Tuesday, April 15, 2014

St. Augustine: Blue Dogs Fly at Midnight, Love the beach, Watch Baseball and Make Cakes. {Oh, yeah and they stay up PAST midnight.}

Denise, my dear friend, has had a lot of good ideas over her lifetime -- some of which I have benefited personally-- but the one she had back in early March might have been one of the best.  Through crazy but really cool circumstances, her family and my brother own beach houses next to each other in St. Augustine, Florida.  Never in a gazillion years would I have ever dreamed that Blake and Adele would own a beach house, you know, by the ocean where the sun shines a lot and it’s hot often and there are no shade trees and there is sand and stuff, but hey, wonkier things have happened.  Not many, but a few.  My nephew’s college baseball team was playing a 3 game series at Flagler which is in St. Augustine and everyone was coming from Soperton to watch him play.  She suggested I surprise Blake and RJ, my nephew. And because I am my parent’s favorite child, they got me and the kids there.

Denise and her husband, John, were to meet Blake and Adele at Palm Valley Fish Camp and so while we hid in the bushes, Julia and Brighton sat on the bench in front.  Blake is still a little stunned in this picture but the first word I heard him say was, “DUDE!”  and then, “What are you doing here?!”  I think Adele had a silent panic wondering where in the world she was going to sleep THREE MORE people but we already had all that worked out.  It was great fun catching him off guard and the food was, well, I had mahi mahi over stone ground grits.  Really. Yummy.

The next morning we went to see some sights in St. Augustine, the oldest city in America-- you know, Ponce de Leon, the Fountain of Youth-- dig back into your elementary days studying explorers.  The original fort still stands strong by the Atlantic ocean and the historic city is just beautiful.

We had our first gourmet popsicles with “Aunt Denise”.  Hyppo popsicles.

And found way more things the kids wanted to buy than the money they had.  It was amazing the “deals” the storekeepers would give my children as Denise filled the owner's hands with money when the kids weren’t looking.  Seriously.  If I’ve heard B say, “THAT MAN WAS SOOOOOO NICE!!!!” once,  I’ve heard it twenty.
Here he is in a tricorn hat but what he really wanted here was a chain mail head dress.  He said he’d “wear it all the time”.

Then we landed here in the vintage dress shop.

The owner enjoyed giving Julia all the accessories to try on with the dresses.

Definitely in her element

Next stop- gourmet popcorn- like none I had ever seen or tasted.  The word “gourmet” was not used loosely here- like on fund raising packages!

If you don’t know Spanish Moss, now you do.

Then we had about an hour to run down to the beach before meeting everyone for dinner.

Both sporting our Longhorns-- and neither of us are really huge fans.  One man, after seeing my hat, said he saw I had already been to the outlet stores.  {the only place that would sell such a hat?}

Searching for shark’s teeth with Denise.  We wound up finding so many, it made me a little uncomfortable sticking my toes in the water!

The beach there has sand but it’s also covered with “coquina” which is fragments of shells and other sea finds.  Julia enjoyed throwing it and watching it shimmer in the sun.

And it was NO JOKE getting it OFF your person. 

Simple moments like these make me grateful to be able to see my family and friends if just for 3 days.

My sweet Mom and lovely niece, Hunter 

The college girls, baseball followers, sampling the cake the Denise taught Julia to make-- more on that in just a minute.

John showing B the amazing “pull our thumb off” trick…. I so enjoyed watching John bug my kids.  They LOVED it.

We surprised RJ right before the game.  The kids asked for him at the dugout.  He was NOT expecting them to be standing there.

Brighton chased foul balls for 3 days.  Anytime I lost track of him, I’d just wait until the next foul ball and then I’d see him running.  I lost count on how many he retrieved but he got to keep one of them and he wanted it signed-- and also his hat.  The players were happy to indulge him.  He didn’t sleep much that night.

More beach time before game #2

Looking for more shark’s teeth

There were activities for kids all 3 games and this boy won almost everything.  Here he is with his first  chocolate bunny-- all of them turned into chocolate syrup on the sunny day.

The next few pictures are of what Denise and Julia did during game #2-- she taught Julia how to make THE 12 Layer Chocolate Cake.  I’ve been eating Denise’s for many years and she even tried to teach me once.  Denise documented the whole lesson with pictures and videos because she didn’t think we’d believe her when she said that Julia “did it all by herself”.


Spreading batter thin 

This was the part I remember being so nervous about-- getting out those THIN layers-- can you see them on the back row?  Thinner than pancakes thin.

Her final product and I give it a great big WOW!  And this is what it looks like cut.  Some people assume these are dry and maybe someone’s is but Denise’s has never been and Julia’s certainly wasn’t. It was really amazing.  

And here she is with John giving her a high five!  He, kindly, seemed as excited as Denise was about Julia’s accomplishment.  It didn’t hurt that Julia made a 13th layer and shared it with him!

Evidence of a well loved cake-- Sunday morning after the delicious Saturday night dinner Blake {and Adele, and David and Lisa!} cooked for us!

So three baseball games over one weekend, there was a really bad call.  And a really bad reaction.  I won’t go into the details but here is my brother “holding off” another player’s dad.  He kept his left arm between his friend and the opposing team’s representative.  It was heated and it didn’t not end quickly.  Can you see what I love about this picture?

Yes!  The bag!
I texted this out to all involved yesterday just to give my brother a hard time so after a few texts back and forth, John saying, “Does pink go with muted gray this season?”  And here is the rest…..
{Note:  “Dennard Drugs” , the family pharmacy, is my daddy texting.}

And that is “Classic Daddy”.  The patriarch spoke.

He had left early Sunday morning to meet friends to fish elsewhere in Florida and we were clearly annoying him.

We came home exhausted but it was that sort of trip.  We didn’t want to miss anything or anyone-- so many special people in ONE PLACE.  We stayed up entirely too late EVERY night.  I thought I was going to make it home with no real drama-- making it until I could get to Jeff- to have my parenting partner again-- and then B accidentally spilled his ENTIRE water bottle in his seat and onto the lady’s things seated behind him.


I wish I could say things like, “Oh, she was fine. She was so cool about it and told me not to worry one bit.”  I can’t.  Because she was not.  At all. God love the lady seated next to her who kept chanting, “At least it was just water. At least it was just water." I was not upset with B because it was a complete accident but the whole incident drained away about a day of my life.  I was glad to see Jeff.

It was a great weekend for so many reasons.  I am so grateful to have this family around me.  You guys are the best!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Say Good Things About Me"

It was bed time and we had just finished reading.  In slow motion, Julia and Brighton were unfolding themselves off the couch and out from under blankets.  Then we all heard this,

“Dad, will you come in my room at 6:30 [a.m.] again….. lay down with me….. and say good things about me.”

That’s our son wearing his 10 year-old heart on his sleeve.  Having a need and speaking it loudly and clearly.  I really love this about him.  Really love.

These boys, as cool or tough or grown-up as they want us to think they are, need to hear daddy’s affirmations.  And mom’s.  I remember one day when he’d had a hard time playing with the kids in our old neighborhood and I had given him a pep talk in the middle of it.  After it was all over, he said, “Mom, you make me brave when you talk to me like that.  A brave boy needs a momma who loves him.”  Can I tell you how grateful I am to have a child that just says these things?  Because he has a mother that, at times, can spin around in her business with such tunnel vision that she forgets that the kiddos that live with her need her words to strengthen, encourage and affirm them--- especially when I spend so much time training and correcting them.

Gratefully, I have one that asks for the pendulum to swing the other way.

If you’ve read ONE post about B here, you know if it goes through his head, it comes out his cute little mouth- which is getting bigger all the time. And teeth are just FALLING out.  And the Tooth Fairy is very distracted by 11pm.  {It’s a recurring disease- this distracted Tooth Fairy business}  He knows it’s us but he loves to talk about her laziness and forgetfulness when his hand returns empty from under the pillow.  I will only receive the latter.  Anyway, he processes EVERYthing by talking about it and is learning the art-- STILL-- of waiting and actually LISTENing to the person so rudely using his airtime.  His urge to speak is SO strong, you can feel it.  Even though what comes out is not always pleasant, he knows how to dish out good words, encouraging words, affirming words.  It’s endearing-- and has saved his little behind much grief.
Upon awakening, “Just the beautiful face I have been wanting to see.”
During the school day, “Mom, thank you for helping us do all this hard school work when you didn’t sleep well last night.”
“Mom-Dad, thanks for taking me to my game and watching me the whole time.”
And the exchange I love to hear, Jeff-- “You’re a good boy.”  Brighton-- “You’re a good dad.”

He loves to speak words, but he also loves to hear them, when they are about him.  If they are good.  

In the car the other day, Julia said, “I like it when you call me ‘punkin’,”.  And just yesterday she said, “I like it when you call me ‘baby’,”.  Simple, affectionate words which can wield great power when “they go down into the innermost parts”.  I remember when Brighton was maybe 4 or 5 telling me from the backseat what each of his grandparents called him.  I tuned him out at first -- or maybe it took me a second to tune in-- but when I thought about what he said, he was right on.  {Ex.- my Mom- “angel”, Jeff’s mom- “sugar” and so on....}  This most important detail of his childhood thoughts is recorded somewhere on this blog, but for the life of me, I cannot find it.

These are my favorite mommy-speech verses.  There are MANY more, but I like the images that go along with these.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:23-25

The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Proverbs 18:7-9

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Colossians 4:5-7

Is it strange to wish that these verses could dance around in the air around my house and dangle in front of me long enough to read?  And keep coming back....... until I whisper.  I’ve got an index box full I’d like to do that with.  And the crazy thing is MY love language is words of affirmation and we all know that we are supposed to be proficient in our own language.  I stink at it.  I do better with paper and pen and maybe I should do that more often.  The words tend to sputter and lose meaning as they bounce, ungracefully, from my mouth.  So I am working on this:   To be proficient in speaking words that strengthen the soul, that give life, that ooze with grace, that whisper deep and that go down sweet.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Staycation Somewhere Else

It’s good I waited.  We took a little trip down to Rockport, Texas for Spring Break and it’s good thing I waited to post the pictures.  After our last few days, I needed to be reminded of the fun we had, that we really enjoyed one another and how EVERY family needs to get away from all the normal responsibilities from time to time.  My mom came in for a visit and I reminded her how, when the kids were younger, smaller, cuter.... just kidding....., how crazy the kids would act when she and Daddy would come.  I would think, what happened to my semi-obedient kids?  How did they lose their hearing, respect and manners when the grandparents came to town?  I thought of this preparing for Mom’s visit being glad those days were over.


My mom witnessed two entire days of school and glimpses of her grandchildren that I know won’t be forgotten soon.  Oh, normal stuff, I guess, but I told her that her presence kept me, well, in tact. In those moments, you forget that you really do like these people and that family is a beautiful thing.  It’s where life happens and it’s the training ground for these little folks- and me.  So if you haven’t read this post-- and if you aren’t reading Ann, you shouldn’t be reading me!  She’s it when it comes to writing on family and parenting.  So click on over there and be encouraged in your mommy role.  Tuck these things away for when your little ones are a bit older.  These truths shared, as our pastor says, “It’s money.”

And I’d say our vacation was also......”money”.  We played, we rested, we toured and played some more.  The investment of time together is always worth it.  So as I was thinking about our week, I wanted it to be very different from our nights in this home.  Not that there is anything wrong with nights here but I knew vacation needed to be different. Rockport is a sleepy town by the water and unless the weather is good for beach time or the fish are biting, there isn’t a whole lot to do.  After a morning walk with a friend, something she said made me think of having “theme nights”.  We kept them simple, but they were definitely the hit of the week.  Money.

Of all the times we’ve been down I-35, we’ve never stopped here.  I know everyone else does, but we weren’t in any hurry and we bought some treats for the week.  Well worth our wait in line.

We got to eat dinner with this sweet family--  they left a BIG hole in Fort Worth.

The house in Rockport sits back in this groves of trees.

A heron nesting

A little excitement on the pier Monday night as Jeff helped a group of women pull this drum fish out of the water.

{My Rebel is on the blink so get ready for a stream of “okay” photos. Found myself wanting to pray for my camera to get well…… then thought better of it.}

Our first theme night was “Sports Night”.  Remember, I kept it simple and by simple I mean I didn’t want to have to buy any “costumes” or a lot of “props”.  I went with themes I knew we could just grab from our closets.

We ate tailgating food for dinner and then played Minute to Win It games with stuff we already had.  Cup stack, Cookie face, Cotton ball in the pot, Straws in the cup etc.  Easy Breezy.

We ended our night with Remember the Titans.  The kids were mesmerized by the football drama and Julia was jumping on the couch by the end of the movie.  {Sorry, Mary Ellen-- I had her stop right away!}

Second theme night- Backwards Night.  We dressed like this and ate dessert first all the way to appetizers at the end.

We played Bananagrams with backwards words and Rory’s Story Cubes starting with “The End”.

The last theme night was “Fancy Night”.  Jeff cooked steak and crab legs and we ate by candlelight with free flowing sparkling grape juice.

I have a love/hate relationship with YouTube but it came through for me when I needed waltz lessons is 5 easy steps.  This was really fun.  And B, with the music in his bones, was great at it.  I get offers to dance now in my own kitchen. ; )

We ended this night with Ever After-- a Cinderella story.  Don’t tell B I told you but when we asked them which movie they liked better-- the Titans or Ever After-- he could NOT choose.  He decided it was a tie!

Love this.

Love him.

And because there is a beach close, there are stores that have photo opps like this……...

And sell crawly creatures like this.
So we said yes and Julia had hers in the cage with her food, instructions etc. and was in line at the check out.  She started questioning her purchase and decided she didn’t want them after all.  She took her $20 to Ross and bought 3 shirts.  She was very proud of her bargains and Jeff said that was a sure sign that she’s growing up.

It looks beautiful but it was frigid and windy.

Bays, beaches and bait stands-- fixtures by the water.

Spent one day in Corpus Christi and toured the aircraft carrier the USS Lexington.  Very cool.  Jeff and I felt like Harm and Mac on JAG-- except no uniform, no murder to investigate and no awkward friendship/do you love me type thing.

Our last night, Jeff and Brighton made us a fire on the beach.  It was perfect.

This was the first week long vacation just the four of us have taken without meeting friends or extended family.  So these memories are made-- going down in the short history of our little family.
Can’t wait for the next one!