Sunday, September 27, 2015

I'm a Christian and I Celebrate Halloween

Go ahead.  Pray for me and I will return the favor.  Celebrating Halloween is not likely near the top of "the list".  There are many, many things for which I should atone myself.  Nevertheless, I am a Christian and I celebrate Halloween.  The two aren't mutually exclusive, you know.

As a Catholic, not only do I celebrate Halloween, but I observe All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day on November 1st and 2nd.  So Halloween is simply the Eve before Hallows.  Hallows' Eve.   That's not to say that we completely ignore the traditional fun and revelry.  We decorate our home and trick-or-treat in costume on October 31st.  We love to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and we do carve our own pumpkins.  If you're interested, there's a great teaching moment relating God's love for mankind to pumpkin carving here.
My front porch got a makeover today.  And all I had was my iPhone to photograph it at dusk.  Oops.
I will admit that I set some limitations where I see fit.  This year my younger kids will masquerade as a mermaid and a puppy dog.  I'm not sure about Rob's costume, but it will not be anything full of blood, weaponry, or occult influences.   I do not, under any circumstances allow my kids to watch the titular film featuring Michael Meyers or any counterparts.   My decorations include the traditional colors of orange and black with spiders, webs, and witches.  Wait...witches?
Visitors to my home are welcomed by these "legs"...
Halloween, as a celebratory holiday, offers many variations of Pagan idolatry and faith in the occult.  You can't truly have Halloween without touching on some of these traditions.  But just because I decorate with an occasional witch doesn't mean I explain or expose my children to witchcraft.  The only witches they really recognize are those from The Wizard of Oz.  Oops...wizardry.   You see, Satan and his influences circulate my children every day.  From the time they board a school bus and head to their agnostic public school, to the moment they come home and watch less-than-safe Disney channel and Nickelodeon, unholy temptation surrounds their minds.  I cannot and will not raise them in a bubble only to have them self-destruct when they finally leave my home.  On the contrary, I think that when I teach them Christian values and then expose them to the opposite, these are learning experiences.

I'm really pleased with how my front door turned out.  You can't tell now, but the spider is glittery.  Closer to Halloween, I'll put a black-light bulb in my porch light for a cool effect.
Does this make me a hypocrite?  Is Jesus disappointed in me, his fallen creation?  I don't think so.  In this home we recognize that nothing is perfect except God Himself.  We understand that perspective is the key to staying true to His word.  Can we say "Trick-Or-Treat" to our neighbors and still be good disciples of Christ?  I believe so.  Feel free to pray for my wary soul if you think I'm wrong.  And I welcome all your kind, insightful comments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Times Have Changed...Unfortunately

If you are a loyal reader, you know that my 9-year-old plays little league football.  We love football in this home - everything about it.  Unfortunately after last night's practice my husband (a.k.a. Coach Bobby) came home completely rattled and sharing his frustration.  He said things that began with "When I was a kid..." and "When my dad was coaching..." He was talking tough.  He mentioned that he would like to keep those boys outside until midnight or later if it took that to get a certain play right.  I said "well, do it!"  Yeah, right... Coach Bobby then said the following phrase

Times. Have. Changed. 

I rolled those words around in my mind.  I internally argued with them, shredded them to bits.  But I kept coming up short on rebuttal.  Times have changed.  And that is not okay with me.  Later last night Bobby sent out an email to our team which went a little something like this:

Some of you may have noticed the practice tonight was far less than great...heart and desire must come from is not taught...lack of focus and desire by that player not wanting to do his job...some players are starting to lose their plan for Thursday night...will take all of us doing our jobs in order to pull off the upset.

Somewhere along the way, we have taught today's children that sports are just for fun.  In doing so, we have also have greatly misused the "it's just a game" sentiment.  What previously inspired contestants to shake off a loss and work harder for the next victory, now indicates that wins and losses don't matter at all.  And this is a problem in the long run.  This generation we are raising is in trouble!

You may have heard the quote pictured above.  It's pretty powerful when you think about it.  Uncoachable kids are those who do nothing for the greater good of the whole team.  They are the kids who think their actions are correct - regardless of reality.  These kids do not respond well to constructive criticism and they do not acknowledge the power of a mentor.  In Much Ado style, I want to take this one step further...

Kids who do not value winning and losing become adults who do not respond to success or failure.  You guys, it does matter if you win or lose just as much as it matters how you play the game.  If our kids fail to learn this now, imagine the adults they will become.

When you are ill and go see a doctor, does it matter whether he makes you well or not?  Of course it does.  How he treats you is important, but if he treats you with excellent bedside manner and you are still would think that doctor has failed.

Some of my blog readers are teachers.  When you are in front of your classroom, does it matter whether they are learning or not?  Absolutely.  It is very important that you treat your students with respect and that you mix in some classroom discipline.  But whether you are evaluated on your students' report cards or their standardize test scores, trust me...those figures matter.

Most sales-based jobs come with sales goals, performance quotas, and required reports.  Sure, it's nice if you enjoy your job.  It's great if you have camaraderie with your coworkers.  But come quota and report time none of that matters if your numbers don't align with expectations.

Bobby was right.  Times have changed.  The world is a much more dangerous place, due in part to an overly relaxed set of family values, morals, and Christianity.  We as a people are dangerously desensitized to sex, violence, and otherwise foul behavior in the media.  But if there is any hope for this to correct itself, this up and coming generation needs help.  And I believe organized sports -- when handled correctly as in "the good ol' days" -- is a great opportunity to reinstall these values.

What are your thoughts?  Does it matter whether you win or lose?  Do you think I am over analyzing this or is it possible that we can turn our kids into the adults we wish the world had more of?  Comments, please.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Forgiveness Is the Heart of the Matter

I have a heavy heart right now.  The few times I actually watch the news it all seems bad and worse.  Yesterday I relieved my mind of some very deep thoughts on guilt.  I also tried to process crime and punishment.  It seems that the two don't always go hand-in-hand, but perhaps that's just the way the world works.  We have to be concerned with ourselves first.  As consistently as sunrise and sunset, people - myself included - will continue to make mistakes, bad choices, and errors.  So aside from consequences, what is the one thing mankind needs in order to move forward?  Forgiveness.

Remember my mentioning Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice yesterday?  As a sinful human, I love the following passage more than anything else:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. (IV, 1, 180-187)

What Portia is saying in TMOV is that you cannot force an angry person to be merciful.  Furthermore, when leniency is coerced, it really isn't compassionate at all.   However, when forgiveness is offered, it benefits both the guilty and the prosecuting parties for their own reasons.   Consider this:

When someone wrongs you - be it physical or emotional harm - it's only natural that you feel anger towards that person.  Possibly you become fixated on concepts like karma, anticipating negative things to enter into the aggressor's life.  Sure this is common behavior and comes naturally.  But remember we are a fallen creation.  While we were created in God's image, we are also stalked by Satan who has waged an eternal war against our salvation.

Think about times when you are filled with anger, wrath, revenge.  Physically you may present a scowled face.  You may have stressors inside causing you to feel ill.  Emotionally you can concentrate on nothing else.  In devoting all of this emotional energy on the downfall of another person, you are really sacrificing energy you could be spending enjoying other aspects of your life.

Is this falling on deaf ears?  Are you comfortable forgiving and moving on?  Okay consider this:

A more difficult task is learning to forgive oneself.  Once you commit an offense, you should make up for the error in a choice of ways: offer an apology, make some restitution, or do penance. And then move on.  But can you?  Do you ever get a gnawing pit in your gut when you encounter a former vice?  Do you ever avoid awkward conversations because you are never quite sure if you are forgiven?  If you feel affected by a guilty conscience, perhaps it's because you have not forgiven yourself.  You are perpetually convicting yourself of a past wrong doing.  Is this justified?  Or are you committing cruel and unusual punishment against yourself.

Have you ever sat around with a group of friends and played the If-I-Could-Live-One-Life-Era-Again-What-Would-I-Change game?  Boy am I good at that!  I have so many things in the past I would change in a heartbeat.  There are plenty of situations I would handle differently, some as superficial as my questionable fashion sense in the early 90s and others that I hold much closer to my heart.  I mentioned this to a confidant recently, and she quickly set me straight.  She reminded me what I should already know:  If you could go back through life, undoing all of your past mistakes, how and when would you ever learn the accompanying lessons?

Regrets?  I have a few.  Guilty Conscience?  I still recognize that feeling from time to time.  Nevertheless,  I believe that if you are living with regret and/or if you frequently feel like the world is condemning you, perhaps it is you who cannot forgive yourself.

Do you have tips on how to let yourself off the hook?  Do you have a favorite scripture, self-help book, movie, or other media which has really inspired you?  If you are brazen enough to confess, what is your biggest regret and how do you choose to overcome that regret?  Or do you?  I would love to know I'm not alone, so I look forward to your comments.

Update 9/22/2015: If you are new to my blog due to the Blogelina Commentathon, welcome!  I hope you stay a while.  I'm an emotional person and sometimes you will see light, fluffy tutorials.  Other times I'll share a great recipe or two.  Then there are times, like this super popular post, when I blend real life and Social Media life by writing about my heavy heart.  I have always believed writing/journaling/blogging is a great way to process my thoughts.  I hope you stick around beyond this event; we could be great friends!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Though Justice Be Thy Plea, Consider This:

I'm currently binge-watching the last few episodes of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder in anticipation of the new season coming up.  Gosh I love this show.  It's truly a guilty pleasure of mine. Viola Davis is everything.
© ABC Network
Then my brain starts working in overtime, and all of these words and phrases start spinning through my mind:
guilty pleasure
get away with murder
punishment that fits the crime
get away with...

I don't reference Shakespeare as often as my blog title would suggest.  But The Merchant of Venice (TMOV) is, hands down, in my top-three all-time favorites of his works.  As a student, I was tickled that I could understand it all on my own cognizance.  As an educator, I was pleased that its themes of friendship, justice, wealth, racial stereotypes and mercy were truly timeless and resonated with so many of my students.  As an adult I have so many real-world people who play the parts of the characters - a rotating cast, if you will.
Al Pacino as Shylock 2004 © 2004 Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.
In TMOV, several characters are forced to face the consequences of their choices.   There are superfluous decisions like elopement, moral dilemmas over usury and semi-gambling, and even grand theft larceny.  The character of Shylock -- at once a small-claims court plaintiff -- attempts to get away with murder claiming "justice" served (think a bad check writer being sentenced to Lethal Injection), but his plan is foiled in a most ironic way.  Though he professes to stand on the letter of the law, Shylock reveals quite clearly that his real motive has nothing to do with right or wrong, justice or injustice, but with his desire to destroy another human being.  How often do we, too, use good intentions as our excuse to be unusually cruel or condescending on our fellow peers?

Everyday I see inconsistencies in life.  I see drivers receiving speeding tickets as I (wrongfully) drive 15 mph over the limit past the scene.  I hear about good, well-meaning people being laid off from their jobs while I receive pitifully poor customer service from a lacksidasical employee.  Or I hear of people charged with crimes being punished completely differently based on the strength of their lawyers and/or the socioeconomic background within which they exist.  It just doesn't seem fair!  It doesn't seem right.  I was having this very conversation with a close friend yesterday.  We were saying things such as "(s)he hasn't learned a d@mn thing!"..."(s)he will eventually get what's coming." "The system played favorites instead of doing what it's supposed to do."  Are we right?  And more importantly, do we have the right to feel that way?  I am neither judge nor jury to my peers.  I am simply a person who has lived a life full of choices, mistakes, retribution, lessons, growth, improvement.  Aren't we all?

I think the big picture is consequence, and the most important outcome is growth and/or change.  As Christians we are called to follow the law of the land, but only until the law contradicts with how Jesus taught us to live.  Jesus didn't just say "You who are innocent throw the first stone," He also said "Go and sin no more".  He recognized us as sinful people and He openly said that we had to die (completely change our ways and our desires) before we could live forever.   It isn't up to me to decide whether a person is sorrowful or remorseful.  But it is my duty to live the best version of my life in accordance with what will help me gain entrance into Heaven and to hold others accountable when they are failing in the same area.

Crime and punishment, despite being inherent in a person's mind and soul, is processed in the most errantly human way possible.  So there will always be episodes of the system getting it wrong.  There will be times when one person must give that entire pound of flesh -- blood and all -- and another simply has to feel the prick of the knife before being saved.   Again, I am not judge or jury and I have no desire to be.  But I have made mistakes, I have overcome bad choices, and I will be happy to share my lessons with you.  After you serve your punishment -- however large or small, cruel or cautious it may be.

What do you think about crime and punishment?  Have we become a revenge-hungry body of people?  Why does it always seem that money and/or power triumphs Lady Justice's scales?  What's more important: that the guilty pay or that we - who are all guilty of something - seek self improvement in order to be a beacon of strength and hope to others?

Hit me up in the comments.  And be nice!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Who Let Da Dogs Out?

I love football.  The crisp air, the deep cadence from a drum line, the crackling squawk of an announcer, the rhythmic chants from the cheerleaders, and the commanding blows from a whistle all come together to make Friday nights magical.

Where I live, football is a big deal!  There is not a "local" professional team, but the state of Alabama is consumed by two very divisive and currently both strong college teams: Auburn University and (THE) University of Alabama.  Sure, there are some families who have moved into the state and bring their other allegiances with them; there are also families who chose not to choose at all.  Yet most children born in Alabama are almost indoctrinated into loving the Crimson or the Orange and Blue from the earliest stages of life.

As you trickle down the football food chain, you find yourself in the aforementioned glorious world of high school football.  High school football has inspired novels, movies, television shows, song lyrics, and more creative arts.  I truly believe that high school football may be the purest, most devout form of the sport in existence.  Think about it: there is true cognitive awareness of the game; there is talent; there are losses, wins, and championships.  There are halls of fame and walls of shame.  But the sport is not tainted by money, scholarship, or other evils which creep into college and professional games.  There is something so intangibly warm and attainable about high school football.  Anything is possible.

The high school in my hometown is only in its second year of life.  But the sleepy little bedroom community where I live has been supporting itself for decades.  We have always been Helena strong, even if we only became The Huskies last year.  Look at what this community does on Friday nights:
Most of the young men playing on the high school football fields have been playing football since they were young boys.  My sweet Rob is one of those young boys!  Playing for the second season, this year is is starting at Center and still wearing #12.  Bobby is the head coach again and seems to have really found his stride at leading these boys toward a love and respect for the game.
We have been practicing since the first (hot and muggy) week of August, and even participated in skills and agility camps led by the high school staff at their practice field.   We played a practice game against one of our rivals, then opened the season last week at our cross-town rivals' field.  Sadly we lost 18-12, but we looked so much better than the majority of last season!

Yesterday was Labor Day, but there was to be very little rest for these little Huskies!  We had an evening practice in preparation for a game today.  Following practice we had a season-opening tailgate party with our cheerleaders and their families.  It was great fun!  We had more food than we knew what to do with - everyone contributed.  We had music, dancing, and even a game of touch-football.

Tonight is our home-opener.  We are super excited about this new season of football.  We have 20 of the toughest, fiercest, and rowdiest 8- and 9-year-old Huskies around!

I have one question for you...Who let da dogs out?!?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rob is now Nine years old

Nine.  One year less than ten.  Almost a decade of life has gone by.  Rob, my dear firstborn son, that's enough!  You are officially old enough!
Rob, I continue to live in amazement of how wonderful you are.  Physically you look more and more like your father every day.  The top of your head now meets the tip of my nose.  You have a "million dollar mouth" - you are a patient of the fabulous orthodontist Dr. Priscila Denny.  You have had oral surgery to pull down your front tooth and the one beside it.  You wear an expander - an appliance that slowly widened the top pallet of your mouth.   You wear a size Medium/Large in shirts, a size 10 in pants, and a size 4.5 shoe!
Athletically you are finally starting to "love the game".  You played baseball this spring and went on to play all-stars for the first time.  You now are playing football.  #1 in our hearts; #12 on the field.  You are our starting center and you have had some laughs with your Nona because she keeps asking you how it feels to hand-off the ball.  You frustratedly correct her; quarterbacks do the hand offs.  You do the snapping.
Emotionally you have matured even more this past year.  You are a good friend, a loyal son, nephew, grandson, cousin, and brother.  You are very responsible, yet carefree.  You are cautious, yet curious.  You are a builder, a writer, a thinker, and a dreamer.  You love to make people laugh.
Your favorite television shows include Duck Dynasty, Outrageous Acts of Science, Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, Star Wars: Rebels, and Lab Rats.  You recently went to the theatre and enjoyed watching Inside Out, The Minions, Jurassic World, and The Avengers.
To celebrate your birthday, this morning Nona stopped by and brought you doughnuts.  You got to open your present from Dad and me, then I came and ate lunch with you at school.
This evening we plan to go to the high school to watch Helena play Shelby County High.  Tomorrow evening you have requested my homemade lasagna (my boy!) so we are going to have an August-birthdays-celebration at your Mimi and Rocky's house.  Last, but certainly not least, on Sunday Dad and I are taking you, Caroline, and two of your friends to Six Flags over Georgia (sorry, Will.  You're not big enough just yet.)
Rob, I love you so much.  I am sadly certain that the next nine years are going to fly by.  As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be!

Friday, August 21, 2015

William Joseph is Three!

Weight: 31.6 pounds
Height: 36" (right at 3 feet)
You wear a size 2T pants, 3T shirt, and a size 9 shoe

Sleeping Patterns: You do take a nap everyday, but it only lasts about an hour and a half or so...You are in your toddler bed (crib with the mattress lowered all the way and front rails off).  Ever since we went to the beach this summer and you had no choice, you now sleep with us every night.  Sometimes we can get you to sleep in your room, but you will inevitably end up in our bed before dawn.
Eating Habits: You could survive every day of your life with a Pop-Tart.  Brown Sugar and Cinnamon flavor, to be exact.  But when I force you to eat something different, your breakfast favorites are waffles and pancakes, too.  You love spaghetti, chicken nuggets, and applesauce.  You love strawberries and grapes, but you are not very big on any vegetables at all.  So we are working on that. 
New Discoveries & Accomplishments: You are fearless.  This summer you swam non-stop (while wearing a puddle jumper.)  Your brother and sister were both terrified of the water at this age.  You love all sports.  Whatever is being played, you want to participate as well.  You are getting pretty good at recognizing your colors, but not so much your letters.  You can tee-tee and poopy in the potty, but you'd rather not.  You still prefer your diaper.  So we're going to work on that very soon.  This spring the Pappy (pacifier) Fairy came and took your pappies away.  The babies needed them.  (S)he picked them up out of our mailbox.  You were very tickled to see that the fairy left some grass leaves behind in the box.
Places You Love: When we go to the Galleria, you must ride the carousel, but you can never remember the word.  You always say something to the effect of "Are we gonna ride the, um, what's-it-called?"  You got to go to the beach twice this year and the pool several times.  It's safe to say you are a water-baby at heart.  You love going to the ballpark, and you are always game to go on an evening walk with the family.
Special Friends: You idolize your brother and sister - much to their chagrin sometimes.  You also love your cousins Mason and Josie Kate.  You have recently been babysat by Grace, Hannah, and Erin.  You are crazy about "the girls" which is what you use interchangeably to describe Grace and Sadie as well as Erin and Emily.  Also, you have this cute way of saying Milesh.  You get really excited to see him.
Current Events: It's almost football season again.  We are gearing up for some Helena Husky football and some Bama football.  Nationally we are getting ready for the next Presidential election.  The GOP race is wide open, but it looks like Donald Trump is the most likely nominee.  The weather here in Birmingham has been hot, muggy, and rainy.  So basically, just another Southern August.
What We Did This Day: Today is Friday.  We saw your brother and sister off to school.  Then we had a little bit of mommy-and-Will time at home watching your beloved Paw-Patrol.  Later we went to the Galleria so you could take a birthday spin on the carousel, followed by an evening of football.  We are planning to watch the first-ever Mayor's Cup Game, a.k.a. Helena vs. Pelham High School

Your birthday party was last Sunday at Nona's house.  It was a dump-truck-theme.  Post coming soon.

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Very Own Nightcrawler

Today has been a sleepy, rainy, back-to-school Monday in my world.  The kids were slow to wake up this morning and even slower to get moving.  After a week filled with warm, sunny days at the beach, and which culminated with a wonderfully busy Easter Sunday, we were desperate to get back into a routine - whether we realized it or not.

Speaking of being sleepy, I wanted to tell a few stories about my eldest child, Rob, on this blog. Partly because the stories are entertaining, but more than anything I want to be able to look back and remember these moments fondly.  For the past couple of years, Rob has been a fairly regular sleepwalker.  Sometimes it worries me and sometimes it creeps me out.  But usually it humors me! says that sleepwalking in children is actually very common.  (My own pediatrician agrees and reassures me not to worry. ) The most common reasons for children's sleepwalking behaviors include the following: 
  • lack of sleep or fatigue
  • irregular sleep schedules
  • illness or fever
  • certain medications
  • stress (sleepwalking is rarely caused by an underlying medical, emotional, or psychological problem)
I would like to believe Rob is not very stressed.  He also is not on any medications and is not ill.  But the first two factors?  Oh yes, you can check those right away.  

Below is a video I took of Rob about a year and half ago.  It shows Rob seemingly awake, but I assure you he is asleep.  The quality of the video isn't great, but in reality Rob has this glazed look in his eyes.  Also, Bobby and I always ask him some standard questions that he is never able to answer: "What is your daddy's name?", "What is your name?", "Where are you?", etc.  
Lately he often runs - literally runs - through the house while saying nothing.  He eventually will take himself back up to his room.  Sometimes he seems to be searching for something.  He'll come into my room and open up my closet doors, he'll turn the bathroom lights on and off, etc.  I always give him a minute or so to wander back up to his room before I go check.  I always find him sound asleep as if nothing ever happened.  

Well, last night was the mother of all sleepwalking nights.  There were two instances in one night!  First at around 11 PM I heard him tromping downstairs (he couldn't sneak up on ANYONE if stairs were ever involved).  Then he did a quick run through the hallway and soon hustled back upstairs.  Lest you think he slept the rest of the night, let me quickly fast forward to 1:00 AM.  I awoke to the sound of my shower running.  That's right, my shower!

I carefully entered the bathroom and gently asked Rob what he was doing.  I could tell by the look in his eyes he was still asleep.  I tried to talk him out of undressing, but he argued with me pretty angrily.  Here is where I remind you that I have seen one-too-many Lifetime movies about sleepwalkers who get violent.  The tiny creeped-out part of my brain activated, so I let him get in the shower.  I could hear him using the shampoo and rinsing body parts under the stream.  This was a legit shower.  However, at some point he must have really woken himself up, because as he was drying off I suggested he go back up stairs.  It was only then that he asked what time it was.

Me: Rob, it's one o'clock in the morning.
Rob: Then why did you wake me up and tell me to get in the shower?
Me: Rob, I didn't wake you up.
Rob: It's not time for the bus?!?
Me: Just let's go back to sleep, okay?

Much later this morning when I really did wake him up, and then stop him from taking shower #2, he first remembered nothing about the previous events.  Then as I retold the story he laughed a little and said, "Oh yeah, that was weird, huh?"

I don't know who originated this image of zombie-like sleepwalking pose, but I'm here to testify, that's not how it happens at our house.  Sometimes, even after all the episodes we've had, it still takes me a while to realize whether Rob is asleep or not. 
Luckily he has never ventured outside.  That doesn't seem to be his "nature".  I have also heard that sleepwalkers usually follow similar patterns each time.  However, this shower story really throws off that theory.  Therefore, next up should likely be high locks on the doors.

Until next time,

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring Break 2015

Spring Break 2015 has come and gone, but it ended up being a wonderful week of fun in the sun!  Mom, the kids and I headed down to Gulf Shores for a few days, while poor Bobby stayed behind to work.  (Someone had to do it.)  We stayed in Laguna Bella townhomes where -- interesting fact -- my mom and stepdad used to be owners.  Sadly they sold our place shortly before Rob was born.  It's such a nice, quaint little area way down on west beach.  In the image below, you can see a huge eyesore condominium tower to the right that was built after Hurricane Ivan cleared some land in 2004.  Nevertheless, this area still qualifies as "low density".  It's right across the street from the beach, and backs up to the lagoon, complete with a fishing pier.  Heaven!

image source
We arrived late Sunday afternoon and, ironically enough, the sky looked a lot like the picture above.  It was cloudy, windy, and cool, but that did not deter us from getting straight into our swimsuits and heading to the sand.

While Caroline and Will wasted no time playing in the sand, Rob started snorkeling.  I should mention here that the water temperature could not have been more thank 65 degrees.  It was frigid! But you'd never know it by the way Rob went right in and got to work!

The next day, Monday, we headed out bright and early to the beach.  We had a blast playing, sunbathing, and kite flying.  I set up a canopy/tent and lathered the kids down with SPF 50, but still they got a little too much sun.  Actually, I did, too.  Oops.
Rob and his new buddy also named William flew a kite for a long time.  Sadly they accidentally let go and the wind took it straight into the powerlines across the street.  Bye bye kite!
So on Tuesday morning, we skipped the beach for a few hours and headed to the Gulf Coast Zoo.
We love to go to a zoo, watch the animals play, explore their habitats, etc.  But this zoo is, well, it's a little on the small-side.  It's almost like the little-zoo-that-could.  The majority of the time we spent feeding deer, goats, and a donkey.  Yep, there's a donkey.

When we got back to the condo Will took a nap and the rest of us went to explore the Lagoon.  That quickly gave us the idea that we could play and splash around in its warm shallow waters much more comfortably than the freezing gulf.  (Well, I should say Caroline and I played.  Rob wanted no part of the first) That's when we discovered that the lagoon is home to 1000's of hermit crabs.  We even saw one hermit crab that appeared to have been someone's discarded souvenir pet crab! We ended up going back to the lagoon a couple more times this week.  We even got Rob in on the action.  He, too, was fascinated by all of the crabs and set up a crab race!

We ate out several times, and I have to brag on my children's behavior.  They were so wonderful -- not perfect, but well above expectations for over sunned, under rested young people.  In fact, they were so good, that the last evening they warranted some reward-style fun activities.  First up...go carts!

After we left "The Track" we thought we would try Lulu's for dinner, knowing there would be a lot of entertainment for the kids while we waited for a table.  Let me fast forward and say we never did eat at Lulu's because the wait was 2+ hours.  Anyway, while we attempted the wait, naively thinking it would not be quite as long as the quoted time, Rob got a wild hair and wanted to do this:
image source
It's this climbing obstacle course on which you are harnessed and attached to a guide track overhead. There are several different paths to take, all of which involve narrow balance beams, wooden ladders, tight ropes, and a plank at the very top -- three stories high.
Funny story:  Rob was harnessed in and climbed the staircase to the first level.  He crossed his first wooden bridge to a platform, looked around, and started heading back to the staircase.  From the ground mom and I called out to him "Where are you going now?"  He looked at us with a "duh" expression and said "I'm coming back down!"  I was partly heartbroken for him and partly relieved that he sensed his life was in danger (it wasn't, actually).  Somehow, though, he stood there for a moment and you could see this determination cross his mind.  He turned back, and ended up scaling all three levels.  He was on the course for well over an hour!  (There is no time limit).  I was so proud of him for conquering his fear!

That, friends, is my firstborn walking the plank!

We came home on Thursday.  It was a short trip, but just what we needed to finish this spring strong!  Next up is Easter and then summer!  We have no less than 2 more beach trips planned.  Can you believe it?  I'm so excited.  It's safe to say the beach is my "happy place" and I am so thankfully blessed to have the opportunity to instill this love into my kids.  

Until next time, here is what happy looks like:

Stay sunny, friends!