I Bid Adieu

Waking up in the beach house, knowing it's the last day and check out was only a few hours away is no fun.  There was a mad dash to finish laundry, clean out the refrigerator, pack it all up, first in the duffel bags and then in good ol' Betsy.  We were sad.  There was one last walk on the beach, one last, "Oh, look, there's a family of dolphins", and one last trip for donuts, the best donuts we've had this side of the Mississippi.  I've always wanted to say that about something.   They were.  And they were made by a sweet lady in something of a trailer like kitchen outside the convenience store.  My oh my, the double chocolate with pecans was scrumptious.  Not that I ate one, just nibbled a bit so that my guilty running conscience did not get the best of me! 
Once everyone was loaded up, kids and bags alike we set out for Panama City.  Silly us, we thought it might be a tad warmer up there and we were all longing for some more beach time.  The scene there is not exactly what I would call "family friendly".  Spring breakers were everywhere and at only 11am in the morning the beach patrol was out and on their quads.  And it wasn't warmer.  In fact, the sun was still hiding behind the clouds.  No matter, we still played paddle ball, dug holes in the sand and enjoyed some great people watching.  All while doling out life lessons to the girl Things.  Yes, we do that.  It was fun.  Then it  was time for lunch and the last stop at Chik Fil A.  What can we say, we love it!  So we ate there, all ten of us. 
Then we were on the road, back to Franklin.  Only nine hours.  Except there was traffic and an accident and we sat stopped for just about an hour or so, praying the entire time that the van full of young adults that blew a tire were all OK.  Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie saw it happen and were the first in the line of traffic.  They called 911.  Frightening.  Thankfully, everyone was alright, with the exception of some bumps, bruises and broken bones.  We played our travel games, stopped for dinner in Birmingham and safely arrived at the Horels, tired and ready for sleep.  So that we did.  Well, after Thing 4 went to his best buddy's house for  a sleep over.  That just wouldn't wait. 
There was an eight mile run calling our names in the morning.  Windy, hilly country roads and the solitude that only a run can bring me in one of my favorite places.  It was heavenly.  All four of us adults headed out while the Things watched the cousins.  Sweet.  They changed diapers, fed them snacks and played and played.  Then us runners, if you will, arrived home with breakfast from a new coffee shop in town, Frothy Monkey.  And a new favorite of mine.  Grandpa and Mema joined us and we spent the afternoon visiting and sharing pictures while the Things ran around the old hood with friends.  It came time for yet another meal and much to our disappointment we weren't able to get a reservation at Loveless.  To say our Things were upset with me would be an understatement.  They had been talking about those biscuits for days, maybe weeks.  Off to our third choice, pizza.  Still good and fast to boot.  A bonus when you have little ones, or hungry big ones! 
It was time for Betsy to hit the road and begrudgingly we said our goodbyes and loaded up.  Only the weather wasn't cooperating with it's sideways rain and all so we stopped outside St. Louis spent the night and then finished the trek bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning.  Or something like that. 
This brings my beach vacation posting to an end.  So much has been going on around here and I will update soon.  Not really, but did you feel a sense of anticipation for a moment?  I know I did.  

I Almost Forgot Where I Was

So many memories, so much to write about and then real life snuck in and a weekend that wasn't meant to be busy was.  Full of happy surprises and visitors and impromptu dates with friends.  Most certainly a wonderfully gifted weekend.  Now, more on the beach. 
Our last full day on the beach.  We intended to soak up every ray of sun thrown our way.  And that we did.  First thing in the morning and late into the afternoon.  The day began with another girl run, only this time Uncle Jeff made breakfast while we were running.  What a treat.  Meanwhile, Husband Jared was busy teaching this sweet girl how to play cards.   The Things were chasing Gemma all over and up and down the stairs. 

Now for some beach time photos.
Wonder what he's thinking

Love this boy of mine

 Is this is a good wave?  Should I do it?

Watching from Auntie's lap
There was a pod of dolphins frolicking just beyond the sand bar and we watched them swim.  One even jumped and slapped the wave with it's tail.  We were oohing and aahing.  It was so very neat, never seen anything like that. 
Almost had it! Where is that skim board?
Thing 1 and Autumn girl
We took a break from the sun with some lunch at the place I talked about in this post, and then back to the beach.  The neighbor was fishing once again and we all were waiting with anticipation over the possibility of another shark showing up on shore.  But alas, no luck.  Though he did reel in two horseshoe crabs.  We've never seen those first hand, or at least not without plexi-glass between us.  The Things ran over to check it out.  Then there was more skim boarding, laughing and a tent for the girls because the wind was just a bit more than they/we could handle. 
 For our last night we planned a special dinner of scallops and risotto.  Not just any scallops.  Fresher than fresh sea and bay scallops.  My favorite.  I wonder how many times I've said that about a meal.  Really though, they are delicious.  Maybe more so because I know that a local fisherman found them that very day and now I am eating them.  So that was dinner.  Husband Jared was determined for us to have a fire on the beach so Thing 4 helped him dig the hole, bring kindling and set the scene.  The wind died down and it looked like s'mores were happening.  Woo hoo!  They did and we had a blazing fire while the waves crashed on the shore and all ten of us singing songs and staring at the stars.  I saw a slow falling shooting star.  Autumn decided she wanted to sing "Jingle Bells" and we all sang along.  Good times people, good times. 
Sadly, the time came to take the party inside and we all realized this was it for this trip.  We stomped up the stairs inside to cuddle and share more favorites of the past week.  What can I say except that it was another good day with a great ending.

Children Under Three

Waking this morning was different than the others.  Not different bad and not different better.  Just different.  Husband Jared and I heard babies crying.  Sounds that are long gone from our parenting days.  At least cries from children under the age of three.  It was a sweet moment, especially when we realized that those cries did not require us to wake our jump out of bed into action.  Amen and amen.
Good morning cartoons

  Thing 3 and Gemma, wakey, wakey!
Needless to say we did wake, but for coffee and breakfast making.  Like all the other mornings.  Well, actually not like all the other mornings.  Today Natalie and I took off early for a run.  What a treat.  Time outside, together.  Without interruption.  We both logged a good run, we're in training you know.  And then it was back for Mama duty, for the both of us.  The Things and cousins were ready for some beach time.  So that's where we were.  It was a blustery day  and Auntie Leanna just about fell over in the ankle deep water while taking a certain niece for a dip. There was sand castle building, shell hunting and wave jumping. 
Aunt Natalie and Gemma

Paddle ball and skim boarding

Thing 1 and Autumn, building a hole to hide in
A full day on the beach.  While sitting there taking it all in I was struck with our Things and their younger cousins' interactions.  Might even say it was bitter sweet to watch.  I know these moments are fleeting.  The Things, they don't know.  They were in the moment, soaking in their cousins.  Every hand held on the way to the water, the shovels shared while digging, the clams dug up in the water, and the waves jumped.  Treasures for sure.  Autumn would lay on her belly in the sand and pretend as though she was swimming.  Must have warmed her up.  We all thought it was entertainment at it's finest.  Uncle Jeff also brought his own entertainment.  A turn on the skim board.  Let's just say he's still got it!
We wore ourselves out but still managed to make it to dinner at Joe Mama's, seems that the Things didn't have enough the first night we were there and wanted to share the experience with the Horels.  As tired as we all were the conversations were just as lively as ever with all the Things vying for the attention of their Uncle and Aunt.  I think you could say that Autumn enjoyed her pizza and fun was had by all.
Just look at those eyes! 
On our way home from the restaurant the Things were needing some redirection, the banter was headed in a million different directions.  Thing 4 asked to play the picnic game and so it began.   Not only do we bring animals and bizarre foods to our picnics but plenty of humor and sarcasm.  I expect nothing less from this six.  It might have even been my favorite car ride of the trip.  Had to share.   

Then There Were 10

Following our lunch described in this post, we were all excitement and anxiousness awaiting the arrival of the Horel family.  We knew they would be pulling in the driveway sometime after naps and the texts along the way weren't keeping my Things content.  The six of us wanted to surprise Uncle Jeff and wear our Christmas shirts, so we all sported them and then sat around and twiddled our thumbs.  Then we heard them and we raced downstairs.  No, really we did.  It's a miracle not one of us fell or injured ourselves. 
Then we wasted no time, the Horels were unpacked and we hit the beach.  Those girls were ready for some sand time and so were we.  Although it was mighty chilly we walked up and down the shoreline and this girl was just too much sweetness for Auntie Leanna.
Go Gemma, go!
It was another spectacular sunset and while walking I even found this. 
Just waiting, hidden underneath wet sand, only the very center of it exposed.  What a find. 
Our night was spent hearing travel stories from the Horels, a two day road trip in the car with two little girls does make for some laughs.  We shared dinner and then the highlight was a homemade cake, prepared with love by Uncle Jeff and Autumn. 

Well maybe more Uncle Jeff, Autumn did help rather enthusiastically when it was time for sprinkles.  Because hey, sprinkles are fun.  Sprinkles say it's time for a birthday party.  Sprinkles...Well maybe I should stop.  Let's just say it was a delicious cake and we all inhaled it.  I mean we sat around the table and took dainty bites without talking with our mouths full exclaiming the greatness of the cake!  We even had party hats.  Party hats and sprinkles, life is good!

Uncle Jared did a little of this.  And as I looked at him, babe in his arms running the vacuum, I couldn't have loved him more. 
Then I remembered all those times that our four Things were in his arms and he was vacuuming and then I cried a little.  Not a lot.  Because Things that can dress themselves and brush their own teeth and do dishes and take out the garbage, that's great!  Of course, that's not all that is so wonderful about them, I just wanted to point out a few highlights. 
Speaking of Things, they were beside themselves with anticipation to share our new family game with Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie.  There is history here and a few stories surrounding a certain game of Pictionary.  And since then rules have been set that Aunt Natalie and Husband Jared are not allowed to be on the same team.  For ANY GAME.  Anyhow, this game, Telestrations, does not require teams.  So we all sat around the table after the littlest girls were asleep and we laughed until our sides hurt and shook our heads in disbelief and pointed and laughed some more at our artistic ability or lack there of.  Good times people.  Good times.
To think, we still had two more nights of all this hullabaloo. 




Thankful Thursday #126

3003. Thing 4 entertaining at his school's informance
3004. sister Things encouraging said behavior from the audience
3005. sweet thank you calls from nieces
3006. celebrating a small win with Thing 2
3007. daughter's friend smiling back at me
3008. not knowing where to go except to the Lord
3009. thousands of gifts and still counting
3010. spring here, just maybe warmer weather nearing
3011. unexpected check in the mail
3012. handwritten thank you card arriving in the mail

Indian Pass

There is this place.  A special sort of building.  Nothing fancy.  No cloth napkins.  Maybe not even a waiter.  Self serve drinks, tap included.  Saltines on the table, help yourself.  Old plastic menu on the wall.  Yes, that kind of place.  And it is our favorite.  It's the place where the Things were first introduced to oysters.  The Raw Bar grows their own. Does it get any fresher than that?  I don't think so.  Jeff and Natalie found it by accident and I would say it was a happy accident indeed.  Family owned and ran since the early 1900's.  I dare say too much about it, I don't want the secret out.  I think it might be too late for that. 
A former commissary for the turpentine factory workers and a wholesale oyster grower/seller Indian Pass Raw bar evolved into what it is today in the mid 1980's.  After hurricane Kate wiped out the wholesale market the family was left with more oysters than they knew what to do with.  Thus, the raw bar was born.  Now a restaurant that owns and operates their oyster beds it is surely our family favorite, as I speculate many others as well.  I do know the locals feel the same way about it.  Or at least the ones we saw there the two times we visited.  Once, Hansons only and then again with the Horel clan.  Here are some photos from both luncheons, if you will. 
This girl loves her crab legs.  She cracks them, eats them and licks her fingers when done.  OK, not really.  But this crab is so scrumptious I would!  Thing 1 spent some time teaching her siblings how to retrieve the sweet crab meat from the shell.  That was fun to watch.  And a bit messy.  That's OK, there was an entire roll of paper towels on the table. 

Showing off the new hat I procured, love it.
Three Things and Me in the backseat when Thing 1 drove us home after lunch

Grown ups at the table, bellies full of yumminess

Thing 2 and I, a selfie!
And now, because of all the memories we have from this place, I thought I'd include a little
 "then and now".  Enjoy.
2008, first visit
2009, second visit
2013, 4 years later.  NO WORDS. 
And no more swing on the front porch.  We improvised.
Table 2008, first visit, I think that big floppy sun hat is shading Thing 2's face,
she is there, I promise
Table 2013, notice the addition of a highchair and
one almost 3 year old sitting beside Thing 4
That my friends is just a glimpse into a few delectable meals we devoured while at the beach, then and now.  So you can drool a bit, there was Cajun peel and eat shrimp, the crab legs you saw, trays of raw oysters and then the baked oysters that even the Things love, fresher than fresh oysters covered in butter and Parmesan cheese, baked and served with toasty cheese bread.  Yum and yum.  For the sake of transparency, the 3 younger Things also had their share of corn dogs, corn on the cob and burgers.  That meant more oysters for me, oh and Husband Jared.  The day we were by ourselves we put away two dozen all on our own.  A little Crystal hot sauce, maybe a saltine or two and down the hatchet.  Oh my.  I'm ready for some more please. 

A Glorious Day

Let the record state, this day I was feeling loads better.  No more faucet nose, well kind of, and I actually slept.  I know my health is not so exciting and maybe not even appropriate for blog material but I was celebrating this day and so were the Things, sunshine and warmer temps were being fore casted.  It made all of our hearts feel a bit lighter. 
 When we woke the temperature was 60 degrees, only about 50 degrees warmer than it was at home. And although we were missing an extremely rare snow day at home the Things were not too disappointed as they had this to look forward to instead of snow shoveling. The morning called for coffee on the deck and a surprise showing of dolphins.  Pure beauty.  We watched them swim along the shore line, under the water, then out. 

The dark speck, way out there, yes that's a dolphin.
Plan for this glorious day: sit on the beach, all day.  Maybe read a little, look for some shells, dip my toes in the ocean and yes watch my Things all around me.  I'm happy to report that is exactly what we did.  All day.  With the exception of a twenty five minute reprieve due to a sudden rain storm.  Here's what the inside looked like while we were waiting out the rain.
Supposedly catching up on homework, or with friends?
Confirming that we would be able to watch the United match later in the afternoon

A little domino playing
Once it passed and we had lunch we were back.  Bums in chairs, books in hand, ocean in front of us.  Thing 4 and Thing 2 took to skim boarding, Thing 3 relaxed, finished a book and laughed, Thing 1 caught some sun, was a photographer for a while and then retreated inside for some r&r.  Husband Jared could not stay away from the screen as our team had a rather important match this afternoon against Real Madrid, at Old Trafford no less.  My stomach could not take the suspense nor was I giving up the 70 degree day we were gifted so I stayed outside and watched this Thing for a few minutes or maybe hours.

Thing 2 stayed close by and we laughed at the way the sea foam danced on the sand.  How it climbed Thing 4's legs when he rode through it.  How he could have cared less what was on the beach, jelly fish, shells, a little sea foam.  Then with our sun kissed skin we ran inside to get ready for dinner.  The six of us had been looking forward to this night, dinner at Joe Mama's.  Not maybe the entrees so much but the dessert for sure.  A pot o' chocolate and cheese cake with homemade graham cracker and hazelnut crust.  Yes please.  I do believe I was so taken with the food, everything from our table; side salad creation, the wings done right in the brick pizza oven to the pizzas, thin crusted and delish, that I did not manage to take any photographs.  This might have been the only night we were out of our bathing suits and comfy pants.  Translation, no yoga pants or cover ups here.  Although, when Thing 1 walked downstairs to leave and saw what I was wearing all she could do was laugh. 
Here's why.
Unintentional of course!
So not only do we share some other traits but we now dress alike, I'll consider that one a compliment.  Too bad she's so much taller than me and we can't share clothes, I kinda like that dress she's wearing!  
The night ended the way most others did, an amazing sunset and more game playing around the table.  This time a rousing round of Telestrations.  Let's just say that we've all decided Thing 2 might have to sit at her own table.  Wink, wink. 
A glorious end to a glorious day.
*photo taken by Thing 3

A Shark Tale

Well I must state for the record that I could definitely become accustomed to waking every morning to this view.

 While the sun was a bit deceiving there was still the sound of ocean waves lapping on the shore and happy Things waking and immediately running out into the sand, all while a little reggae music playing in the background.  My idea of paradise. 

Like every other morning Husband Jared and I were awake before the Things and enjoyed some quiet time and coffee looking out the windows.  Sublime.  And then we were back in the kitchen preparing one of many meals for the day.  The Things always seem to get a kick out of the two of us dancing away while we fry up some bacon and flip pancakes.  This day was no different.  Except Thing 3 thought she would take a photo of the event. 

The Things had discovered some guide books to the area and were scouring the pages for activities for us to enjoy this windy day.  Since it wasn't a sit around in the sand kind of day, the wind might have blown us clear out to sea, we opted for another beach with some historical significance and a claim that the wind was buffered by a nearby island.  Sure, we'll give it a try.  The drive took us through twisty roads and run down beach towns and even right pass the world's smallest police station, or so they say.  Carrabelle was the beach and a training site for WW2 soldiers before the Normandy invasion.  Take a look at this photo Thing 1 snapped of the sign.

We had packed a picnic lunch and after securing a patch of sand we all got comfortable and cozied up under our beach towels.  The wind was ever present and maybe even more so than our beach back down the road.  Regardless, we were determined to make the most of our drive and we did.  And so did the seagulls around us.  They saw an opportunity and they seized it.  Pint size people running with food in hand do a happy seagull make!  I only wish I had been fast enough to capture the hunt on camera and Thing 4's yelps as he was being descended upon by an army of winged birds.  All the girl Things could say was, "mine, mine, mine", mimicking the birds from the popular film, "Nemo".  All while Husband Jared and I sat back and laughed and then pleaded with the Things to stop throwing food because we didn't want to be covered in their droppings.
Cold, but fun!


The football had been thrown in last minute and brought much fun to our picnic.  A game of monkey in the middle kept the three Things busy expending some energy, and gave plenty of photographic material to Thing 1.  Here's a few she snapped.
Love this one of Thing 3 with her "Gilly-corn" hair

Who's in the middle?
We ate, we played, we walked and then we drove home, but not before a quick stop for some ice-cream.
Feed me Seymour!

 Drumsticks, mmm good!
After our adventure the Things were feeling brave, and apparently immune to the cold and they all sported their swim suits on the beach in barely 60 degree weather.  I suppose the sand would keep them warm?
Love that smile!
A little beach time, more playing and then a family walk for fire wood in hopes that Husband Jared would be able to build us a camp fire for s'mores and star gazing that night.  Although as we were about to leave for our walk we were distracted by some commotion out on the beach.  We saw our neighbor from the right running out to the fishing poles that were set up in front of our neighbor's house to the left of  us.  The Things yelled to us from the beach and when Husband Jared and I walked onto the balcony we saw a shark jump out of the water right on the other side of the sand bar.  I looked at Husband Jared in disbelief and he confirmed that I wasn't seeing things.  Well I was seeing Things with a capital T but we did in fact see fins and not dolphin fins.  This was one large sea animal.  A shark.  We ran down the stairs and joined the Things in watching our neighbor reel in a four and a half foot Caribbean reef shark.  Wow!  What excitement.  The fisherman had to fight hard for that catch and our neighbor from the right side helped pull it on shore by the tail.  Fascinating to watch and quite intimidating actually.  They allowed the kiddos to touch it before the released it.  Thing 1 had her camera and was on paparazzi duty. 

 Should I or shouldn't I?
Showing off the catch

I think I want to, but look at that mouth. 
That's the bait hanging out there, they didn't want that back.

   The excitement wore off, or maybe not and the entire event lent itself for much story telling the remainder of the day and the days to come.  Might have made Thing 4's week.  They had read in the guest book at our house that just the week before we arrived the people had witnessed a neighbor reeling in a five foot shark and all the Things were bound and determined to lay eyes on their very own shark.  Little did we know that would come to fruition.  I had secretly hoped not.  I mean I know they're out there but I don't necessarily want to meet one face to face. 
So off we were to the convenience store down the street from us.  This time hoofing it, and carrying two bundles of fire wood home.  It always amazes me the conversations that arise on these little family walks.  Free flowing thoughts, no filter and random observations.  Amusing and enlightening all at the same time.  The shark catch had provided much fodder. 
What had become our usual routine of cooking and dining while watching the sunset took place once again.  This time with Husband Jared grilling some burgers and brats for us.  Delicious.  Everything tastes better with the beach as the setting.  Or at least I think so.  Then it was time for the infamous camp fire.  Thing 4 and Husband Jared had dug a hole, prepared a large log for sitting and found some kindling, oh and lighter fluid to help the process along.  While a whole hearted attempt was made for the experience there was more star gazing than fire happening this night.  The Things were able to roast a marshmallow but beyond that it just wasn't to be.  We did however gaze upon more stars than we've seen in a while and tried to name the constellations as we marveled over just how vast His creation truly is. 
Fuzzy phone picture, still stinkin' cute!