Souvenir Shopping

It's pretty much a rite of passage to go souvenir shopping while vacationing. And introducing children to the joy of browsing and grabbing a couple of little trinkets at a local souvenir shop is so much fun!  Yesterday we did just that as we set out in the morning to find one of those shops here at the beach. 

As we pulled up I knew the kids were going to enjoy this little outing because the door to one shop was an octopus and the other a shark's head. 
First, all of the girls decided to dress alike in their Taylor Joelle dresses.  Check her website out if you get a chance!
                                  Now, how fun and inviting does this souvenir shop look?!
                                 Whoa!  Was this beach souvenir shop overload or what?!
The Hermit Crabs were a bigger hit with the baby girls than they were with the bigger ones. And I was really hoping we would be bringing one home with us but unfortunately no takers. 
And oh, the snow globes!  I remember getting those as a child...
                        Mermaid and sea turtle necklaces were popular with the big girls.
                                           And the big boys were attracted to the kites!
And me?  I alway get a new Christmas ornament from each trip we take. This time it's this glass sea turtle whose body is filled with tiny shells. 
                             And the edible type of souvenirs are some of the best for sure!
But the sea shells were a winner and these girls filled bottles with tiny shells to take home with them. 

And then we went home where everybody either napped, flew kites, read or played in the sand...
                            And I caught Poppi slipping out to the dock to try to catch a fish.
                                 And then we enjoyed watching the sun set on the coast.
                                                     And what a sunset it was...

But that wasn't the end of the day because once the sun completely set, we went to the beach with nets and flashlights in hand to chase down some sand crabs.
                        What a full but fun-filled day MY BIG FAT SOUTHERN FAMILY had!


Saturday morning found 19 of us...Yes, you heard me right; 19...driving to the beach for Our Big FAT FAMILY VACATION.  There were several things I was wondering at this point, the main one being WHY in the world did we decide on going to the beach when it was SO HOT at our own homes (sigh...).  And then I remembered the deciding process and how we thought flying to California this year would be out of the question since Justin and Sarah were expecting baby number 3.  I suggested perhaps the mountains in Tennessee or North Carolina but finding a house big enough for all of us seemed to be a problem so THE BEACH is was...

We left in 5 different vehicles armed with snacks, movies and I-pads.  Loaded down to the tops of our SUV's with blow up swimming pools, pack-n- plays, strollers and about $1,000 dollars worth of groceries (only a good start).  In there somewhere was my 2 small soft bags that contained all I needed for the week.  Traveling with 19 people is not easy, simple or cheap.

Three of the five vehicles heading out decided to caravan, following each other.  Caitlin and I rode with her 2 kids following Robby and Kevin in his truck.  Before we even reached Baton Rouge my driving privileges were revoked due to the fact that we were following the "wrong red truck".  Yep, we had requested a potty break and they pulled over and as they got out of "their red truck" and headed inside, Hubby glanced over his shoulder to see us whiz past him.  Well...the rest is history.  I had to ride shotgun to him while Kevin drove my vehicle.

The dilemma as we drew near to our destination was whether we would continue the tunnel route or the ferry.  Having never ridden over on the ferry we opted to go that route.  When we arrived at 2:30, we were told the 3:30 and 4:15 ferries were already filled up and we would have to wait for the 5:00 one.  Oh well...what could we do but wait at this point?
We let the kids out of their car seats and thank goodness we had all of those movies and snacks in tow!
                          The ferry ride was fun and different and our "Littles" sure enjoyed it!

This year we rented a house on the bay side and I wasn't really sure how that was going to compare to being on the beach but WOW, how perfect with all of these little ones.  Most of them were a little afraid of the waves at the beach and we had our own little beach and dock right here complete with calm water.  Sunday morning found us all enjoying a little sand and sun time.



                                     Yep...What more could I need for a first day at the beach?

Later that afternoon we walked across the road to the beach side to let the kids play for a little while and I was SO thankful that we had decided to stay on the bay side. Most of the kids didn't like the waves and I even felt safer and more in control with us staying there. However, we DID have fun over there building a sandcastle and searching for seashells.

                                                      Our crew of 19 took over the beach!
Building sandcastles was all Beckett had been talking about for days and Poppi helped him do just that!
    I snapped this photo thinking that it was going to be one I would have to delete later because I saw her close her eyes. What a great surprise to see what it actually looked like when I reviewed my photos later that night.
What a great photo of David and Grayson!  Photos are quick around here and often times "hit and miss".  This time I hit a perfect shot. 
                                                                      Bikinis and Babies!
     Everyone was too busy to snap a photo with Poppi and YaYa but not Livie...she hated the sand so this was a reprieve for her!
A little storm rolled in while I sat on the deck and I snuggled under the eaves just smelling the freshness of the rain. And being thankful for MY BIG FAT FAMILY. We're not perfect by any means and we have our moments. I mean, really...there are 19 people!  But at the end of the day we ARE family. We play hard, we fight, we make up but we LOVE even harder.

Another Great Summer Read: "The Husband's Secret"

If I have found a new favorite author this summer, it is Liane Moriarty.  She is an Australian author who has made the jump into the American market with great success.  I not only love the way her novels flow and the development of her characters,  but also the way that they have a little twist in them that, in my opinion, makes a great story.  "The Husband's Secret" is the second book of hers that I have read this summer and as with "What Alice Forgot", I was enthralled by it.

"The Husband's Secret" is not unlike "What Alice Forgot" in the fact that there are several different story lines going on simultaneously that will intersect at some point.  In this novel, there is not merely one secret but many secrets throughout, which made me think of that familiar quote by Walter Scott:    "O, what a tangled web we weave when once we practice to deceive".

Set in Melbourne and Sidney and laced with little phrases that allow the reader know that these characters are Australian, one is quickly drawn into this story.  It does not start with a bang as "What Alice Forgot" but it soon becomes a page turner because of the manner in which it moves back and forth between families with each chapter.  This novel allows the reader to constantly think:  "What if..."  It's that moment that everybody comes to at some point in their lives.  "What if I hadn't gone there..."  "What if I hadn't dated that person..."  "What if I hadn't opened that letter..."  Secrets one wish they never knew.

I would definitely suggest you put Liane Moriarty on your reading list and join me as I continue to read the six (soon to be seven) novels that she has written.  I am now reading a third novel by her as we head to the beach this week for vacation.  "Big Little Lies"  is a #1 New York Times Best Seller and soon to be HBO series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.  I cannot wait to get deeply immersed in this book while listening to the waves hit the shore this week.

Join me in reading these books and leave a comment to let me know what you think!

                                                                 HAPPY READING!!!

Saturday Morning Piano Lessons and a Cup of Hot Tea...

I cannot remember a time when I did not want to play the piano.  Back when I was a child, it was customary to begin piano lessons around the third grade.  I hated being forced to wait that long and would pull out my sister's old piano books, look at what I now know to be fingering numbers and play my own tunes.  Surprisingly, this did not bother Mother, as she allowed me to play on that console piano in our living room.  Perhaps my desire to so desperately learn to play is the reason I never became one of those children who had to constantly be prompted to practice.  If anything, I'm amazed that my mother didn't come in and ask me to "give it a rest" now and then.

When I initially began to take piano lesson, they were given at my elementary school.  I would go to the auditorium and find my way behind the stage curtain to a little room where I would sit down for the most glorious thirty minutes of my week.  And then my piano teacher moved.  I was really sad because I liked her a lot, however, it didn't take long for my mother to find another piano teacher for me.

Mr. and Mrs. Campbell were an elderly couple who both taught piano lessons in their home.  He was actually the organist for the First Baptist Church also.  My piano lessons were set for Saturday mornings at nine o'clock and that was my routine until I graduated high school.  Along with those hour long lessons, I was introduced to hot tea drinking. The Campbell's had an elderly housekeeper who had been with them for years named Annie.  She would come in and get breakfast going for them and set out the tea service half way through my lesson.

At first I didn't know what to think about this hot tea thing, I mean I was, after all, just  kid.  I doctored mine up with milk and a little sugar (and a little more sugar when Mr. Campbell turned his back).  However, as the years went by and our little hot tea tradition continued, I found that I quite liked it and even gave up so much sugar and the milk altogether.  I continued to study piano for a total of twelve years with classical music being my favorite type of music.  And hot tea?  I still love it to this day.  I have tea pots and cups and a variety of teas on hand at all time.  Whenever I want to comfort myself I don't reach for chocolate, I just brew myself a hot cup of tea and watch the stress roll off of my shoulders...

A few years ago, Hubby surprised me at Christmas with a grand piano.  I'm not sure how he managed the surprise with such a big gift but was I ever excited!  I found myself coming back to that piano all day long playing it.  And now on those quiet mornings and afternoons when I find myself alone, I wander into the living room and begin to tinkle those keys.  And I find that I still so enjoy those days.  It brings me such relaxation.

For some, giving up Saturday mornings to drinking hot tea and play the piano would probably not be much fun; especially in those teen years. For me, it was a wonderful time of escape to the word of music.  And this would continue to give me a lifetime of pleasure.


Another Great Summer Read: "What She Knew"

I have been doing a lot of reading on these hot, lazy days here in the south.  And what I love is when I find books that I get so engrossed in that I cannot put them down.  I'm sure Hubby doesn't care for it as much as me because I'm that kid that you see with their nose in the book who never hears a word you say when you speak to me.  But this week I have to share with you a book I picked up and finished in just a few days time:  "What She Knew" by Gilly McMillan.  Prior to reading this book I had never even heard of this author, however, I'm not afraid to read a new author and most times I'm glad I do.  This is one of those times.

"What She Knew" is a riveting story about a mother who loses her child while out on a Sunday walk in the woods.  It is not written in just her point of view but also the view of the detectives and others involved. One thing that you do not know, however, is what is going on with the abductor or child which keeps you reading to find out.  That information is not revealed until close to the end of the book.  But the thing about this book that I loved was that it was like peeling the layers off of an onion.  There are so many secrets that have been kept that the trust factor among the characters becomes obsolete.

I won't reveal what happens but I would suggest you read this book if you're looking for something other than television to keep you busy in your spare time.  Curl up in a chair, turn the air down low, grab a blanket and snuggle in for a really good read!


Sounds That Go CHIRP in the Night

We live in the country and there are sounds out here most likely not familiar to those of you who live in the city.  There are frogs, cicadas and crickets, just to name a few.  And loud?  You have no idea how loud these little creatures can be.  I think Holli may be scarred for life by the sound of the frogs from her last visit.  Caitlin wanted to take a late evening photograph of her beside a bayou.  By that time the frogs had begun their nightly symphony which in turn made her begin to cry which meant no really cool photo by a bayou...oh well.  But these are ordinary sounds that we hear so much they don't even phase us any more.  However, for the past week there is a night sound that is not usual and it is bothering me!

You see, I get up at least once during the night to go to the bathroom.  OK...only the women out there will understand this.  I call it my "4-Baby Bladder" syndrome.  Anyway...When I have gotten up for the past week there are some party animal birds chirping their little beaks off just outside my window.    No lie; these feathered creatures who usually sleep when I do are wide awake and apparently have lots to talk about to their friends.  It's like a bird convention out there.

I have no idea what kind of birds these are or how long they will do this but it's the strangest thing because when morning comes they stop chirping.  And then, of course, I'm exhausted from trying to go back to sleep what with listening to all of that noise (sigh...).  They are almost like a baby who has his days and nights mixed up.

Here's what goes through my mind at night whenever I can't go back to sleep because of those dang birds...

OK, so I'm not going to get up in the middle of the night and shoot a chirping bird BUT this is definitely how I feel...

The Lost Art of Playing

When my kids were little they played.  I mean really played.  In the summertime they were outside after breakfast, in for lunch and back out until dinner time.  They got dirty, went on adventures and used their imaginations.  Life was sweet back then.

My boys played Little League Baseball during the summer and they swam every day.  There were no organized activities to shuttle them to...with the exception of baseball games and Bible School.  Life was simple back then.

The only electronic device that my kids had access to was a television.  And they didn't sit in front of it every day.  They did not have I-Pads, computers or cell phones.  They went to the library and checked out books and played games of Monopoly that lasted weeks at a time.  Those were the days when children knew how to play and use their imaginations.            

"Playing" is a lost art.  And...It is underrated.  Underrated by parents and educators alike.  I should know since I have been both.  When I was teaching, the administration announced one day that our students would only be given one fifteen minute recess a day.  WHAT?!  Obviously these people were out of touch with those in the classroom who spent all day with the little darlings.  We were told that recess truly was not necessary.  I beg to differ.

If you remember recess as I do, you will recall all the benefits of it:

1.  Imagination.  Children need to pretend.  That is a very important part of childhood and if
                             nurtured properly can lead to real success in the classroom.  How?  Well, what
                             about those creative writing exercises?  Or art projects?  Don't you remember how
                             much fun it was to escape from reality for a brief moment during recess where you
                             could "pretend"?  I'm sure recess and play time perhaps prepared many a child for
                             little theater, drama club or some even an acting career later in life.
2.  Conflict Resolution.  Children need to learn how to resolve conflicts among their own peers.
                                         They make up  games to play that allows them to create rules and follow                                                      
                                         them and to also resolve any conflicts that may arise during those  
                                         activities.  Disagreements are not always a bad thing.  Children need to
                                         learn how to solve problems.  Is this not a skill that can be carried with
                                         them throughout life?                                        
3.  Discovery.  Remember the moment whenever you discovered something you never knew?  That
                         "Aha" moment?  Children learn from being outside in nature.  There are so many
                          things that can be "discovered" on their own from unorganized play.  Think about all
                          of the things that can turn into "teachable moments" just from playing outside.
                          Rocks, leaves, flowers, frogs, butterflies and the list goes on and on.
4.  Exercise.  Whenever my children were young, people never heard much about childhood obesity.
                       Perhaps, that was partially because children got outside and PLAYED.  They ran
                       around and got exercise without even knowing it.  It was just a part of life.  As for
                       running around at recess time during school, this "running around" can be used to get
                      out that pent up energy children have from sitting at a desk all day.  Think about it...Do
                      you, as an adult, get up and move around during the day?  I'm sure you do not sit
                      focused at your desk without having to get up and stretch, move around, clear your
                      mind.  Think how much more a child needs to do that?
5.  Communication.  Communication skills are so important and although this generation is so
                                    very tech savvy, their communication skills are often times found wanting.
                                    Social media and electronics, I believe, is at the very heart of the problem.
                                    How many times have you seen children playing on their parents' cell phone
                                    in a restaurant while waiting for their food?  Or in church while they could be
                                    participating in the the singing or listening to the sermon.  These are the sort of
                                    things that bring up discussions and create communication between people.
                                    How many relationships do you think suffer these days from the lack of

Yes, play is very underrated indeed.  It's my opinion that children are not allowed to be children any more.  Parents and educators expect them to grow up too quickly.  How many times have you heard, "They are a wonderful student but they are a bit immature"?  And I'm always confused by that statement.  Isn't a five year old supposed to be immature?   Do we really want our children to grow up so quickly that they miss the joy of just being a child?  The one time of their lives that is filled with make believe and wonder?  Let them discover THE LOST ART OF PLAYING!

Raw Truth

When people disappoint you...and you know that they do and inevitably will...what do you do?  OK,  let me be a little more specific.  When someone who is close to you disappoints or hurts you what do you do?  Someone you thought you knew.  Someone you thought you could count on and had your back.  What do you do?

Well, to answer that question,  I would have to say I ponder the relationship long and hard.  Most likely harder than I should.  I look back on the events that led up to the "disappointment".  What exact event opened my eyes?  And if look intensely enough I see the truth.  And believe me, that old adage, "The truth hurts" could not be more appropriate.

You see, I am that person who believes that if I turn my head the other direction or do not peek out of my peripheral vision that something does not exist.  I attempt to explain things away so as not to hurt the other person while all along hurting myself.  Because it's easier to deal with hurting yourself, right?  If I look too deeply into the situation I might see what is really there.  And once it becomes real I cannot ignore it any more.

Such is life.  A series of events.  Some happy.  Some sad.  Some hurtful.  And the question still lies before me.  Floating there in space without gravity to pull it to the ground.  Without the ability for me to catch hold of it and look it in the eye and examine it.  It is out my reach.  Just whenever I think my hands and heart can grasp it and I have expectations that understanding is right before floats a little higher.  Up into the clouds.  Out of sight.  Out of my mind.  Where I cannot even glimpse it any longer.  And with it way up there, surely it cannot disappoint me any longer.  Right?

Only until I can glimpse a small portion of it beneath that cloud.  Small enough to barely exist, yet large enough to remain in my mind. And it's still there.  Once my eyes have been opened to the truth they can never be closed again.  I can never pretend that it doesn't exist.  Because it does.  And because of that I must learn to move on.  Like those clouds that float across the sky.  Like the waves that ebb and flow.  I must learn to flow with the winds and changes of life and relationships whatever they may be.  Because I must live.  And to live sometimes means to move on...


Summer Reading Continued: "What Alice Forgot"

As I continue with my summer reading list, I have a new book and author to recommend.  "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty is such a page turner (My favorite kind of read)!  Alice has a fall at the gym and when she comes to, she believes it's 10 years earlier. Imagine that!

Alice has no idea what her life has become in the past 10 years and the book got me to thinking about my own life. What if I were to wake up and think I was in an earlier decade?  Would I like who I've become?  Would I understand the strange looks people gave me?  

Alice has trouble navigating her life with no memories of the recent years, including the fact that she has three children and is divorcing her husband. Because she believes when she wakes up that she's pregnant with the first. The main story line of this book is about Alice and how she struggles to regain her memory in unfamiliar surroundings but there is also a secondary story line simultaneously going on. It revolves around her sister and their relationship over the past ten years. The things that have torn a once close relationship apart. 

This book is a reflection on life, friends and family and how all are so fragile and can deteriorate over time. It's about relationship struggles and how easy it is to allow those relationships to slip away after being chipped away day after day for years. It is a story that explores having a "do-over". Looking at situations as your old self instead of who you have become. 

This book was very well written and I believe I have found a "new favorite author". I would suggest you pick up a copy of this book today or download one on your Kindle.  Hey, it's way too hot here in the south to be doing anything during the day but sitting inside under the air conditioner!  And why just veg out on the television when you can feed your mind and imagination with a good book. 
                                                             HAPPY READING!!!

Boat Rides, Babies and Backyard Fun

Hubby and I had exactly one evening together before our BIG FAT SOUTHERN FAMILY began to descend upon us.  They trickled in one family at a time and the cooking, boat riding and playing got into full swing. 
Ryan, Allison and Livie were the first ones to arrive, therefore, they were also the first ones to get to go on a boat ride; Livies's first!

We found that we needed a new grill and these two were given the task of putting it together. Yep...that concerned me a little and it probably took longer than it should have BUT it DID get done. 
                          Mornings were filled with eating powdered donuts and swinging cousins. 

David has finally finished his residency and they have moved back into town. His first day of work was July 1st...and he was on call the entire holiday weekend (Welcome to the "real world"). However, they were able to have dinner with us on Sunday and the boys got to play and go on a boat ride too!
Of course, Uncle Ryan let Beckett help him drive the boat, honk the horn and do all sort of cool things. 
                    Livie and Grayson don't look to comfortable in those life jackets first!  
   Well, it must not have been TOO uncomfortable because this little one fell fast asleep as we rolled down the lake. 
                           The girls decided to cool off in the wading pool later in the afternoon. 
   The fun continued into the next day (The 4th) with everybody sporting their patriotic colors...
                                And just a little more boat riding before the afternoon rain showers hit...
         there's something to this boat riding that just puts our babies to sleep. 

The weekend was wonderful and fun with just the right amount of drama to make it so enjoyable!  As Hubby and I sat in our big, old overstuffed chair while the last tail lights were leaving the driveway, it was strange to hear the deafening silence in the house. Not bad but strange after all the days of activity here. It gave me time to ponder what this weekend, the 4th of July meant to me. I've always enjoyed being an American and having so many freedoms but this year I appreciated it even more. After our experience in Paris during the attacks in November. It has made such a huge impression on me that will last a lifetime. How fortunate we are to live in America. The land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE. GOD BLESS AMERICA!