Sweet Home Alpharetta

So glad to be back home. It’s funny because every time we go to Florida we fantasize about moving to the beach.  The boys get involved in the fantasy, as well.  Ben wants to buy a boat and take surfing lessons.  Brian wants to fish, swim and have warm weather all the time.  They want to be homeschooled. I look for inexpensive beach houses that we could fix up. Most trips we even actually look at houses with a realtor.  This time though we used the Trulia iPad app which is actually more efficient.

orlando1

family photo at the capital one bowl game 1/1/2013

Our big plan now is to fix up the house we live in, sell it next August and move to the beach.  It’s unanimous we prefer the Gulf Coast, probably Pensacola or Perdido Key.  We’ve looked at Catholic schools there and it’s a big enough city for Husband to get steady work. This plan probably won’t happen. But we can dream.

And now that we’re back home I’m reminded of how much I love it here–even though it is cold.  I grew up in Alpharetta. Our house is cute and small; and we have horses and cattle on all sides of the neighboring properties.  It’s OUR home and we can be ourselves, without worrying about imposing on others.  This trip wasn’t very relaxing for me because we stayed with other families–Husband’s biological relatives in Tampa and my sister’s family in Orlando.  While both families were spectacular in hospitality, I sometimes felt like we’re imposing.

cousins scootering in orlando

cousins scootering in orlando

Truth be told, Husband, the boys and I are very, very lazy on vacation. We don’t do theme parks or big special outings.  (although we did go to the Capital One Bowl game this trip) We usually simply enjoy one another, hang out at the beach or the pool, read, dream and chill.  They wrestle in the middle of the living room, watch action TV and go fishing.  I piddle around on my iPad, read the latest Baldacci book, watch them wrestle and fish and sleep.

The highlight of the trip was seeing my sister!  It was so nice to have coffee together in the mornings and listen to her talk. My mornings at home are so quiet– it’s just me and God.

me in orlando 1/1/2013 with 2 of my 5 sistahs

me in orlando 1/1/2013 with 2 of my 5 sistahs

So, I enjoyed having her there to talk about the day.  Plus, she’s so good for me!  She convinced me to ride her bike and be active again.  She eats healthy and hardly ever drinks.  So being around her makes me healthier by osmosis.

And then my other sister came in town for the day from Jacksonville–so we had sister time on New Years Day! I HEART my sistahs.  We call ourselves (my mom and her six daughters) the “goddesses” and although that’s not very Catholic, it fits.

me and Husband at the game DAWGS WON woo hoo!  45-31 (or something like that)

me and Husband at the game DAWGS WON woo hoo! 45-31 (or something like that)

But it’s good to be home.  My bed. My things. My dog. My kitchen table. My habits and quirks.  And my meetings.  I went to the 11:30 meeting yesterday at the Alpharetta Club and it was SO GOOD to be back.  This might sound crazy but I try to go to a meeting every day. It keeps me grounded listening to all these other women share about their lives.  And it keeps me out of my own head.

we missed our GYPSY girl.

we missed our GYPSY girl.

And since I know their stories, it feels like home.  It just wasn’t the same going to a meeting in Orlando.  The meeting format was different enough to bug me.  The people were nice but I didn’t know their stories.  Husband went with me, though and that was a plus!

Glad to be home. But still fantasizing about living at the beach.  Here is a link to a lot I want to buy and build a house to live in.

Beach Trip – Perdido Key

Finally got away to the beach.  We found a small condo near at the FL/AL border for just $450 for the week.  They let us bring the dog and the condo was located right on the Intracoastal Waterway.


We ate a lot of seafood, spent time walking on the beach and fishing.  Funny the whole entire week we didn’t even catch one fish.  I think it’s because our bait was wrong.  Plus the bait was smelly especially after the first day.  If I was a fish I wouldn’t eat that crap.


We went to the Naval Air Museum, of course. We saw the IMAX show “Hubble” which was about the stars and the galaxy. Very, very cool.  A big hit of the week was the 3-man raft I got halfway through the week. Brian and I took it for its initial voyage down the Intracoastal. Ben and Rob went next. Then the boys and Rob spent a few days on it out in the ocean. Everybody loved it!

Unfortunately, Brian got sick :(. We had to take him to the doctor while we were down there. Ear infection, deep wet cough, fever, achey. So, he missed out on some of the fun but enjoyed playing with his new DS.

Thursday Family Fire

We have been burning all of our trash, plus wood from around our new home.  I plant pansies when I want to avoid responsibility and Rob builds fires.  He’ll spend all night out there just adding things to the fire.  On Thursday night we got the boys and dog out there.  They jumped on the trampoline.  Boys helped build the fire.

Eventually we’ll put in a real fire pit.  Lots of priority projects before that, though.  We do finally have a working bathroom and shower!  I’ll take pictures and post.

For now, enjoying my boys and my dog.

waterpark


We had such a great time on our road trip through Florida that I have to write about it. The day we went to the Daytona Lagoon waterpark was really fun! The boys were so happy to see their cousin Jack and his “half-sister” Jaime! I loved hanging with MY sister Sally.

Big wave pool. Waterslides every where. The “river” thing and the little playground of water. I went down most of the waterslides with the boys, and I was so proud of myself! They always want me to, but when Rob is there I back off and let him be the player. Since Rob wasn’t there I was sort of free to play myself—at first I had to force myself but after a while I started have fun!

There was one slide that Ben, Brian and I went down on that was enclosed, pitch black and curving and steep and quite scary! It jerked me around a bit like the Dahlonega at Six Flags used to do. Once was enough for me, but Ben and Brian and then Jack and Jaime went down over and over again with big smiles on their faces!

We went in for lunch and came out to find that the park had closed from the rain storm. The park was locked up and all of our stuff was inside, soaked–including my phone. The lifeguards were called and they walked me in and helped me get our things. I had to open up my phone and blow the insides dry in the bathroom hand-dryer, which worked really good actually.

We all left. Sally, Jack and Jaime went back to Jacksonville and we were about to head back to Orlando when we noticed the sunshine peaking through. So, we looked and they were opening the waterpark back up. We parked the car and went back in for another two and a half hours. The boys basically had the park to themselves, so no long lines or waits. They did a waterslide they hadn’t done before back in the corner that was basically straight down with curves and enclosed. Everybody that came out at the bottom had these looks of utter amazement and confusion after going through it. And the boys were able to do it seven times in a row! They loved it. I loved watching them.

I remember thinking I was really enjoying myself! Sad to say, I usually wouldn’t enjoy something like this. In the past, I’d be bored or ready for it to be over so I could go back to doing something else, especially if there was no alcohol involved. But for the first time that I was “aware” of..I enjoyed that the boys were enjoying it. I was fully present and involved in their happiness. I wondered at the time if this is what normal people feel, this stuff of other-centeredness that I had covered up with self-centeredness and alcohol in my quest for relief from what ever it was I was seeking relief from—be it my own strong emotions or growth—anyways, I truly enjoyed being with the boys and doing what THEY wanted to be doing. To most people that might sound really odd—to people like me (call it alcoholic or call it selfishness—doesn’t matter what you call it) this makes complete sense.

summer road trip 2009

We had a really great time on our summer road trip 2009 through Florida. I am most at home in the Florida sunshine and must have some particular molecular happy gene that activates the closer I get to the sea.My baby sister Jennifer and her husband Eric, plus their two darling girls Ella and Anna live in Orlando. Jenny stays home with the girls and so I got to spend a lot of time with her for just under a week. I got a couple of runs in, a couple of good bikes and lots of walks. They were so hospitable and I hardly spent a dime while I was there. Ben loved playing with baby Anna (18 months) and I enjoyed watching my son be so gentle and caring with a baby! Pat myself on the back for that one but for just a moment because the truth is that trait came from God…he was born that way, sensitve, gentle, kind.Brian and the older (three year old) cousin Ella bonded playing side by side computer games. Ella is crazy smart. Like, beyond the normal smart. She’s three—and not even three and a half—and can recite songs and books that have been read to her only once or twice. Her vocabularly is as big as mine. And she labels her feelings, “I’m feeling sad.” She observes other people’s behavior and can label that too, “Sometimes friends don’t feel like friends?” She said that when Ben and Brian were bickering.

Brian is my little willful one, likes to do what he likes to do. When he was younger he would try to get the others to do what he wanted and when they wouldn’t he would be upset. Now, he simply says, “Okay–your loss.” And he goes and does what he wants to do anyways, by himself. I was a lot that way. Naturally independent and witty, creative. We practiced piano while we were there and he is reading notes!

In Orlando, we went to the Orlando Science Museum and the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical GArdens. I went on long bike rides with the kids on a great bike path near their home. I was surprised Brian was able to go 4 miles on that little bike! Ben and I went on a second bike ride the next day…felt like we were “buds.” It was cool. I had to keep myself from flashing forward to him being a grown man!

Eric took the boys on a hike and they saw a skunk—and Eric got stung by a wasp. We played in the pool and Gypsy learned how to swim, watched the ducks in the next door pond and learned how to chase a tennis ball (rather than a little green styrofoam ball I had given her that Dr. Jenny informed me would be dangerous to her if she swallowed it!).

We drove one day over to Daytona and met Sally and Jack and Jaime for a day at the waterpark there.

On Friday, the boys and I left Orlanda and drove up the coast to Ponte Vedra Beach, stopping a couple of times to see the beach and play in the ocean. We spent three days in Ponte VEdra and spent our whole last day at the beach. It was awesome! Unfortunately Sally had to work but me and the three boys had fun. We took in a movie (Ice Age III) and bowling on the rainy first day. John cooked yummy yummy meals every night and we had a great visit!

Now we’re back in Canton, GA—and glad to be back I must admit. Living out of a bag and car gets tiresome after a while. Plus we missed husband.

my baby is nine!


Nine years old. Good gracious where does the time go? I realize this question is tousche but still, man, wow. Ben is nine. I remember nine. Nine, in fact was probably my ‘best year’! LOL But honestly, it probably was my very best year.

When I was nine I had gymnastics practice every day M-Saturday for two or three hours a day. That was fun spending time at the gym practicing my routines and perfecting my “eagle” on the bars. I got 1st place on the balance beam in the junior olymmpics meet, which is actually pretty cool. I nailed my dismount and scored a 9.1. I got third on bars and I don’t remember my score. I got 2nd all-around and I remember how proud my coach Valerie Feltham was. I remember that day she was prouder than usual.

Also, during my ninth summer I finally beat Shannon Senior in a diving meet. And it wasn’t just ANY meet-it was the state meet at Vermack pool in Dunwoody. I got my double down just days before and I scored higher than she did on that dive, beating her in the total score by just a point. Unbelievable day. I remember my parents were out of town and my sister Sally went with me to the meet. She was so great to have my towel ready and make a big deal out of it. I was really happy.

Now I have a child who is nine. Wow. For his birthday, we woke him up at 5:45am singing happy birthday, tossing balloons and presents on him while he slept. Rob is out of town on a fishing trip and hated to miss Ben’s birthday but he was on speaker phone this morning singing with us. He had to get on the boat at 5:45 am so that’s why we woke Ben up so early.

He got a super powered nerf machine gun with 50 rounds that shoots up to three rounds per second. Also, he got a lego agent mission two swamp raid package and he and Brian are putting that together as I write. I made eggs and biscuits (his favorite) and we will have a 7 layer brownie dessert after breakfast. Tonight they’re going over to spend the night with Gigi. We’ll have a real birthday cake when Daddy gets home. Probably Thursday night.

It was so cute this morning when we woke up Ben—he acted all surprised at his gifts even though he picked them all out yesterday himself. He is always SO gracious and humble—much too much for a small kid, but of course I’m always so proud to witness these traits in him.

Ben is a “B” student in school and doesn’t really like to read or write. Maybe that will change. He’s going into 4th grade this coming up year. But he’s got exceptional character traits in him that I didn’t put there. God blessed him with a keen intuition and sensitivity to others. He is great with babies and puppies and little kids. He is patient with Brian and takes the time to instruct and teach him things that I don’t even take the time for.

He lets Brian play with his birthday toys first and winks at me like he knows he’s doing it just to make Brian happy. I can count on Ben pretty much to be responsible and kind—and this is consistent. He is like this ALL the time, not just on occasion.

Every body likes Ben. I know this sounds dumb because I’m obviously biased, but I don’t say things like this easily. He is invited to all the birthday parties and is asked to play more than I think is typical. Every kid loves Ben. He makes friends as easy as breathing. He’s a natural friend. He’s not necessarily a “leader” I’ve noticed—but a definite team player, collaborator, helper. He’s good at every sport. He likes every sport. He likes to play. Always wants to be outside with friends playing. He’s competitive but a good loser and a good winner. God placed in him a disposition that is nothing short of perfect IMHO for a kid who will be most likely to succeed.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if he should start “specializing” in one sport and get good at one thing. I haven’t noticed the drive or focus in him necessary to hone in on one thing. He seems to be well-rounded and good at everything. I wonder if we should help him focus and get great at something. Of course if I had to pick it would be baseball! I love baseball. Tennis and golf are smart lifetime choices, so we’ll teach him those skills. By nine, I was REALLY good at gymnastics and REALLY good at diving. But the fact of the matter is I was “burned out” on it by high school.

So maybe there is something to be said for just doing everything…learn the basics of everything and then pick later which sport to focus on. I see all these little kids doing travel baseball and all these camps and private lessons—and I worry maybe I should be putting Ben in all this stuff, like maybe it will be my fault if his natural abilities don’t “materialize” into something spectacular. I worry if I don’t do all these specialized things for him then I will be the one to have prevented him from winning the US Open or something LOL! But then again, when these kids are burned out in high school, Ben will be psyched and ready to go.

Happy Birthday Ben! You are such a gift from God to us. May He bless you and keep you safe for a long, fruitful, happy, whole and complete life. Stay close to Jesus and your Catholic faith. You are precious. We love you!

Fort Barrancas

Me and the boys went to Fort Barrancas yesterday here in Pensacola. It was really cool, especially for 7 and almost 9 year old boys. I was getting a little closterphobic—how funny–I have no idea how to spell clausterphobic and that rarely happens. I usually know how to spell everything. Anyways, the guide was a little long-winded…they could shorten the guided tour by 30 minutes and it would still be great. But the guy was having fun.

Barrancas means “bluff” in Spanish, apparently. I’m surprised I didn’t know that either! I’m just full of surprises this morning. I have prided myself in having a thick vocabulary in translating Spanish, but it seems to be fading :(. In fact, I have patted myself ont he back for both those two things: knowing how to spell everything and knowing what everything means in Spanish.
This Fort Barrancas is on the Naval Air Base which overlooks the mouth to Pensacola Bay. European colonization, American expansion and threats of invasion led to the building of coastal forts along the northern Gulf Coast. This one served as the gateway to the outside world and the lock on the gate from potential foreign invaders. The guide said the very first shots of the civil war were fired here..but then he digressed and said perhaps they weren’t any bullets (pellets or whatever they’re called) in the muskets, though.

In 1971, Fort Barrancas became part of the newly formed Gulf Islands National Seasore. Extensive restoration of the fort was completed in 1980.

By the time we toured the inside of the fort, the rain had started to really come down hard, but of course the boys didn’t mind. I wouldn’t have minded so much either if I didn’t have my camera and mobile phone…but once we reach the Parade (the center of the fort, the open area)I was so happy to see daylight that I didn’t worry at first that everything was getting soaked.

The Parade held a hot shot furnace where connonballs were heated for firing at wooden sailing ships. Scott the Guide told us that this was the origination of the term “hot shot” referring to either the soldier that carried the hot balls from furnace all the way up to the cannons or maybe to the cannon firer himself. He wasn’t specific which one hot shot referred to. In either case, a “hot shot” was a stud. They would fire these burning cannon balls onto incoming bad guys in the hopes they would make the ships catch fire. I wondered if there were any cannon balls still at the bottom of Pensacola Bay.

Afterwards, we drove around and looked at all the white identical tombstones throughout Barrancas National Cemetery. I have always felt “at home” in cemeteries. That sounds weird even to me to say/think but it’s true. I notice it in my son Brian too. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s a closeness to death—or LIFE, actually. I imagine the lives of the people in the graves and their children and grandchildren and happiness.

There’s an automatic respect and reverence every time I come upon a cemetery–I could hang out in a cemetary all day letting my mind wander about all the lives there. Oh the stories my brain can tell. And then I imagine that I am some mind-reader and that all my stories I’ve concocted about their lives are all true, like they are speaking to me from the dead.

Sometimes, it feels like they’re trying to reach me..not in a weird way, well, I guess this is all weird, but just in a way that says, “Hi!” In my mind, all the dead people are very happy when there are visitors to their cemetaries. Like they can’t wait to tell their stories.

It was nice to be there on Memorial Day. Each grave had a little flag, which must have taken someone hours to do because there are thousands of gravestones.

It was raining and we didn’t find my Granddad’s grave this time. But I took a picture of it last time so I’ll try to find it on my computer and upload it here.