We spent the first part of spring break at appointments, weeding the yard, and bopping about town. We spent the tail end partying it up on Miami beaches with the cool kids. Just kidding. They’d never let Christopher and his old man bones within 50 miles of spring break. We went to Birmingham.

We had some hotel issues. I found a hotel at a fantastic price with an additional coupon code. It had good reviews and the pictures were nice. I was proud of my research and financial wisdom. It might have been helpful if I had looked at its location in relation to the attractions, but I did not. That did not cross my mind. I’ll work on that in my next decade of life. Upon arrival, the hotel was less than pristine. Christopher dealt with telling the office we wouldn’t be staying. I would flirt with bedbugs before dealing with the uncomfortable conversation of telling the front desk their room was dirty and I would be finding alternate arrangements. We found another hotel and upon arriving at our room, that bathroom was filthy and the fire alarm would not stop blaring. Down to the front desk we went for alternate accommodations. I thought we might be headed for our third hotel in an hour but we were outfitted with a quieter new room.

We visited a children’s science museum, new coffee shops, the botanical garden, and the Birmingham Zoo. The rhino wasn’t out and the zookeeper, who was wearing rhino earrings which I appreciated, said, “She’s an introvert and something startled her so she’s hiding at home.” I don’t think that I’ve ever related to an animal so much. That poor introverted rhino was across the walkway from the party animals. The monkey frat house. No wonder she didn’t want to come out. That place was hopping. They were hanging from the ceiling by their tails and eating lettuce upside down. That feels very similar to my house. I’ll be doing something quiet, and AB will be listening to an audiobook while marching and loudly playing her tin whistle while the cats are running up the back of the couch. I love birds. I have a bird village in the front yard with houses and a bird bath. I’m creating a second bird village in the backyard with new feeders. A mama bird built a nest in my wreath and I check on her and her little family every day. I drop a little pile of crumbs by her nest so she doesn’t have to go far for a snack. I know she can survive without me, but she’s living on my door and I want to be a good hostess. It is my dream to hold a hummingbird. The zoo has a walkthrough aviary and I flew right in.

YOU CAN CALL ME SNOW WHITE.Me- Thrilled beyond belief.
Sesame- Not so much.
 Christopher wouldn’t let us bring a bird home as a souvenir. Like I said- he’s an old man who isn’t the fun one on wild spring breaks.

AB and A. Ham

I do not jump on bandwagons. I am an anti bandwagoner. This has been detrimental at some points if it’s something I would enjoy if it wasn’t popular, but feel I cannot participate in because of its popularity.

I have not jumped on the following wagons to some level over the last decade:
Google (I didn’t use it for 6 months to prove to Christopher that other search engines are just as good.)
Target. If I shop there, I refuse to wear leggings while doing so. I will not be a stereotype on top of a bandwagoner.
I absolutely refuse to get an iPhone. I am so anti the apple.
The musical Hamilton

How the times have changed because guess who now knows all the words to Hamilton and went to see it off-Broadway.

I tried listening to the music several years ago (after the hubbub had died down an appropriate amount) and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I have fundamental issues with inaccuracies in it so I more or less wrote it off as a not-for-me situation. About a year ago, I was trying to widen AB’s musical repertoire and we tried Hamilton. She was a goner. She has listened to it for 1776 hours. We’ve all been subjected to the songs over and over and over. In general, I’m particular about the language she hears, so I’m praying they sing so fast she misses some of the spicier words. After the music was drilled into our skulls, we moved to watching the movie. I will admit that watching the movie makes the music more understandable. I don’t dislike it anymore. PLEASE NOTE HOW I HAVE GROWN AS A PERSON.

The Broadway cast rolled in Atlanta this year and given her current obsession with the musical and theater in general, it was the perfect early birthday gift. I was so tickled about taking her. I could barely hold in the secret for weeks. The theater was gorgeous. It was designed to look like we were attending an outdoor show at an Egyptian bazaar. The ceiling was light up like the sky and had twinkling stars.
I watched Ses watch the show almost as much as I watched the actors. It made me so happy. Babies growing up is for the birds and I don’t approve, but every so often I like the big kid stage.


do you sea what I sea

I have finally recovered from the sickness that plagued my life for the last 10 or so days. I’m not sure if it was the Black Death or allergies, but the cocktail of over-the-counter drugs I took did nothing to stop the symptoms. Sickness cometh after boasting that you haven’t gotten ill in several months.

Several weeks ago I signed up to be a chaperone on an overnight trip AB’s Sunday school class was taking to SeaWorld. This was before the plague, before I knew rain was predicted for the entire weekend, and before I heard that we were taking 25 children instead of 19. I wanted to throw in the towel and stay home with my tissues and useless Benadryl, but I soldiered on. The chaperone/child ratio could not be changed last minute. I tried so hard to hold in the coughing on the bus but alas, I could not. Annabelle was only slightly better. I was sitting behind a lady I’ve been trying to become friends with and I don’t think I made a good impression.

Last year, the girls slept in the dolphin exhibit that gave off a relaxing glow all night. Our beds held up beautifully. We were well organized and on time. It could not have been better. The boys were the weak link the entire weekend. To use an ocean term, how the tides turned this year. Our guides ran behind schedule all evening. They told us we needed to be ready for bed by 11 o’clock as that was when the lights in the manta ray exhibit turned off. Neither guide was aware that there are no lights in that exhibit. The only light comes from one end of what is basically a tunnel. If you aren’t in that part, it’s practically pitch black at night and impossible to see any animals. We used phones as flashlights as we tried to set up beds and get the overtired girls ready to sleep. It was like camping but no one knew to bring a lantern. After many misplaced pillows and lost pajamas, everyone was in bed. A symphony of coughing started from all sides of the tunnel, not only from me and Sesame. I don’t wish sickness on others, but I appreciated that it wasn’t only us. The sound of the water was relaxing and I had just drifted off to sleep when it started to feel like I was in a water bed. My air mattress was deflating. I had to decide whether to suck it up or attempt to reconfigure my whole situation. I went with option B. Just because I was sleeping near water didn’t mean I had to feel like I was IN the water on a floatie that was going to pop at any second. That’s how I ended up in a sleeping bag on a yoga mat on the floor where a million dirty shoes have walked. I haven’t slept on the floor in a while and let me tell you, these bones aren’t what they used to be.

AB took this picture in the morning when the sun was shining into the tank and we could finally see what we were sleeping next to.

The boys had nothing but glowing reviews about their evening. The dolphins danced and played for them all night. Their air mattresses stayed full. To hear them talk, they had full turn-down service with chocolates on the pillows and butlers bringing them breakfast in bed. Their guide found a wagon for their belongings. We pulled our luggage a mile around the park before breakfast, leaving pillows and sweatshirts on the path behind us.

Very early morning, the rain started. Just a little trickle at first, but soon buckets and buckets for hours on end. The children were all in ponchos, waddling through puddles like little ducklings. If I wasn’t already ill, that would have pushed me over the edge. We had some tears, several cold and hungry children, and one little girl who desperately wanted to go home early.

It wasn’t all germs and wet socks. We had fun too. Before the rain got too bad, our group (the less adventurous ones) went on the smaller rides. Annabelle isn’t one for big rides but she loves the little ones and had fun on them with Ann Margaret. I went on two rides with Mercer, who chose to ride with me over his mom who was also a chaperone. That filled my bucket because sometimes it’s nice to know I still have “it” with kids. I know I do with AB, but it’s nice when other people’s children like me also. I like being the involved mom. We visited the animals which are the real stars of SeaWorld. I don’t know why that park even has rollercoasters when you should be there to see beluga whales and penguins.

The kids crowded around the table, eating their French fries and smiling from ear to ear while they talked about how much fun they were having. I loved hearing bits of their conversations. One girl told me, “I eat paper when there is absolutely nothing else in my house to eat.” I know for a fact her family is doing ok, but maybe their recent move has hit them a little harder financially than I thought. A few hours later, another girl was dunking her paper straw wrapper in ranch dressing and then licking the ranch off and chewing on the wrapper. Then my child piped in with what kind of paper she likes to taste. Is this what kids do these days? Are they all eating paper? I’ve been worried about the wrong things.

We got home late that night then were up early because I had to teach Sunday school. As the Bible says, “Those who drive six hours one way to SeaWorld and forget to find a substitute teacher and teach Sunday school earn for themselves a priceless crown made of pearls. Even more priceless is the bag of cough drops they purchase after the lesson.”

seeing the springs

Every year I say we need to take a family vacation just the three of us and we never do. This year I put my foot down and said, guys! We’re doing it. It was the shortest, one-night vacation but it was lovely nonetheless. We’ve been wanting to visit Ginnie Springs in Florida for years, and I deemed this the perfect time to go. I told Christopher I would be extremely disappointed if the reality didn’t match the pictures online. I even apologized in advance, as if I was responsible for creating nature.

It did not disappoint. The water in the springs really was as clear as water we’ve seen in the Bahamas. 

One thing I thoroughly enjoy when kayaking is turning on Sarah Karaoke and singing whatever songs my boatmates ask for. I loved doing that with the twins when I’d be squished on the bottom of a canoe while they rowed us around a lake. They never appreciated my Celine Dion as much as they should have and turns out neither does my offspring. I refuse to acknowledge that I am the common denominator in these scenarios. Surely it has nothing to do with my singing and everything to do with their lack of sophisticated taste.


New England Days

We’ve been here, there and everywhere since the post many weeks ago.

Before we hit the road for our summer travels, Katie and her two sidekicks came to visit. Our last several visits with them were riddled with sickness, so we started prayers and elderberry early to boost our immune systems. Annabelle was skeptical about how successful their visit would be.
“Remember when Kezi visited and she pushed me over when I was reading a book?”
“You were 11 months old and she was giving you a hug because she loved you.”
“But remember when she visited and then she cried and tried to run away to Colorado?”
“You were both 6 and now you’re 9. You’ve both grown as people.”
”But remember when—.”
There were a few bumps in the road, but the first full day they played together for a solid eight hours without issue so overall it was a win. As I said to Katie, it’s hard work forcing people to be best friends. There’s no forcing with us. We’re on year 31 and still going strong.

Next it was time for our annual summer trip to Massachusetts. There was a kerfuffle and delay upon delay at the airport so we screeched into Gate B23 as the first passengers were boarding. I HATE arriving to the gate that late. I want time to get coffee and snacks, wander around Hudson News and listen in on the phone conversations of fellow passengers. I started a sinus infection the morning before the flight so the change in air pressure was a real delight, but the Lord gave us the gift of the only empty seat on the plane being in our row so I could spread out and moan without disturbing anyone. It’s the little things.

The next morning I was reunited with my favorite baby boy, Oliver. He was not as thrilled to see me and barely looked in my direction. My questions about what a cow says interfered with his train playing and throwing wooden soldiers. It wasn’t until I gave him chips (my favorite form of bribery) and played with him in a puddle that he really came around. I also sang him an original composition called “Oh, If I was a Koliver” about a little boy named Oliver who wears a koala costume. Tune into the Top 10 hits to hear it for yourself.

This year was the seventh annual Aunt Camp. The campers are 9, 7, and 2.
We went to the zoo which had a deer petting area. I could have stayed there for hours.
I took Koliver on the train and carousel as part of my mission to win him over. We talked about “up and down and ’round and ’round” which are words that speak to his heart.

Grandma’s health is really going downhill, so I spent a few overnights with her to help with some basic needs and calm her anxiety.

She can’t drive anymore which means she is constantly asking for others to take her from drives around town. When I called to tell her we were coming, she asked specifically that Christopher take her for a drive. She didn’t know that he’s a terrible driver. Or maybe she does and that’s how she wants to go. Either way, we all went for a drive together and stopped at an Italian bakery where Grandpa used to buy us pastries many years ago. Grandma’s go-to game is Rummy. All her children and grandchildren know how to play. I can’t begin to count the number of games I’ve played with her. She was feeling so bad it didn’t seem like we’d play this visit. I don’t know how many more times we’ll see her so I came to terms with the fact that AB would never play it with her. Miracle of miracles, she perked up after a nap and they got to play a few rounds. It was so special.By the last night of our visit, Koilver had been completely won over. He was so deliriously tired he couldn’t remember our names but I’ll forgive him. Elizabeth and I had been having a funnest aunt competition and he was the lucky recipient of our affections. It takes a lot of energy to be the center of everyones world. He waved his arms in our general direction and sadly said, “Those names go home?” I wanted to stuck him in my suitcase and take him home.

sea the world

Last Friday, Annabelle and I took a trip to SeaWorld with church. Twenty-three children from the 3rd-5th grade Sunday school classes, four parent chaperones and one saintly children’s director boarded a charter bus and headed south.

The director gave a little speech before we left about behavior expectations, and she mentioned how while there was a bathroom on the bus, it didn’t need to be used all the time. I love her and she’s great with kids, but that statement was throwing pearls before swine. Every single child visited the bathroom at least once, if not three times. None of them could resist the urge to use a small bathroom on wheels while going 72mph. I know that each child went to the bathroom several times because they all asked me for permission to go. I was sitting closest to the children by a mere 8 inches. The next chaperone was less than one literal footstep away, but I was the first point of contact and was therefore the one who got asked every single question. Every time they needed something from the overhead compartment, asked to go to the bathroom, had a question about snacks, needed help with their charger, asked about the bathroom, wanted to know how much longer before we got there, was there anyone in the bathroom, etc etc etc, they asked me. I didn’t know I would be doubling as a flight attendant when I signed up to go. My friend and fellow chaperone was hunkered down in the front seat with her book and thanks to my hard work, she got through 175 pages without one disruption. 

I’ll tell you what else I didn’t know when I signed up- the sleep hours or lack thereof. I wasn’t expecting a spa environment, but I also wasn’t expecting to be told by the SeaWorld workers that they’d be waking us up at 6am to start the day. That was conveniently left out of all Caren’s planning emails. 

We got there right before SeaWorld closed for the day. Two workers were assigned to our girls group for the night and they gave us a private tour of the park. The boys group slept by the beluga whales and we slept by the dolphins. The whole time I thought about how when I was younger I wanted to be a dolphin trainer thanks to Lisa Frank. My younger self would not have believed my good luck in spending a night with the dolphins. They never stopped swimming and with the exhibit dark but the tank lit up, it was extremely relaxing. I loved it.

We weren’t allowed to go up to the bathroom alone while the park was closed, so the employees had to accompany 18 girls and all our accouterments up the walkway to the bathroom to change. We left a little trail of socks and underwear in our wake. Some of the girls were organized. My child dropped her shirt in the toilet and left her pajamas on the counter of the public bathroom. That’s why she didn’t go on this trip without me.On Saturday, we split up according to who wanted to do what and our group was the low key group. Shocker shocker, AB was in the low-key group. We went on a few rides, but mostly we enjoyed the animals. My fellow chaperone, Sarah Beth, and I had those girls in line. Everyone had a buddy and we were constantly counting heads. One adult was in the back of the group and one in the front. No one would get lost one our watch!We had eight girls in the morning and eight girls several hours later when we joined up with one of the other groups.

No one did get lost on our watch, but someone got lost mere minutes after we joined up with the boys and that someone was my Annabelle. My little ball of anxiety and worry, lost in a crowd. I’m not going to assign blame but if I was, I’d point your attention to the third chaperone who took over as our leader.  He booked it into the crowd walking so fast there was no way to keep the children together. The system Sarah Beth and I had perfected with our girls went out the window and into the sea turtle tank. Somehow in the shuffle, Sesame ended up ahead of the group. I went back to look, the dad went ahead and Sarah Beth stayed with a gaggle of children all giving advice on what to do. Thank the Lord, Annabelle was not alone. She was with her buddy and together they found a janitor and were borrowing his phone to call me when they saw the rest of our group. I have never been so thankful I drilled my phone number into her head for such a time as this. I didn’t tell Christopher about the small mishap until we got home. “BTW, I did lose your one and only offspring, but here she is safe and sound!”(God was in a crazy mood when He designed the stingray face.)

I went to SeaWorld when I was around 15 and have told Annabelle stories about the orca show and beluga whales for years. I love getting to bring her to the same experiences I had.

We returned home with all 23 children, four parents, one saintly children’s director, several new stuffed animals from the gift shop and the free souvenir of having lost a child.