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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

1st family campout!

This past weekend, Jeremy and I took the big boys camping. Abe stayed back with Nana and Papa J. We decided he wasn't ready for camping, hiking, sleeping in a tent and all those things that go with that crazy, dirty, boyish experience. I never grew up camping. I didn't sleep in a tent until I was about 25. I haven't slept in one since, until Friday night. Ha. And I remembered why. Not really. I'm adding camping to a list of things that we will do frequently with a house full of boys. And by frequently, I mean about twice a year. The boys were so excited, but really, I think they had no expectations. Except smores. They had huge expectations for smores. :) Being our first time to leave Abe overnight, we planned to only stay one night. And with the humidity (it was 89% at one point!) and the unexpected rain, 24 hours in the "wilderness" was plenty for me. Next time, we may head north and plan for 2 nights. So we arrived at Dinosaur Valley State Park on Friday afternoon. We set up our tent and explored the area for a bit before roasting our hot dog dinner. We kept our food options simple and very uncreative. For the record, we decided on Wednesday morning, before a holiday weekend that we would camp out on Friday. There was very little prep and planning involved, which is often how we roll. Flying by the seat of our pants. :) As we got organized Pax and Holden played and played and played. I kept hearing bits and pieces of their conversations about dirt, sticks, secret paths and tadpoles in the creek right next to us. I giggled as I listened to them play. It was like they were on a mission. I'm not sure what type of mission, but they were definitely on one. So it was only 2 hours after arriving that I realized that we were going to BECOME a camping family. I am going to become a camper. I could let Jeremy take the boys camping, but then I would miss the joy of seeing and hearing them experience. I'd rather be uncomfortable, sweaty and crowded for a couple nights than to miss these memories with my family.
Our night in the tent, I was so flippin' hot! So then God sent a rainstorm to cool us off. :) So the edges of the tent got a little water inside. Lucky for me, I wasn't on the edge. The next morning we ate our granola bars and then headed off to see the dinosaur evidence. Jeremy had taken the boys on a short hike the evening before, so they wanted me to see the footprints they had already seen. Holden was so passionate about it. I'm sure at 8:0am the entire campsite heard him exclaiming to me in amazement these footprints we had just come upon. He was pretty excited. We hiked for about an hour. The weather was nice early in the morning. And crazy enough, the boys legs never ever got tired. Had we been at the mall, their legs and feet would have been SOOOOO tired and hurting. Or at the grocery store, same thing. But out in nature, with sticks, rocks, dirt and creatures (we spotted an armadillo!) they never once complained. I was amazed. This is the life for boys! After our hike, they put on their swim shorts and went into the creek. They stayed here for a long while. They attempted to learn to skip rocks and they just played in the water. It really was such a fun experience. I am already looking forward to a camping trip in the fall, once the weather has cooled off!
 asleep upon arrival
 daddy's helper
They were quickly off on their first exploration. They loved the freedom they could have in this space.
Tent is up! This tent was handed down to us by friends in OKC, at least 5+ years ago. We had never used it until Friday! And it was massive. I jokingly said we could have 3 more children to cram into this tent.
 Enjoying some trail mix while daddy cooked the hot dogs. No open fires allowed, so we cooked with charcoal.
 And dessert!
 Our little home away from home. I do love and appreciate modern conveniences.
Lots of snuggles.
 Saturday morning hike.
 The first dinosaur tracks we spotted.
Trying out the water. See our water lovin' boy in the trees? He had a really hard time warming up to the icky muddy bottom. He's a pool boy. Well, he loved the beach and ocean, but I agree that the bottom of a creek goes in a completely different category.
But his love of all things water prevailed and he got over it. :)

It was a wonderful time and I'm glad I was able to experience with my boys their first camping trip.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Summer Vacay 2014

Last week we returned from our early summer getaway. We like to travel on vacations in May for two main reasons. Since most kids are in school, it is less crowded. And reason two is that we can usually find a much better deal. We are usually very last minute planners for trips (and everything else). But crazy enough, we booked our condo for this vacation back in November. We have never ever planned this far in advance. Jeremy and I are both the type of travelers that really enjoying going, doing and seeing. Not really lounging and relaxing. Our thought is that we can somewhat relax for free at home. But with 3 wild little boys and one that still does best with two naps per day, I knew that a low key vacation would be the only way to go. So I started researching for the best deal back in November and 3 days later we had booked a 2 bedroom condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama...the beautiful Emerald Coast. And I began my count down.
We split the drive since we were not exactly sure how well Abe would travel for 10 hours, plus extra time for meal and bathroom stops. He actually did much better than we ever thought. We spent the first night in Jackson, Mississippi and then got back on the road the next morning. We checked into our beachside condo on Friday and spent the next 4 days and 5 nights enjoying the beach and swimming pools. It poured rain on most of our drive to our destination on both days. I began to get in a sour mood and think we had chosen the worst week ever to have a beach vacation. The weather report was not looking promising. It actually looked like it was going to clear up and turn sunny the day we were scheduled to leave. I prayed on the drive that God could let all the rain out during our travels and it would be clear for us once we were there. Later I learned it had rained 21 inches in 11 hours in Gulf Shores. Which made the emerald waters not so emerald. (Apparently after that much rain, it takes about 3 weeks for the waters to return to their beautiful color. Just an interesting sciency tidbit for you.) But after all that rain, we had clear skies for our beach days which is all that I really cared about.
It truly was a perfect vacation for this season for our family. Our boys didn't care to go and do and see, like Jeremy and I love to do. Each morning they just wanted to scarf down breakfast and head to the beach and swimming pools. So that is what we did. Either Jeremy or I stayed back with Abe and he would take a morning nap. I got alot of reading in during those nap times, which was so enjoyable. I hardly make time to read these days! Though I will say, since I was reunited with my books over vacation I've been making more time for reading since returning home. I sat on our balcony during his naps and read. Or I headed to the water with my bigs while Jeremy relaxed in the condo. We always did a simple breakfast and lunch at the condo and then dinner out. Apparently Abe hates eating in restaurants, which the rest of us love. So that was rough at times. He's going to need to get on the restaurant loving train at some point, because I'm not sure we can give it up completely. We ate alot of shrimp and other seafood and it was delicious! Each night once the boys crashed, which they did so very easily since they played hard outside all day, Jeremy and I sat on the balcony with a glass of wine. Sometimes talking and laughing. And sometimes just watching the waves roll in. The ocean is amazing. I forget how amazing it is, until I see it stretched in front of me with no end in sight. I loved Gulf Shores. It was so family friendly. There were a ton of families with young kids, just like us. And everyone was so friendly. It was such a cute little beach town, nearly an island the way it is surrounded. And it definitely had that islandy, small town feel and look to it. I loved it. I would repeat the trip next year if I could talk a certain guy into it. Orange Beach was another place we ventured to for dinner on Mother's Day. Another really cute town to drive through and see. That's my vacation recap and my plug for Gulf Shores. Here are a whole lot of pictures from our fun getaway.
The van was loaded down and we are about to take off. Excuse the filled trashbag in the empty seat. It makes me feel like Tommy Boy...if anyone remembers that movie and his luggage. It was just our beach toys.
 They rummaged through our beach bag and found their new goggles during our drive. I turned around to see this.
And one boy fell asleep with them on. Up-side-down. :)
 We made it to our condo!
We headed out for dinner and then couldn't wait to take the boys out on the beach for the first time. I'm so glad we caught these expressions. Pure joy.
 I've never met anyone that loves the water as much as this guy. He's going to go to college and somehow major in H20! Holden doesn't remember his last trip to the coast. He was 15months old. :)
And it was these two boys first trip to the beach. Abe won't remember. So at least we have pictures!

 Friday was our first full day in the water.
 This baby boy really loves the water too.
Trying on big brother's shades.
 Holden and Pax loved the sand. Abe wasn't as sure about it.
We brought two dump trucks for the sand. They were a huge hit for both boys and the other kids that played with them.
 Holden wanted to be burried. He also made quite a few sand angels. I think he had read about that in a book. It was all his idea.
My beach loving family.
 Dinner out.
 Often times, breakfast and lunch were eaten on the balcony.
Apparently, monkey had to take in the view as well. Seriously, I have to believe that this was Holden's dream vacation. It was so simple. Each day was easy and simple and fun. And this boy...he was in heaven. He took it all in and loved every moment. It was a joy to see.
 This was Mother's Day. We pulled up to the restaurant of my choosing to find this in the backseat. I should have known dinner would turn out poorly.
 But they perked up for us when we mentioned food. And the big boys did great. But little Abe. Stinker little Abe that has to hate restaurants! Jeremy had the majority of his meal boxed to go and paced the patio area with Abe, while the big boys and I enjoyed dinner. It was an amazing restaurant in Orange Beach called Cosmos that we will definitely return to if we are ever back in the area. So amazing that Jeremy had to speak with a manager to brag on the food and our amazing and attentive waiter.
 A sweet gift from all my boys. Jeremy picked it out on Etsy all by himself.
Those silly goggles were glued to Holden's face often.
Also a fun and very casual little restaurant called Lulu's. They basically bring the beach to you. The kids can play in the sandy and water features. It was the perfect family place. And of course the boys loved that they could play while waiting on their food to come.
I know he has his paci in his mouth alot. Don't judge. :)
After this meal, we walked around to see all the boats. And each of us decided what we would want to name our own boats, if we had one. Apparently, Jeremy would have one called "Melodie of the Seas". Someone please hold him to that.
On our last full day at Gulf Shores we went on a dolphin cruise recommended by my sister. It was really the only "extra" of our trip. Everything else revolved around our backyard beach, our condo and the pools...well, and a few dinners out. So the dolphin tour was just something different we threw into the mix.

 On the lookout for dolphins.
 I didn't get the greatest pictures since they move in and out of the waters so quickly. But we did get to see several dolphins.
This boy was a royal mess most of the 2 hours on the boat. Granted he was missing a nap and he was exhausted. But my goodness, it wore us out! At one point he chunked his paci into the ocean. And if you can't tell, he can't live life without his paci! Luckily mommy had a backup. We always have a backup!
 And we had a sweet and gracious captain that let the fussy baby drive the boat. So they had him content for about 3 minutes.
 And then the other 10 children all got to take a turn driving the boat. :)
It was a fun little tour. I'm glad we took the boys, despite the baby that could not have cared less about being on a boat and seeing dolphins swim right beside us! :)
Just the views from our balcony.
 Zero entry kids pool.
And regular deeper pool.
And then the very sad day that we had to leave. Vacation was over and it was time to pack up and drive home. I was sad. I was not ready for it to end. It had been such a relaxing and fun week with my very favorite people. We made the trip home in one day instead of two. The boys did great. And now, just as I write about it and remember, I want to go back!