our Branson vacation according to Annabelle

“I was the first child to ride on the jet ski we had rented. It was so fun. I was very nervous to jump off the back of the boat. The water was green and I got it up my nose, I think. Dad took my hand and we swam out to Opa on the jetski. Opa is my grandpa. I like to go fast on the jet ski, but not make it tip over fast. I was very surprised when Opa and my Dad fell blup-dee-dup-dee over. Did you write the blup-dee-dup-dee part yet?”
“The first time we rode the boat it was flat on the water. The second time it was nose up in the air! Once I got used to nose up, I liked nose up better.”
“I don’t know about this picture. I don’t remember taking it.”

“I love Sadie. I also loved that big chair. It said Shepherd of the Hills on it which I know because I can read. We met a boy who was in the Shepherd of the Hills play. We met him when we were looking at some wild raspberries. I asked him if they were edible and he said yes. He was pretty nice.

“Well, you’re in this picture so you can tell us about it.”

“I was very surprised because there were TWO pearls inside my oyster instead of one. They’re pink. It’s unique, not common, to have two pink pearls. To have two different pearls in one oyster is unique.

“We went to the tiger exorbitory (National Tiger Sanctuary). I had so much fun. I got a shoulderkin stuffed animal tiger that sits on my shoulder. The tigers were so big and I heard them roar. Literally roar, Mom. I like the lions most of all. I mean also. I liked them also.”

“I was the last one to get face painted. I got face painted as a dragon. It was on the boys menu but I could still do it. I chose a bright blue dragon.”

“Me, Sadie and emory all jumped off of the deck. It was so much fun. I enjoyed it a lot. I also invented a way for people to get into their boats (kayaks) and back out again for free! No charging!”

“I was tired and homesick and I wanted to go back to the resort.” (I was hoping she’d say, “I will always treasure this memory of snuggling with my mother. She has been snuggling me on family trips for years. She is my best friend and I love her so much.”)


we shore were happy

When Mom and Elizabeth were here we took a quick trip down to the beach. Sesame had plenty of opportunities to do one of her favorite things- go in multiple bodies of water and splash to her heart’s content. There was barely anyone at the beach and the water was so shallow I let her roam free. She missed Christopher so she drew a portrait of him in the sand, which is ironic given that he hates sand. It was so lovely to be out in nature and in new scenery.Elizabeth only comes to see me so she can appear on the blawg. My head looks huge. Her head is the size of my earring.
It wasn’t until we moved to the depths of Georgia that I realized how much I like having seagulls around. I don’t want one for a pet or to use them in home decor, but they’re such a reminder of home. I sang Feed the Birds while we fed the birds because AB is not yet embarrassed for me to do such things in public and I will ride that train as far as I can.
We took a riverboat ride through a freshwater spring/wildlife refuge. We saw all manner of alligators, turtles, fish, and birds. Much to Annabelle’s horror, we saw vultures. When we visited the Atlanta zoo in March, Christopher insulted the vulture’s eyebrows. The vulture, evidently a sensitive soul, flew squawking into the fence and terrified Annabelle. She has been scarred ever since and frequently says she hopes she doesn’t see vultures again. Keep in mind we live in a very suburban area with little to no chance of seeing a vulture. As we rode by, she covered her eyes and said, “It’s a good thing Daddy isn’t here. It’s a good thing Daddy isn’t here. Don’t talk about their eyebrows!”
We even saw a mama and baby manatee. “Come join our photography team,” said no wildlife publication to me ever.

I didn’t win the game but I kept my crown

This is the story of my life.  
Yesterday Christopher called around 1:30. I told him I was going to do a second coat of paint on the cabinet doors then sit down with the heating pad. The next three hours were a snowball effect of little jobs. I painted and washed the brushes, made supper (I’m constantly forgetting I’m the adult responsible for meals around here), got AB in the tub and washed her hair, washed several pans, loaded the dishwasher, swept the floor, threw away some old food and took out the trash, got a snack, washed paint off the floor and went out in the pouring rain to shut the car windows. When Christopher got home around five o’clock I had just finally sat down. This is why I feel like I get none of my things done. I’m always doing one thousand other things!

We finally had church on Sunday. They had the parking lot split into three sections- people with lawn chairs, people in golf carts, and people in cars. We were in the car group. 
AB and I dressed in our church clothes like normal even though no one would notice what we wore. I thought it might help her remember that even though we weren’t inside we were still worshipping. At one point I looked in the back of the car and she was doing a headstand against the driver’s seat and her dress was bunched under her arms. I should have put her in a gymnastics leotard.
We were given these little all-in-one communion cups, complete with a wafer on top and the dove of the Holy Spirit printed on the top.

That afternoon we participated in the holiest of Sunday games, an online murder mystery with my relatives. It’s a little known fact that I can be very competitive. It usually only comes out when playing games with my siblings and has weaseled its way into my marriage. I cannot count the number of times Christopher and I have started to play a game and I start with the smack talking and he responds with, “Ok.” Ok? That’s not the kind of competition I’m looking for! Elizabeth brought the same level of nonchalance when I asked if she was playing. 

The theme was 80s Prom Gone Wrong and everyone dressed their part. I was given the role of Peter Prez, the class president who was hoping to be crowned Prom King. I made myself a crown since I was sure to win and a winner is always prepared with accessories. 
Maybe I’ll wear my crown to church next Sunday.

Not-baby Ivy comes to town

Our flights home from Williamsburg had some hiccups but overall were much smoother than our flights there. The water system on the first flight was down and they ran out of snacks. The flight attendant hid two bags of cheezits under a blanket and smuggled them to us like a drug dealer. The second flight was delayed by almost two hours then we sat on the tarmac while they got extra gas. But we weren’t stranded at the gate for seven hours so we counted our blessings. We rolled into our driveway at 12:30am and instantly went from vacationers with room service to hostess with the mostest because look who rolled into town the next day! Our favorite baby Ivy!
“Mom. She’s not a baby anymore.” “Auntie Sarah, I’m only Ivy now. Not baby Ivy.” Me in my head, “You’ll always be Baby Ivy to me. Your wedding card will say baby Ivy.”

Erika and I are thick as thieves and the girls are thick as thieves which makes for exceptionally pleasant visits. They had a sleepover in Annabelle’s room and giggled for over two hours. Every morning they took all the clothes out of Annabelle’s closet and each put on multiple outfits at the same time. We went to the playground, for walks, to get iced coffee and roasted smores. We played games and talked until midnight because we had several months without seeing them to catch up on. Ivy started to not feel well on the second to last day so Erika became Dr. Llama Pants and gave her and AB checkups. Yesterday Annabelle asked me to give her a checkup and when I listened to her lungs she said, “Dr. Llama Pants doesn’t do that. She doesn’t listen to our lungs!” Well, excuse me for trying to give a thorough checkup! I don’t normally follow the medical example of someone with the last name Llama.

We asked Daniel if he could take a picture of us from a good angle that would make us look young and slim. This was his response.
 It did not give us a lot of confidence in his ability to perform but 17 tries later he did a good job.
These sweet girls are cute at all angles!

The biggest takeaway is that Jimmy Carter does not sing You Raise Me Up

I have very few marketable skills, but one is the ability to draw out blogging about events for an entire month. I need to wrap up our visit north so I can get onto other events like mice invading our pantry and other such news from the homefront.

* We gave Mom a surprise 60th birthday party. She knew we were having a get-together but didn’t know the real reason why. We sent her off with Annabelle and Ivy while we got ready for the “cookout.” AB knew about the party and hoping she wouldn’t spill the beans was putting a lot on her little shoulders, but she did relatively well. When she mentioned the party to Grammy, she immediately tried to backtrack and take the words back. “I told Grammy when we get to Uncle Daniel’s for the party, but I meant when we got there FOR THE COOKOUT. We’re having a cookout not a party.”

* Dad took me to see Josh Groban for my birthday. In case you missed it, I said JOSH GROBAN. I spent many years hoping he’d propose to me which sadly (and obviously) he did not, but I hold no ill will towards him. I will continue to adore him all my days. I spent weeks leading up to the concert giving what I believe were beautiful renditions of his songs to Annabelle who was not appropriately thrilled. Come to find out, she had Josh Groban and Jimmy Carter confused. She didn’t understand why I was singing along to a music video with Jimmy Carter.

The geriatric crowd and I enjoyed Josh very much. When Dad and I went to see Josh ten years ago, 80% of the audience was under the age of thirty. This time, I saw less than forty people my age. I was surrounded by grandparents. The others my age may have moved on, but I remain loyal and true. 

* We went strawberry picking with various cousins and relations. I babysat Zack and Molly for years and years, but now they’re both taller than me and Zack was talking about how he has three years left before college. I need them to shut down that growing up stuff. I love them both, but now that Molly is older we’ve gone from little cousin/big cousin to friends and it makes me so happy. She’s so funny and I love how her personality is still as big as ever. Annabelle has gotten quite a few hand-me-downs from Molly and this orange and pink dress is her absolute favorite. She’s been wearing it for 3 summers now and says it’s her “traveling dress.” I wish I had a picture of Molly wearing it at this same age since it was her favorite as well. 

* I took Annabelle to a walk-in clinic. All week long she had been developing weird marks on her face. Naturally, they were barely an issue before we left home when I could have taken her to our doctor, but they took a turn for the worse as soon as we left the state. I’ll keep the description of them to myself, but Sunday I decided we needed to see a medical professional because I had diagnosed her with boils. The Russian nurse said it was impetigo and prescribed an ointment to use for a vague 7-14 days. I’m sure she also wanted to prescribe shoes for Elizabeth, who unexpectedly showed up to “entertain” us as we waited and immediately took off her shoes in the very germy, very public exam room. 

* We had our 4th annual Aunt Camp. I was very popular this trip north so Aunt Camp could only be two nights instead of our preferred three or four, but I made it a priority. It’s very important to me that Annabelle spend time with her cousins whenever possible and I want to see Erika as much as I can. Annabelle got a headache, fever and threw up on the first day which damped the mood but we partied on. Daniel watched the girls while Erika and I went to our favorite gift shop. We visit every year and encourage any purchase the other wants to make. When earrings are only $7-12, it makes financial sense to buy 3 pairs. 

Aunt Camp has really become a hands-off event. Besides judging the occasional chalk-water tea content and handing out constant snacks, we didn’t have to do much. We gave them water and plastic dishes to play with and they were happy campers.

We never get a picture of Erika and I, but you can count on us to get a million pictures of the girls. It’s in my aunt contract to supply matching clothes every year.

We encourage sharing at Aunt Camp, but sharing isn’t caring when it’s your child shares hand, foot and mouth with her sweet cousin. That’s not the type of souvenir we like to have from camp. The spots started shortly after the headache and random vomiting, so I had to call our doctor on a Saturday for which I apologized profusely. I haven’t had to call him since the quarter swallowing incident of 2018, but I still felt like a needy parent. He said it sounded like a complication of impetigo and recommended I go to urgent care if she got another fever. That brought us to urgent care visit #2 where she was diagnosed with HFM. Our go-round with HFM was so much easier than I expected but poor Ivy was hit hard. Here’s hoping next Aunt Camp has less germs and more days to play. 

Quirky is her middle name

Whenever I see Elizabeth, she complains about not being on the blog enough. She says she only wants to see me so she will be prominently featured and complains when I don’t mention her enough. To avoid any such complaints from the peanut gallery this visit, I’m knocking out the post about her at the beginning of the trip.

(She says, “I do not complain! Don’t tell the people that! I am a loyal and devoted fan!” Devoted fan she may be, but naggy nonetheless.)

Elizabeth is very quirky. She’s constantly crawling through tunnels, telling strangers about her health issues and knocking on doors asking if she can have flowers from peoples front yards. In other words, she’s nothing like me. Last night she went to a rock climbing gym to cheer on refugee children as they learned rock climbing. I think it’s ironic refugee children were being taught to climb a wall, but that’s neither here nor there.

On Sunday night she brought us to a secret garden. It’s hidden in a normal neighborhood and you’d drive right by unless you’re in the know. It has acres of paths through the woods with animal statues, garden figurines, fairy gardens, signs, and fountains. It was so cool.

Baby Ivy met us there. She says she’s not a baby anymore but lalala I’m not listening.
If it’s wet, it’s raining.
If it’s white, it’s snowing.
If it’s moving, it’s windy.
If there’s a leaf on it, it’s Autumn.
If it’s not visible, it’s pretty darn foggy.
If it’s dry and still, just wait a minute. It’s a mistake and will change soon.

Tuesday she brought us to the town’s media center to watch the taping of an interview with a town councilman because why not. I was skeptical we would be allowed in but she waltzed through the parking lot with AB in tow while I brought up the rear several feet behind. There’s a fine line between being close enough to Elizabeth in case her wild ideas are well received and being far enough back that you don’t seem too involved if things go south. On the slim chance we would be interviewed, I poured water on my hand and washed the strawberry juice off Annabelle’s face. I don’t like when kids are dirty and no child of mine will begin her television career with strawberries on her face and shoulders. I had already reapplied my lipstick because like they say on airplanes, take care of your own cosmetic needs before attending to the cosmetic needs of others. The lady in the office showed us the studio where the recording was taking place and the office where they keep the equipment. It was very interesting but sadly we were never asked to take a seat in front of the camera.

One of Annabelle’s favorite games to plane with me is airplane where I lay on my back and lift her into the air on my feet. We have the regular version and the sitting version with a fancy flip landing at the end. Sesame asked me if I could do airplane with Elizabeth and yes, I can. 

The fancy flip at the end was a huge crash but that’s what she gets for wearing kneehigh white socks from a package that was supposed to be given to a homeless shelter.