to switch to interacting with me in a different language at the drop of a hat. I think an outside teacher is a help here.

We’re still early into this second language learning journey here; anybody else out there learned a second language/helped your kids learn? What’s been helpful? I’m excited to see where this goes, and I have dreams of France trips dancing in my head. (For the children’s sake, of course! They need to practice… 😉

Friday Miscellany – links and loves from around the web

Friday Miscellany – links and loves from around the web

Let’s start off with these cookies, shall we? The recipe comes from a cookbook of Melissa’s and was the answer to the what-should-I-bring-to-this-gathering dilemma for both of us, the same week. Any scrumptious dessert that’s freezable, a crowd pleaser, and requires no grocery trip for […]

Planning a Trip to Europe: Part 5, Packing Tips and Strategies

Planning a Trip to Europe: Part 5, Packing Tips and Strategies

I feel that there has been much (metaphorical) ink spilled on the interweb on the subject of packing. I have no desire to rehash ad naseum what everyone else has said, but here’s an outline of how we pack and what has worked for us. […]

Life Lately: Wedding Weekend!

Life Lately: Wedding Weekend!

So the clan (Cahoots Crew/Krewe included) gathered this past weekend to celebrate the marriage of one of our sisters. It was a DIY wedding, and it is an indication of how hectic it was that we failed to get a single Cahoots picture to mark the occasion (except the whole family one). Le sigh.

How DIY? Michelle organized and set up and decorated, our dear sister-in-love arranged the flowers (except for the boutonnieres and corsages, which Michelle and I made. YouTube tutorial, anyone?), I made the cake and played the piano, my oldest was the flower girl, the dads and uncles did heavy duty watching the kidlets, and our father officiated. Definitely a family affair! (Not sure I’d actually recommend that level of DIY, so it probably won’t be a repeated phenomenon to that extent for the next sister, but it got done. We love you anyway, sisters!!)

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Chocolate raspberry wedding cake

It happened to be the same church where David and Michelle got married, so memories, memories!

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Sunday morning after the wedding most of the family gathered at my (Melissa’s) house for a casual brunch; if I’m honest it was probably my favorite gathering of the weekend, because we actually got to sit and visit with everyone! Luxurious no-work brunch courtesy of 2 dozen frozen Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat). The best!!

Our kids have been thrilled to get in so much cousin time; any happy excuse to see each other and everyone else too! (Didn’t hurt that the Detroit Crew left snow behind to revel in spring weather and flip-flops.) Seeing the people we love best was icing on the cake (ahem) of a happy occasion!

Planning a Trip to Europe, Part 4: Food

Planning a Trip to Europe, Part 4: Food

As I mentioned in my post about travel budgeting, I consider us to be “fat budget” travelers — we keep a close eye on our costs, but spend money where it counts. I think food is an area where you can strategically cut significant costs, […]