Monday, April 14, 2014

Leah and Michael's camp out with Hal and Glenna

My brother and sister-in-law took the kids camping this weekend! <insert Hallelujah chorus here> Bryan and I went to a movie, out to dinner, and then had a couples massage! I probably shouldn't tell that to Hal and Glenna who slept on the ground in the woods with our monkeys while we lavished in suburban comfort... Haha! We really did enjoy the free time and the kids REALLY enjoyed camping! We got to hear all about starting a fire with flint, hiking for hours on end, finding a snake, and making eggs and biscuits over the fire.

These are some of Glenna's pictures and they just look amazing! My brother Steve commented that the kids will always remember this trip like we remember going camping with our Uncle Dixie and Aunt Faye in rural Georgia in the 1970s. I love love love that the kids had this experience!!!

The nicest way to hike...

You know Michael wants to be a herpetologist and has gone snake hunting (unsuccessfully) along our creek many, many times. He was delighted to finally find a snake in the wild and get to pick it up. I love this picture as he holds such a docile animal so gently.

All that plus a long afternoon working in the yard made this a really exceptional weekend. The sunshine and the breeze made it almost too good to be true!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Too busy for a job...

The last two months have been a nice break after 18 years of working. I'm staying so busy that I've concluded I don't have time for a job! (Ha!) I do miss the routine and the friends though and in that sense it will be nice to go back. I'd love to work part-time, or maybe even not at all, until the kids start school in August. It would be so nice to have this summer with them. We'll see...

Here is my view, sitting on the sofa in my office, looking out the window along with Freddie.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Summer Planning

Summer planning is in full swing! With Spring Break behind us, friends have begun coordinating the weeks our kids will be at various camps this summer. One was referencing her spreadsheet apologetically and was relieved that I have one almost exactly like it! Mamas, we gotta fly our freak flag on this one: Summer is too busy NOT to have a spreadsheet or at least a calendar and a big eraser!

I have used various formats in the past. This first one is the spreadsheet I use to identify options for camps for each child. I list out the camps we're considering and put an X in any week that sessions are available. I also note the cost and whether it's of interest to Leah or Michael or both. This shows the final version where I marked the dates we would attend and the hours (for day camps).

I should note that this is last summer's schedule and it was particularly "busy" because I was working full time and needed the kids to do something. Leah loves going to camp non-stop. Michael likes a balance of both. You know, he wants his Mommy-Time. (Mommy does, too!)

The table above works as a calendar of sorts since each week is labeled, but I like a traditional calendar format so I can include vacations, etc. So once I nail down our camp plans, I create our summer calendar and - of course - color code it! Orange is for camps. Red is for travel. Blue - sad old blue - is for school.

I like to leave the week before school starts wide open for lazy days at the pool.

If you'd like a copy of my templates to use (or customize) just leave me a comment below and I will email them to you.

OK, what tips and tricks do you have in making your summer plans?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Beach Photos!!

I've already provided my caveat about beach photos but we try to get that "perfect shot" every year anyway! You can't tell, but I spent quality time straightening my hair, styling Leah's bun and combing Michael's hair. We all looked so nice before leaving the house. Of course, I picked out matching outfits before we even left for vacation. I had high hopes. But as usual, getting all four of us to smile at the same time - eyes wide open - without the wind blowing hair in our faces or the sun leaving giant shadows is essentially impossible. Case in point...

Spoiler alert: This will NOT be our Christmas card photo!

How sweet are Leah and Bryan? Just happened to catch this moment as everyone was deciding where we should all stand for the family shot. 

OK, so I gave up on the four of us being in a photo together and decided to get a cute one of just the kids. They're cute, so how hard could it be?!?

Hey! This one is pretty cute!

My in-laws are easy! I liked this one...

Earl and Tommye

We managed to grab one last shot of the kids that turned out to be the best one of all. Maybe I should quit trying to get them to pose and just work on being a little faster with the camera so I can catch them in the act of being naturally sweet...


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sun, Surf, Sand and Seafood!!!

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida is our favorite vacation spot. When we lived in Florida, we fell in love with the little towns along Walton County's Highway 30-A. We had never been there for Spring Break until this year, but I had my fingers crossed that it would be as quiet and sweet as any other time of year... and Santa Rosa Beach did not disappoint!

Not exactly crowded!!!

Leah and Camille

The public beach access points have ramps but they are covered in sand which means they're not actually wheelchair accessible. Bryan drove as far as he could and then scooted down the walkway a few yards. Where there is a will, there is a way! We want to invent a beach-wheelchair and sell it on QVC.

Everything I hate about Florida is at least a 30-minute drive from Santa Rosa - and by that I mean strip clubs, dance clubs, tattoo parlors, airbrush tee shirt shacks, drunk rednecks, etc.

Everything I love about Florida is in Santa Rosa...

The beaches along 30-A draw people who really just want to enjoy sun, surf, sand and seafood. It's all mom-and-pop businesses, restaurants, ice cream parlors, nature trails, bike rentals... (You have easy access to outdoor malls, more restaurants and movie theaters within a 15 minute drive if you head up to Highway 98.)

It was only crowded the day we went over to Seaside. The kids and I were the only non-teenagers on the beach!!! We were a little out of place, but it looked like such a nice group of kids. I didn't see any alcohol, cigarettes, tattoos, PDA... just kids chatting or throwing a football.

Seaside was very reminiscent of Annette Funicello in "Beach Blanket Bingo".
We have rented a house in Old Florida Village before, but this year I found a rental house in Cypress Dunes which is a gated neighborhood sandwiched between the Topsail nature preserve and Dune Allen Beach.

Michael loved the little frogs by the pool. The neighborhood had an infinity pool overlooking the preserve with a view to the ocean.

The pool was never crowded although we did get in the hot tub with 9 middle school girls and two dads who were chaperoning. Leah loved listening to the girls talking about school, boys and sports.

The pool and fitness center were wheelchair accessible. Our rental house was one-story and only had a couple steps in and out which works fine for us.

My little polar bears! You could not have paid me to get in that pool!

Driving into the neighborhood, you cross a bridge over a swamp! It was so cool.

Michael wanted to keep a frog but he eventually decided to let it go - and brought home a hermit crab instead. His name is Myrtle or Hermie.

Note: All these towns have a Santa Rosa Beach, Florida address but will be differentiated as you search for vacation rentals. We usually search Generally speaking, there are no condos or hotels - just houses. We like to stay down by Dune Allen or Gulf Place - very small communities and very quiet. Watercolor and Seaside are adorable little towns but they're a bit more crowded and a bit more expensive.
Up next? Headed to Charleston with Bryan's whole family this summer!