The Family

The Family

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Wedding Before Easter

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a wedding.

The sun shone for hours.

As we crested the hill, the one with the cross on top, and rounded into the gravel drive that took us to the stables, the sky had turned cloudy. The wind was beginning to pick up.

We sat in the back so that one of us could quickly walk out with Mattie once the inevitable talking or crying began.

Another cross. adorned with flowers, hung as the backdrop to the altar.

The groom was standing up front as all the bridesmaids and groomsmen made their way down the aisle.

The two wooden doors shut.

Almost immediately there was a sound.

It grew louder.

I think everyone realized it at the same time.

It was raining, and it sounded like a downpour.

It kept coming.

The doors finally opened, slowly, and she was standing there with a radiant smile on her face.

She was the bride, and she was beautiful and happy. The smile wasn't forced or fake. She was glad!

It no longer mattered that it was raining.

The rain subsided moments after she entered.

It came back a few times as the night and the reception progressed. It was no more than a sprinkle here or there, but it didn't damper the spirits of the happy couple.

And in all that I kept thinking about that smile.

For when all eyes are looking upon you, the tone of what follows is set by you. When the rain comes, a smile may not stop it, but it does wonders for the perspective of those around you.

There may have been many a bride that would have cried. There would likely be some that would be angry. I probably would have been among these two groups.

Not this sweet girl.

She smiled, as she so often does, and walked down the aisle on the arm of her father and danced the night away with her groom.

And in that smile and after that wedding, I can't stop thinking about our responses in life and how a smile, despite the rain, can change the outlook of a whole lot of people.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Note on Where We Stayed

There's no limit to places one can stay while on a beach trip in Gulf Shores.

The tricky part is finding a place with the right amount of space, especially when four families are involved.

This trip was organized by a friend, so she did all the planning and booking.

I didn't envy her task.

We ended up staying in this four bedroom, three bath house on the beach.

This was the only picture I snapped, and I did it as we played on the beach our final day. There was too much luggage and stuff strewn about for me to take pictures of the inside to do it justice.

The picture makes the space look bigger than it was. There are two units to this one house. We all stayed on the right-hand side, while the owner of the property was on the left.

Each family had its own room, which meant mom, dad and two kids had to sleep in the same room for all involved.

I'm used to sleeping with my kids in the bed, so that part wasn't new for us. It was just the size of the bed that made it a bit difficult.

To make it fair, everyone drew numbers for room assignments. Lucky us, we ended up with the smallest bed.

Oh well, someone had to get it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shrimp, Shrimp and More Shrimp

I'm a seafood foodie. Always have been.

Crab legs, crab claws, oysters of any variety, fish, lobster, you name it. I love it.

My favorite is shrimp,

As a young child I would order popcorn shrimp every chance I got, and it makes me one proud momma to know Jack has acquired my seafood-loving gene.

Everyone we were at the beach with loves seafood as well, which is why dinner every night included some type of shrimp.

On our first night in Gulf Shores, Matt and I took the children to The Shrimp Basket. There's no better place to clog your arteries than at this delicious fried-food joint. Jack, Matt and I each ordered a basket of fried shrimp. They do have grilled or blackened items, but it doesn't seem right to not order fried food at a place like this.

On our second night, three out of the four couples decided to pick up shrimp from a local seafood market. The husbands went to pick it up, and I'm proud to say that mine had the forethought to know that it was getting a bit late and he was going to have one ill wife AND one ill child on his hands if they had to wait on the shrimp to cook once he brought it back (neither of us have much patience, nor are we fun to be around when hungry). He got ours steamed there. The only thing we had to do was the peeling!

On our final night in town we went with another couple and their kids to Lulu's, a wonderful hangout for young children. There's lots of sand and buckets to play with while waiting for a table. I ordered grilled shrimp kabobs and ate every last bite.

Before heading home on Sunday, we stopped at The Oyster House where I had shrimp au gratin. I'd never had it this way before and thought I'd give it a try. Truth be told this was my least favorite of all the shrimp meals I ate. The au gratin was too runny for my taste, but the shrimp I picked out of it was delicious. I'm also a sucker for a good salad bar, and this place had one of the best I've seen in a while.

I'm not sure why I didn't order shrimp scampi anywhere??? That, hands down, is my favorite way to eat shrimp!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Glorious Final Day

A late arrival the first day, an extremely cold and windy second day and a visit to Grandma and Grandpa the third day didn't leave for much time on the beach.

That's why the radiant sunshine yesterday morning, the final day of our trip, had us re-thinking when we would be leaving.

The owner of the property had already told us that we didn't have to be in a hurry to check out.

Despite that, I could feel the internal turmoil as I wanted to let everyone enjoy the morning while at the same time trying to figure out how we could do that and make it back home before midnight.

As I jumped in the shower to get my legs swimsuit ready, I kept repeating to myself what Ann Voskamp so often says on her blog: "Life is not an emergency."

I wanted to enjoy the sunshine. And I wanted to enjoy the moments that matter most.

She loves the water!

 And he loves the sand!

So we didn't rush.

We were the last ones to leave.

We enjoyed a final seafood meal on our way out of Gulf Shores.

And we made it home well before midnight.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Windy Day - in Pictures

"I can run about - when the tide is out
With the wind and the sand and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish
Oh - to live by the sea is my only wish"
                     -Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

Today may have been the most windy day I've ever experienced at the beach.

I don't think any of us were able to stay outside for longer that 20-minute intervals.

This morning it was almost impossible to stay outside. Almost all the children, save for my Jack, took an early nap.

It was better this afternoon, but still windy.

The heated pool was not heated today, so it wasn't an option.

That didn't stop our gang from building and playing and running and digging in the cold, blowing sand.

Thank goodness for technology. I'm not quite sure what we all did before its advent.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

4 X 4

There are 16 of us in a beach house here in Gulf Shores.

Four moms.

Four dads.

Five little girls.

And three boys.

Our friends were in the pool when we arrived. We're slow pokes and were the last ones to make it here.

It's so cold outside, I'm not sure I'll be able to muster the courage to get in the pool, even though it's heated.

Whether I'm able to take the plunge or not, here's to the next few days of friends, food and fun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Packing Procrastination

Last week, the university I work for was on spring break.

Instead of a trip, we spent the week at home.

We have, however, made plans with friends to go to the beach at the end of this week.

Seeing as I had extra time on my hands last week, one would think I would be prepared for the upcoming trip.

Not the case!

The idea of having extra time seems to create the illusion that there is plenty of time to get things done, which in turn leads to procrastination on my end. Especially when it comes to packing.

Part of that has worked in my favor because had I packed last week, I would have included a lot of items we won't get much use out of based on the current weather forecast.

It's just now, three days out, I'm trying to figure out when I'm going to have the time to pack so we can leave first thing Thursday morning.

Maybe tomorrow morning will be kind and run smoothly enough for me to begin the process. Then again, it may be a late night Wednesday.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring Is Coming

"For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
                                                                        -Ecclesiastes 3:1
 It's in the air.

We can feel it, see it, almost taste it.

Spring approaches.

While the calendar still tells us it's winter, the longer hours of daylight combined with milder weather lead us outdoors.

Tonight we ate dinner while the birds sang their chorus in the background.

 And while he screamed with delight as only a five year old little boy can.

And while Matt and I finished our dinner, the rocks provided endless entertainment.

She thinks she is grown. Moments like this make me both happy and sad.

And when it was all over, one went in while the other stayed out and they laughed and laughed like the glass wasn't there to divide them.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire

I've often referred to the books I've been reading as the Game of Thrones series. That's not its official name.

"A Game of Thrones" is the first book in the series, and it is the name of the HBO show, but the books are actually part of the series called A Song of Ice and Fire.

I'm currently reading the third of five books. Two more books, which would bring the total to seven, are supposed to be published before this series ends. The only problem is that a lot of die-hard fans are worried the author is going to die before he can finish them.

He's not sick. He's just getting older, and it's taking him forever to finish the books.

That's the reason I started reading this series in the first place. A tad morbid, but true.

I figured if readers are so ticked off at him because they are afraid someone else is going to have to finish the series because he isn't going to live long enough to complete it, or, goodness forbid, the series just ends without the completion of the final two books, they must be worth the read.

They are.

EXCEPT, I can't stand what he is doing to the Starks.

I want him to be able to finish these books to restore the Starks. And if he doesn't finish them or has no plans in mind to restore this family, I think I just might have to burn my copies (just joking, I would never burn a book - though I did come close to chunking "A Storm of Swords" last week).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Getting to Know You

Sometimes I forget to listen to them.

Often, I forget to look at them when they speak to me.

I'm constantly nodding my head or saying yes, or more often no, and not thinking about why I'm answering that way or what the question even was.

Work, sickness, and life in general have led to too many hectic days around here, and I feel like I've lost touch with them.  

That's why during this spring break that we are spending at home, I am resolving to get to know these children of mine better.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When It's Not More You're in Search Of

Too many times I've gulped the waters from the cup of this world and been left with the bitter aftertaste.

In a week, month, year when I've been searching for so many answers and doubting much, I've begun to question the worldly notion about getting more out of life.

What if it's really less we're after?

Less rushing?

Less anger?

Less fretting, especially over the multitude of things we can't control?

Less yelling?

Less time apart?

Less blame?

Less sweating over the small stuff?

Less self-loathing?

Less time on Facebook?

Less hostility?

Less pain?

Less regret?

Less disease?

Less disaster?

Less poverty?

Less injustice?

Less red tape?

Less extremism?

In a world where the cliche that less is more doesn't often ring true, it's a mantra I'm ready to loudly applaud.

Friday, March 8, 2013

When Momma Gets Sick

I've been visited this week by an unwelcome guest.

If anyone else out there has dealt with the norovirus, you know exactly what I mean.

Today is the first day since Tuesday that I haven't spent what seems like hours in the bathroom. I've never had a stomach bug that lasted longer than 24 hours before. This one is a beast.

I'm now just biding my time waiting for it to hit everyone else in this household. It's strange because it usually works the other way around: the kids bring home the nasty bugs to infect all the other family members.

Life as a mom is demanding and challenging enough, but when you throw sickness into the mix, it can feel downright unbearable.

Mattie has spent much more time screaming and crying this week. Jack has spent much more time glued to his DVD player and the I-pad.

And, to top it all off, no reading this week.

I did have to call in some reinforcements a couple of times. Thank goodness for wonderful family members, including my sweet husband, that have picked up much of the slack.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

National Geographic

They came in the mail last week.

Three month's worth of National Geographic, each bearing his name.

I got the idea from a site called Little Passports, a monthly subscription that teaches kids about geography. At first I was going to subscribe to it and pay the monthly fee.

A few days later it hit me. Wouldn't Jack get just as much out of a subscription to the holy grail of geography?

As cute and fun as Little Passports seems, National Geographic has been teaching THE WORLD about the subject for years - 125 to be exact.

I thought about ordering the kid's version, but in the end decided to go with the original.

The pictures are super cool. Today we flipped through February's edition and learned a whole lot about snake venom and river otters.

His favorite so far almost prevented me from keeping my breakfast down earlier this week.

January's edition had pictures of animal scat (aka POOP). I kid you not, there was a whole chart that listed the contents and texture of the poop. He kept asking me to identify which scat belonged to which animal and what it contained, all while I was trying to swallow my pancakes.

He's discovered a map of the continents on Matt's I-Pad, so I'm thinking about using that next time he's going through the magazine to show him where the animals or buildings in the pictures are located.

For $15, a subscription to National Geographic is a good way to travel around the world while sitting on your couch.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Partied Out

In the past month there's been a taste-testing party, two children's clothing shows, two jewelry shows, a mother-daughter tea party that I hosted here at the house, a shower for a couple getting married and a Duck-Dynasty themed birthday party.

Matt and I dressed up as Jase and Missy from the reality show Duck Dynasty - our cute photo bomber in the background
I don't think I've been to that many parties in a month since I was in college!

While I'm give out at this point, not to mention running low on funds, it was nice to enjoy the adult company and conversation that is often lacking at this point in our lives.

Life as a mom, especially a homeschooling mom, can be isolating. Match those things with introversion, a love to stay home and a natural tendency to be withdrawn and you sometimes end up downright lonely.

Being surrounded by the people I love most in this world everyday is a blessing, but I still crave girl talk and female companionship.

It just seems there is so little time for it during this season in life.

That's why these parties this past month were such a treat. Attending many of them was me making the effort to make more time for friendships, both old and new.

I also found that February is a great time to party and keep the mid-winter blues at bay.