The Family

The Family

Friday, August 31, 2012

To Grandmother's House We Go

We leave tomorrow heading to the hubby's grandparents house in Pensacola.

We've had this visit planned for a while, so we were glad that Hurricane Isaac didn't make landfall there a few days ago. I talked to Grandma today and she said they got some wind gusts and rain on Tuesday, but no flooding like in Louisiana.

It's about a 3-4 hour trip from here, but will take us longer because of the stops for the children. As long as we make it by 6 tomorrow night to watch kickoff and cheer on our team.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend everyone.

War Eagle!!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You Say It's Your Birthday

He’s growing up and taking my heart with him.
Today he turned five.
How can this be?

Is doesn't seem possible that time could have passed so quickly. I usually don't cry on his birthday, but this evening I did.

Maybe it's the realization that in another five years he will be ten. If these five years have already slipped by, it won't be long before another five and then another five and then another five have elapsed as well.

This past year has moved especially fast. Adding another baby to the mix tends to have that effect.  In becoming a big brother he matured more than I could have imagined. His love for the sister he affectionately calls Boopsie is so pure, protective and fierce.

Having a sibling has brought out a more joyful side in him too. He’s less cautious around others. While still shy and unwilling to immediately join in the conversation, he's quicker to relax and open up.

He’s my first born, the one that taught me the real meaning of love. I thought I knew before, but I had no clue what the all-encompassing, never-ending, willing-to-lay-down-my-own-life kind of love felt like. 
It’s a wonderful thing having a son. It’s a wonderful thing being his mother. 

I've never been the mother of a five year old before. These are new and exciting waters for me.

He and I enter this new territory together dailly. While he is finding out what it means to be a rambunctious and inquisitive boy of five, I am learning (or trying to learn) more about patience and gentleness in being the mother of this extra sensitive soul.

I hope and pray that the next five years are as wonderful as these first five have been.

The only difference I would wish for is the slower passage of time. I think all parents cling to that desire.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New Title





have given rise to a new name of late.

From here on out this cutie, formerly known as baby girl, has a more fitting title.

Let me introduce you all to Little Priss!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Land Before Time

In a few days the little boy will have a birthday.

He's been adamant about not wanting a party this year, so I decided to spend the money I would have spent on a party on doing something new to his room.

He loves all things dinosaur and shark related. He wanted his room decorated in both, but I asked him to choose between the two. He made his final decision last month.

Dinosaurs won out.

My brother and his wife planned to come this morning to paint. Besides being a great cook, my sister-in-law is also a fantastic artist. However, a sore throat kept them at home (I strongly suspect the real culprit was a late night out after a wedding yesterday).

So instead, my wonderful husband drew pictures and we took turns painting. We've got one happy little boy tonight.

I kept calling it a pterodactyl; the little boy says it's a pteranodon
The massive brachiosaurus
This is my favorite. (L-R Spinosaurus, T-Rex, Triceratops, Gigantosaurus)
We marked a small space on the wall for the little boy to draw and then paint his own dinosaurs. It is his room after all, and he wanted in on the fun too!

We're no artists, and I'm sure what my sister-in-law could have done would have looked better, but it didn't turn out too shabby.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Not Part of the Plan

It’s a real charge being with like-minded individuals and talking about things you have in common. That’s true for almost anything: a good book or movie, delicious food, shopping, sports. It's also true for homeschooling.

We spent the morning at a local park playing with and getting to know other homeschooling families in our area.

The beginnings of homeschooling can be overwhelming. There's so much to think about. Luckily, I've come across some great blogs, websites and books this past year. Those things helped get my mind moving in the right direction, yet something was missing. Finding the local support group and getting linked up with families in our area that also homeschool was that missing piece. It helps to be with others that have been in your shoes at the beginnings of homeschooling and those moms that know what a typical day is like for a homeschooling parent (meaning there is no typical day). 

If you would have asked me about homeschooling before I had kids I would have rolled my eyes and made some snide remark about hovering, over-protective parents and anti-social kids. I had my children’s entire lives planned out and homeschooling was not part of the plan. That was until I actually had children.  A lot of things, including me and my false perceptions about homeschooling, changed.
We live in a small university community that is actually packed full with homeschoolers. I realize homeschooling in a university town probably sounds like an oxymoron.  At first glance it might appear the two educational concepts are polar opposites. However, I think it’s because education is so important to so many people in this town that a number of us affiliated with the university have chosen to homeschool.

My decision is in no way a negative reflection of the local public and private schools in our area. Both are great, and I have good friends that send their kids to school in both systems as well as friends that teach in the public school system here in town and throughout the state.
It’s just I've always kinda liked the idea of social movements and marching to the beat of a different drum, which in many ways define homeschooling .
Ultimately, I’ve decided to homeschool because it feels right to me. I know many people won’t agree or will be concerned that I’m depriving my children, but I’ve learned to listen to and obey the call of God more in the past five years than ever before, and this was a definite calling.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the other families and having those that have gone down this road ahead of me steer us in the right direction.
I’m also excited to share some of the things we’ll be doing throughout the fall as homeschoolers and with folks from the support group.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Special Delivery

The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program we participate in doesn't start again until early October.

I've been missing my weekly produce fix and was so happy when, two weeks ago, we went to a local cafe/market and found that every Thursday we could order one of these:

The main difference between this and the CSA program is the produce is not all locally grown - for the most part, it comes from all around the country.

It's hard to believe this basket is considered small. Kale, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, peaches, pears, green onions, cranberries, a cantaloupe and two types of squash filled it to the brim.

And the best part: it was delivered to our doorstep!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Life of Her Own

Emilie Carles’ remarkable life as a French peasant reads like 18th Century fiction. If it was fiction, it would be classified a tragedy.

Her book, “A Life of Her Own,” was required reading for Open Yale’s France Since 1871 online class. While there were many required readings for the class, this is the only one I actually read.

It’s rare that an autobiography can evoke a breadth of emotions, but the author's storytelling makes her life story all the more fascinating. Early on, Carles shared tales about wolves attacking villagers that literally had my hair standing on end. The stories felt like creepy Grimm fairy tales.

There were times when reading the book, especially when she re-tells the story of her six-year-old daughter's death, I was questioning right along with her. This story comes after reading about the loss of her mother, who was struck and killed by lightning when Emilie was four, the death of her younger and favorite sister in childbirth because she was too modest to allow a midwife or doctor to assist in the delivery (you have to read it to get the full understanding of how senseless it was) and that of her brother who starved to death as a German prisoner of war in World War I. 

Her story is beautiful, yet profoundly sad and haunting.  Even in the midst of all this despair, she managed to write an eloquent and moving story that didn’t seek pity. There was plenty of injustice, sorrow and hardship, but there was nothing but love and goodness emanating from her words.

So much of this book is philosophical, but the following portions near the end give a better sense of its spirit: 

1. In this passage she describes her feelings for her husband, even though her father and her husband's mother didn't want the two to marry:
"Jean was authentic wealth, the only kind I had always wanted and never had. A head full of dreams, a smile laden with promises, a heart heavy with all the goodness on earth, such was the wealth offered and given me. Material wealth cannot compare. That is why I was opposed to marriage contracts. When you love someone, you share everything, and if you part, the contract will not cure the pain. It is nothing but a matter of sous, and for me there is not a shadow of doubt that money soils whatever it touches."
2. This next passage is an explanation of things she tried to teach her students - things they would never find in textbooks:
"The most important thing for a young person is to choose a trade he likes and enjoys, otherwise he will be a slave, unhappy and consumed with rage. To conclude this line of argument, I always spoke to them about liberty, repeating that our famous Liberty should not simply be a word inscribed on pediments along with Equality and Fraternity - those basic Rights of Man, an abstract and illusory liberty - but rather that it should be a reality for each one of them. Beware of politicians, beware of silver-tongued orators, do your utmost to judge for yourselves, and, above all, take advantage of the beauty life offers."
3. I loved her philosophy on raising children:
"Faithful to our ideal of liberty, neither Jean nor I ever interfered with our children's choices. At the risk of repeating myself, let me say that my husband always said that children should be allowed to live in freedom; and when the time for decisions came, we let them do as they wished. When the second wanted to leave school, my husband did not tell him that he was wrong and that one day he would be sorry. He had always said that a man did not need school to do what he wanted, on the contrary. And so he allowed the boy to choose."
4. This last passage is Carles summing up some of her thoughts on life at the end of the book:
"Let us learn to live very simply: one table, four chairs, a bed: that's all we need, let us learn to make use of our leisure time, get as close to nature as possible. Let us learn to read, because reading means strengthening our minds through the minds of others, steeping our hearts with feelings that please, and struggling with an author according to whether our ideas and feelings agree with his or diverge. Learn to live by knowing how to live and let live. Never take anything in life but flowers, and from flowers, only the perfume; drop the religion that has the largest number of followers: I am talking about the religion of money."
In the end I was hoping she would make her peace with God. That did not appear to happen, which is the saddest part of her story.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nanny's New Pool

That splash was created by a little boy that has always been too afraid to jump into a pool. That was until yesterday. It was our first visit to Nanny's house since the pool was completed, and the little boy is ready for more.

Yesterday was a big, and fun, step for him. Not only did he jump in numerous times, but he wore swimmies for the first time as well. I had never been able to talk him into putting them on, but he was excited to wear them yesterday. It was a reminder that he will do things in his own time no matter how much coaxing, begging, pleading or asking comes from me.

While he's got a good mix of my anxious personality and my husband's reluctance to try new things, it's the opposite for this little priss.

On more than one occasion she attempted to walk right into the water. She also tried to swallow the entire contents of the pool.

In all fairness, I should say the pool belongs to Nanny and Papa OD. I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings by giving the impression the pool belongs only to Nanny:)

I have a feeling that next summer, we'll be spending a lot of weekends at the in-laws.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maybe One Day

I have a list of places I want to see and things I would love to do. It's not a written list, more of a mental one.

And the list is growing faster than I can check it off.

I'm adding Baja, Calif. to that list. While reading about whales with the little boy yesterday we learned that winter is a great time to spot herds of grey whales in Baja.

I know it won't be anytime soon because the children are too young to enjoy a trip like this. I also imagine it might be costly and our travel expenses from the past few months will keep us home for a while after we return from DC at the end of September - not to mention I've already planned ways to spend our tax return for the next five years on home projects and trips!

But one day, just maybe, whale watching will make its way to the top of that list.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Semester

Working at a university means you live life in semesters.

I make decisions about trips, activities and everyday life based on my scheduled class times and the time between each semester.

I figured the beginning of the upcoming semester would be a good time to start another online class through Open Yale (

During the summer I listended to lectures on the history of France. I'm currently reading a wonderful autobiography that was assigned for that class (I'll be blogging about it soon!). The class got me thinking about planning a France trip.

This time, I decided to go with an economics class. Economics is not my strong suit, so I was worried the content might be over my head. While I've only listened to one lecture, and it was the introduction to the course, I was able to keep up and understand what the professor, Robert J. Shiller, said.

The class is titled Financial Markets 2011. The hubby came in when I was going through the session list and laughed.

"You're doing a finance class," he asked quite amused.

"Yes," I said with a mix of defiance and uncertainty.

"Sounds good," he replied.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Hunger Games

If it's a book that has been out for only a few years, chances are you've read it before me. That's especially true if it's a series.

I tend to favor works of literature that have stood the test of time, or, if it's a new book, I read it because it's a critic's choice, not a best seller. The latter of which has sometimes led me astray and left me disappointed.

I usually don't get caught up in all the hype surrounding new best-selling books. I prefer to get lost in them after the hype (which is often no fun because no one wants to talk about them at that point).

It was true for Harry Potter - sort of. I began reading Harry Potter about the time "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was published.

It was true for "Twilight." I read the books two years ago. Like everyone else, I was completely obsessed with Edward Cullen for a period of time.

It was also true for "The Hunger Games." I started and finished "Mockingjay," the final book in the trilogy, while in St. Augustine.

I probably wouldn't have read this series if one of my best friends hadn't kept after me about it.

While they weren't Harry Potter or Twilight good, I did enjoy reading the books.

The storyline was equal parts philosophical, science fiction and relational. Peeta was by far my favorite character. The sweet, yet often messed up love story kept my attention more than anything else.

I had nightmares the night I finished "Mockingjay," so I'm not sure how recommendable a book is if it gives you bad dreams?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's Been A Long Time

The hubby and I did something last night we hadn't done since before baby girl was born.

We went out to eat without any children.

I was wanting to try a new restaurant - new to us even though it's been open for months. We stopped by one Saturday for lunch, but when I looked at the menu and realized the brunch was probably not something the little boy would eat, I vowed to return.

We ended up making it a double date with the hubby's sister and her boyfriend. Going out with her was something else we hadn't done in a long time.

My favorite thing we ordered ended up being our appetizer. It was a batch of homemade fried pork skins. They arrived at our table warm and still crackling. Yum!

The food was good, but re-connecting with each other was better.

I'd like to say we will make this a monthly habit, but I know better. Football season starts soon and the Saturday nights we aren't at a game we'll either be out of town or at home watching an out-of-town game.

Oh well. I'll take these nights out whenever I can get them. Even if it ends up being only once a year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Places to Eat While in St. Augustine

The hubby liked the fort. The little boy loved the alligator farm. I liked the food.

One of my favorite parts about traveling is finding great places to eat, and it's super easy to find the best places with the Yelp app.

All the food we had was good, but there are three places that stood out.

1. The Floridian
This place is located on Cordova Street and was so good that we went two nights in a row. The little boy got the kid's fried shrimp both nights. The hubby got swordfish both nights, but they were different dishes. The first night I had the meatloaf sandwich. I've found that when a new, hip restaurant has meatloaf on the menu, it's usually worth ordering. This sandwich, with the cilantro mayo, was delicious. It came with a side salad with a homemade vinaigrette. The second night I went for the vegan dish, a black bean and
sweet potato burger. I'm a meat lover, so the meatloaf was my favorite of the two. The cool thing about this place was that there were a number of dishes that cater to the meat lover, the vegetarian and the vegan. Our first night we sat outside and struck up a conversation with the couple behind us. It turns out that the guy's brother owned the restaurant. When his parents arrived a bit later, his dad was so eager to show us how good the chicken waffles were that he offered me the food off his wife's plate. I politely declined, but the chicken waffles did look tasty.

2.  Sea Oats Caffe - I didn't misspell cafe. That's how this diner spells it. We were riding around looking for places to eat lunch, and we pulled into a strip mall to turn around. The hubby stopped so I could check out what Yelp said was nearby. The first recommendation was this place, right where we were. I would have ignored it if it hadn't of been for the recommendation promising it was not the typical strip mall kind of place. It was a local favorite that served breakfast and lunch. We all had sandwiches for lunch and ventured back to this place the next two days for breakfast. There's nothing like a good diner breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes and coffee to get your day started right.

3. The Hyppo

This gourmet popsicle shop (yes, I said gourmet popsicle) had funky flavors like strawberry basil, pineapple cilantro and even a mango habanero, among other things. We're plain kind of folks, so we stuck with basic strawberry. These popsicles were thick, cold and sweet. It was a healthy dessert after lunch our last day in town.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Note on Where We Stayed

When booking our St. Augustine trip I had no clue where to stay, so I went to to see what it offered.

I found a great condo located on a golf course. The property had a walk-in pool, and it looked promising. That was until I realized the owner didn't accept payment through American Express. This points junkie had to look elsewhere.

We ended up staying at Junie's Lighthouse Cottage. It was near the Lighthouse Museum, so I guess that's where the owner came up with the name. Not sure who Junie is???? The owner's name is Emilie.

The upside:
It had a kitchen
Plenty of room for us to move around and store all our stuff
Free passes to the Lighthouse Museum are included in the booking fee
Close to downtown and the public beach
The owner and property manager were super nice and easy to contact
It was tucked away in a neighborhood
I paid with my AMEX

The downside:
The public beach was a short drive - The beach within walking distance was not the kind of beach to sit around and relax at
The cottage is attached to an upstairs unit where someone apparently lives - We could hear people moving about above us each night, and one night it sounded like someone was drilling
No laundry room though there was a laundromat located nearby
I had to pay for the entire stay up front which makes me kinda nervous

My two favorite things about this place:

There were three of these books published in the 60s on the coffee table. They included short essays and articles on culture, art and history. They made for some interesting late-night reading.

I loved this chair! I seriously considered calling the cottage owner to see if she'd sell it. I would have if there had been room in my car.

Here are a few more pics of the place:

I forgot to get pictures of the kitchen and the second bathroom. There was also a nice yard with a lime tree and a hammock. The hammock was another upside, but the downside was we didn't want to get in the hammock for all the mosquitoes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

St. Augustine

We had three whole days to explore St. Augustine.

On our first day we were able to walk from our vacation rental to the Light House Museum.

It was free for us because a pass for the whole family was included in our vacation rental. We didn't climb the 200 + stairs to get to the top of the lighthouse - too hot for that.

The little boy loved the playground there.

After we left the lighthouse we took a walk to the nearby beach. We started on the pier before venturing out onto the sand (where he later cut his foot). All smiles here though.

We watched the mini sailboats and the small kids steering them (I'm not a sailor so my terminology could be all wrong here).

The next day offered a chance to take in some history. We started at the Fountain of Youth.

This is it folks: The Fountain of Youth. Not much more than a drip.

I loved the old trees in St. Augustine. This is one in the Fountain of Youth Park.

It was hot and steamy whenever the sun was out, but in the shade under a tree or when the sun went behind the clouds, it was pleasant. It was especially nice before the rain shower at Castillo de San Marcos.

Here is baby girl sporting the wind-blown look!


Touring this old fort was probably the hubby's favorite.

 We made the most of the overcast skies on our last day. It felt great outside. 

We started at the public beach where I noticed another difference in this ocean and the Gulf. Cliffs separated the sand from the water below. 

 It may look like the sand is connected to the water here, but it's not. I'm used to being able to walk right into the ocean. I had to slide down the sand to get to the water (I took a cue from the surfer's entering before me). Getting down was the easy part. I thought the hubby was going to pull my arm out of socket trying to help me back up.

And what's a trip to Florida without some putt-putt? Some of my favorite childhood memories of beach trips include playing putt-putt with my brothers.

We ended the day at The Alligator Farm. 

I mentioned in a post before we left that I was sure we would find something to do even though I didn't have anything planned. You can tell from these pics there was plenty to see and do. 

I'm just sorry I didn't get any pictures of the beauty of the buildings downtown. The history behind the European settling (some might say invasion) of this town is apparent in the old-world Spanish structures lining the main streets of St. Augustine.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Rocky Start

Our first 24 hours in St. Augustine were not the beginnings of a laid back family vacation.

It started with something small. About two hours after leaving the house, while we were still driving, I realized I left my computer at home. I was hoping to blog about our trip and get a few things for work done while I had extra time on my hands. I tried to take it as a sign that blogging and work could wait. This was a vacation after all.

Later that night, after we arrived in St. Augustine, the little boy was crawling into bed when he found a nice surprise in the shape of a lizard on his pillow. The hubby, little boy and I spent the next 25 minutes trying to no avail to trap the lizard. In the end, the hubby pulled the mattress out of the bedroom and plopped it on the floor in another room. Again, nothing big. No catastrophe. The little boy thought it was fun looking for, finding and then not being able to catch the lizard. He just didn't want to sleep in the same room with it.

The next morning it continued when baby girl took my blush case and smashed it on the floor. She loves doing this, so much so that a few weeks before she did the same thing and the powder crumbled to pieces. Maybe letting her play with the case on the carpet in a vacation rental home wasn't the best way to occupy her time. All those crumbled pieces went spilling out onto, or should I say into, the carpet. We scrubbed and scrubbed and were able to dim the huge spots of Nars peach blush, but they were still noticeable. I'm keeping my fingers crossed we won't be receiving a bill for carpet cleaning.

A few hours after this it got worse. Much worse while the little boy and I walked on the nearby beach.

This Gulf-Coast girl is clueless about the Atlantic. In my ignorance, we both took our shoes off and walked around by these:

Barnacles and oyster shells were scattered all along the shore. You think it would have crossed my mind they could be sharp and dangerous.


I was chatting away with a local girl about restaurants when I peered down and noticed what looked like blood on a rock in front of me. I quickly spun around, but the little boy seemed content and kept walking along as if everything was fine.

I resumed the conversation, and when I looked down again, in a different spot this time, I saw more blood.

I knew he'd cut his foot. I just wasn't prepared for the site that met my eyes.

I scooped him up and made a beeline across the parking lot to the park where my husband was sitting with our sleeping baby girl. I don't think I said anything to the girl I was chatting with. I just took off.

The hubby immediately had the good sense to take him to a coast guard booth nearby where they cleaned his foot. Luckily, the cut wasn't as deep as it initially looked.

After he had cried it out, the little boy sat down on a bench with the hubby while baby girl and I went to retrieve our shoes. Another mother was warning her girls about the sharpness of the oyster shells. When I told her that my little boy had just cut his foot, she told me of how dirty and full of bacteria the oyster shells were.

If I haven't said it before let me say it now. I am a worrier. I freak out over little things. So this tidbit of information was not exactly the best thing for me to here. Needless to say I've spent a lot of time cleaning, doctoring and staring at that foot.

You might think things went downhill fast after that, but the rest of the trip was actually fun. I'll be posting about all the good stuff, and there was lots of it, the rest of the week!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


It seems each day as a mom brings obstacles to my path that desire to trip me up and keep me from being the kind of mom I desire to be for my children.

Like words that don't flow well so as to confuse a reader, there are those daily struggles that seek to leave me baffled.

These days, fatigue is this mother’s greatest struggle.
When tired I too easily become frustrated with anyone or everyone around. I’m more likely to lose my temper and yell. I’m more likely to make unreasonable demands. I’m more likely to say something nasty that I must ask for forgiveness for later.

At some point during each day, I feel so tired I wonder how I’m going to make it a minute longer. It's that bone-tired feeling mothers of young children know all too well.
Then the little boy asks a question or needs help with something. The baby girl needs to be fed or picked up or played with.

I continue on, as every other mother in the world does, through the fatigue.
I heard a comment a few weeks ago about how fatigue can often be Satan’s greatest weapon against us mothers.

I believe it.
Self-doubt rears its ugly head in those moments. Negativity abounds.  I grumble and complain about these precious beings that God has entrusted to me.

Fatigue is par for the course at this stage in life.
While often I'm so tired I don’t know what I’m saying or doing a good portion of the day, I also seem unquestionably confident in my decisions regarding life and my children. It’s a wonderfully strange paradox.

We leave tomorrow for our next trip and I’m hoping for some R&R. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I chose St. Augustine.
It dawned on me about two days ago that I had nothing planned for us to do in St. Augustine. I felt guilty until I remembered that’s exactly what we all need.

It’s great to schedule trips like the one we took to South Dakota where you set out to see and do everything. It’s also great to take trips where you can do whatever you feel like, even if that means you sit in a hammock while the children run around or you spread out a blanket and barely have to move for hours because the children are mesmerized by playing in the sand.
I'm sure we'll find a few things to do, but the best part about this trip is that nothing is scheduled.
This tired mother, and father, need time to unwind, relax and enjoy the company of each other and our children without the pressures and demands daily life at home so often requires.