Adventure · Family · Florida · Travel

Another Adventure

Just went to Clearwater again – Spring break happened to coincide with tenants moving out/into our house down there.  There was the usual clean-up and freshen, plus some fun along the way.  We went to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Frenchy’s – SouthBeach and Saltwater, Sand Key (multiple times) OKeefe’s and more.

I will be writing more about some of these visits for an online magazine called Delicious Catch.  You can search on my last name to see other articles I’ve written as well.

Here is one from the last batch of articles I wrote for them:

I really love going down there – it is a reset on so much of the crazy in our lives and I love sharing my childhood with my children.  That’s really what a lot of it feels like.  Sure, a lot has changed, but for now, there is still a lot the same.  I love them playing in the pool where I learned to swim and where I spent countless hours playing with my sisters and other friends.  My mom used to sit in a chair with a stopwatch in her hand and count how many times we could jump off the diving board in a minute…we’d line up at the end of the board, she’d press the button and we’d run to the end – jump off – and get back to the side as quickly as possible.  We thought it was fabulous!

I was remembering so many of the games we played as I watched my girls giggle and play similarly this week.  They have the silliest game where walk to the edge of the pool pretending to do something and ‘fall’ into the pool.  It is complete nonsense but is so entertaining to them.  We had a similar game where we would act out commercials or songs and walk off the diving board mid-step.  Like my girls, our game was endless.

There is something almost magical about sitting in a chair at the side of the pool with my dad, watching my girls play.  I took a couple of pictures, but mostly I just chatted with dad and watched them play.  They would ask me to watch something specific and of course it seemed like it was identical to the last amazing feat I watched….which mostly cracked me up.  Sometimes it was an interruption into my all too limited time chatting with dad, but mostly it was really joyful.

I’m blessed and so thankful to get to enjoy these things.  More so for being able to realize it now instead of later.  I could run more, work more, do so many other things for sure…but for this time I am grateful to be present.

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

Vacations, family and friends

Growing up we took a lot of vacations – we were blessed I know.  My grandparents made a point of taking a couple of us at a time and going someplace in Florida to explore.  We loved the hotel pools, and seeing the local sites.  It was such a treat.  These were not elaborate vacations but simply spending time away from home with family.  I loved them.

When we got a little older (I was around 12) they bought a pop-up camper for us to share with our cousins.  We began to take camping trips about once a month.  We camped near Juniper Springs which as not too far of a trip, but it was a trip I can assure you.  We jumped in the icy cold water and looked for the white eels that were lurking in the natural spring pool.  It was wonderful and we felt brave.

We met up with family friends and camped in adjacent campsites – Cape Canaveral, Fort Wilderness, Ocala…anywhere we could and we just played outside all day.  We didn’t bring our favorite toys and we didn’t have ipods/ipads or in-car videos.  We just made up games while running around outside.  What adventures we made up too!!

We sometimes went to Indian Rocks Beach for a week.  That cracks me up a little since it is also an easy drive to go out to eat.  But now I get it.  It wasn’t home, it was on the water and since another family friend owned it – the price was right.  We did that so much that we practically thought that place was partly ours! 🙂  Wonderful family who owned it – showed us neat things about coquina shells and other wonderful exploration-worthy items.  Again – we didn’t bring toys from home, maybe the occasional shovel and pail – certainly we had rafts to ride the waves – but all of the entertainment was outside. 

In the summers, we would drive up to Michigan and stay with … yes family friends.  It was a theme in our lives and we LOVED it.  The friends up there had a 100 acre farm – talk about adventure!! We would stop on the trip up at KOA’s and visit national parks and other sites along the way.  We participated in campground dances, cookouts and met new ‘friends’ at every stop. 

One summer we went up to Virginia – that wasn’t our final destination but it is a huge highlight.  We blew a tire in our station wagon while pulling the pop-up camper.  Picture this: 5 girls between the ages of 8-17 in the back of a station wagon.  We all are in our “assigned” places not touching one another…when we realize the tire might blow because pieces are flying off.  We start screaming and ‘preparing’ for the inevitable blowout which will surely send us over the side of the bridge we are on…it will then surely jackknife the camper into the station wagon so we need to plan our exit strategy…chaos is putting it mildly.  We finally made it to the other side just as the tire blew…BIG BLOWOUT!  It broke the axle.  So we pulled over.  Dad walked up to a strangers house (no cell phones) and asked to use the phone.  He called a tow truck. It was pitch black.  I have a picture in my head of him using a public phone but I don’t recall how that took place.  I recall, however, him looking up an old friend he knew in Jr High – calling him on the phone and after my dad said hello – just hello – the words ” WELL LAMAR MACNUTT” bellowed back at him.  I thought that was so incredible.  So Billy Kyle came to get us.  We were saved.  We spent the night at their home and the next day he sent us to Busch Gardens in a spare old car he had.  He was the Reverand Billy Kyle and Busch Gardens employed him as such.  Yea!  We got in this cool old car and went off to Busch Gardens.  We pulled into the parking spot and my dad made some ‘uhoh’ type sound.  Turns out – the car ran without a key in it.  Yep – no key!  🙂  Adventures for sure.

When we returned from that trip, my dad went out practically the next day – and got a motor home.  No more bathroom stops, no more stopping for crappy food, and plenty of space to send 5 arguing girls to opposite ends of the vehicle.  Even to “bed”!

The adventures were many and I will continue this in a part 2…maybe more.  Things are so different in today’s vacations.  I’d like to find a happy medium.

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

Just another day

This year I turned 50. Looking at my life, our life – felt like something was missing. Marc and I talked and agreed that we are not living the best life for our family where we are now. We were looking for change and considered – for about 5 months – moving to Ecuador. We ended up tabling that decision at the 11th hour which was a huge blow and a tough decision. Hard to explain both the desire to move and the decision not to move to our children….because so much of the goal was about getting them to see how to take risks and accept challenges.

Having made that decision, almost immediately my childhood friend’s daughter had a brain injury requiring brain stem surgery. Crazy enough the surgery took place right here in Atlanta and I was able to provide much needed support during lots of waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. Living in different cities with two young girls each, we had lost our once very strong connection to one another. The past several months we have spent countless hours together, our children have become friends, her daughter is healing beautifully and our lives, in a very special way, have been changed.

I have a sadness about not having moved to a different country to live with my family (one of my life-long dreams) but I also have a deep joy and appreciation for the things that have come into my life because we stayed. Our lives are already different in such a sweet way.

Today marks a new phase for another friend whose now 3 year old has finished chemo and will find out today if her cancer is GONE. That mom will then shift her attention to another child, her 5 yr old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD and has undergone a tremendous amount of change himself upon starting kindergarten, getting diagnosed and more. Aimee is an amazing mom and good person and I learn so much by watching her and reading her blog. We were in a moms group when I first moved here. I left that group years ago when my eldest finished preschool. We lost touch and reconnected last year when this sweet boy started preK with my crazy Olivia.

More reconnections. More change. More reasons to be here. Now.

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

INK – Interactive Neighborhoood for Kids

This place is definitely off the beaten path – and is also well worth the drive! Plan for a long visit – your kids will not want to leave! They have created a mini-world for kids where they can ‘be’ a Dr who takes Xrays to a dentist or a vet who actually uses the tools of the trade. There is a grocery store with shopping carts and check out. All of these are kid-sized for maximum fun. They sell a small selection of snacks and have a large room where you can take a break and picnic with your kids. Bring your own lunch – they encourage it. Then get back to the fun and let your kids play dress-up, fly an airplane or do almost anything their imaginations can dream up!

I give this place 5 stars….you will too!

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

Another Fun Family outting

We love finding local fun – outdoors .. .and more chances to wear our favorite costumes.  We have done this one in the past and it is cute and not over-crowded as you have a huge space to stroll around.  There are photo spots set up…in fact one of my favorite pictures from Halloween a few years back was from this event.  Super fun, fast, easy and the kids will walk themselves to exhaustion!  Total win-win!
October 26, 2013 – 3:00PM – 5:00PM
The Avenue East Cobb
On Saturday, October 26 from 3 PM – 5 PM, enjoy complimentary children’s entertainment, crafts, face painters, balloon art and more. Back by popular demand: Stroll The Avenue stores and pick up treats from more than 45 stores including chocolate, your favorite candy, giveaways and more.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the perfect pictures to share
Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

Relax Bottle/Time Out Timer

What a great idea this is – I can’t wait to try it and post more!

My Crazy Blessed Life!

Sooooo… I have a three-year-old little girl who is full of drama.  Probably not the only one in history, but one of my current dilemmas.  When time out time comes for bad behaviour I find myself with a little girl on the bottom step screaming, kicking walls and not able to even calm down enough to learn her lesson.  This was getting worse and worse until I told my husband, “there has to be a better way, I’m going to research this.”  So I went online and read other mom’s advice, dr’s advice, psychologist’s advice, etc.  Nothing was really working.  Finally I saw something called a mind jar.  This was a mason jar filled with water, clear gel glue and ultra fine glitter.  You shake it and the glitter settles slowly as you watch you relax.   The original ones I saw were to teach children to meditate (not my goal).  I loved…

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Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel


I have started a talk radio blog.  I am having fun creating little 15 minute ‘shows’ and am learning a little about the way recording works, juggling the kid interruptions, etc.

I started it because I want to record in a new way, the things we are trying to accomplish as a family.  I was blessed with parents who took us on a lot of adventures – from the time I was about 12, we camped a lot as a family then we graduated to longer trips and ultimately we got into RV traveling as a family.  We were able to see much of this country in a great setting: we drove it.  I actually only got behind the wheel of the beast we called the RV one time because I hated it.  Never a big driving fan anyhow, that thing was awful to drive in my opinion.  That is a whole other story.

Today’s story is this – whatever we can do to enhance the family experience – we need to do.  My parents didn’t lavish us with overpriced gifts, they lavished us with amazing experiences.  I will forever remember sitting in the front seat with my mom driving thru the night – singing away to “Kansas City Here I Come” – we made up little motions and giggled our way through it.  That is how it was traveling with our family.  A lot of silly times, we would go to national parks whenever we could – and always….I mean ALWAYS…my dad would pick up the brochure and start reading aloud.  It was cool…but it was also one of those things we girls would say “DAAAAAAD” and laugh, shrug, and yes, listen.  It was fun and interested in extremely educational. 

Mostly, it was cool.  We drove up to North Dakota and met up with another Family one summer and traveled.  We saw Devils Tower the year that it was Richard Dreyfus’ mashed potato creation!  We drove down the coast of California, Alicia and I sitting in front a lot of the way looking out and seeing nothing but cliff below us as the wheel well was set much farther in than the wall of the RV.  We drove through Tahoe, to Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion….stopped in Las Vegas (we all hung out in the RV while the adults checked the hot scenes! NO FAIR!!).  We sung lots of songs, and memorized our limited set of tapes – Bob Segar, Billy Joel, Kenny Rodgers, etc.  Everyone ‘took turns’ sitting in nearly every location – at the table, in the bed, in the front….etc. 

Yes, I have wonderful memories of traveling with my family and it instilled in me a love of traveling and exploring that I hope to pass along to my own children.  I crave it.  It fills me with such delight to see new places and meet new people…I love to just soak in the differences and enjoy them. 

We are working now to get our house ready to sell – what a chore while trying to also keep up with ‘normal’ life of swim team, activities, play dates, etc.  But, we are getting through it and hoping when we do sell – we will have a plan in place to move on to a new adventure. 

My personal dream is to move us to Ecuador for the next school year and after that, who knows.  I’ve recently become certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language so that I can work/volunteer there.  That will cover Visa’s for us for that year.  It won’t cover much else….hence the Radio Blog and whatever else I can do that is mobile…and has the potential to make a little money.  A little is all I need to make to live there…thankfully. 

Today is a new challenge. I’ve actually decided to loop my children into the house-prep plan. Genius right?  I’ve been killing myself trying to work AROUND their lives and last night realized the error of my ways.  Today we start “TEAM ZOLAR” moving things out and prepping for sale as a team.  Who knows if it will work…but I think it is absolutely worth a try.

Ok – now I need to get the girls ready for swim practice. 

Adventure · Family · Florida · Odds and Ends · Travel

Life at 322 – Bessie

I remember being home from school and wanting to play.  Mom had rules…lots of rules (she kept order in the chaos of our lives for sure).  We could have ginger ale, crackers and stay in our rooms.  that was it.  I remember how I hated sick days!

Years later – #5 came along and use to stay home sick on Wednesdays or Fridays until mom figured out she wanted to hang with Bessie – our housekeeper of 20+ years.  Bessie was awesome and another of mom’s wonderful finds – a fabulous cleaner and caregiver – she was Czechoslovakian and as sweet as could be.  She could tell stories and would do just about anything for us.  One year, very early in Sesame Street days – she gave us each a 45 record of a character singing a song – they became “our” songs so we each had a favorite – created by Bessie.  She was subtle that way – giving us our own space and uniting us at the same time.

She was a constant presence in our lives for as long as I can remember.  We wrote and called during college – saw her on holidays and long after our family needed her services, still had her over or visited her from time to time.  When I think of my childhood – Bessie is as much a part of our history as any other person.  We were blessed to have such loving support in every area of our lives and I believe it was essential to the balance of our crazy childhood.

I have only a few pictures with Bessie in it – which is strange to me because I felt like she was always there. 

Bessie wore her hair in a bun – always.  We begged and begged her to take it down and show us what her hair really looked like.  So, one day on her way to Wednesday Church Meetin’ – she stopped by the house all dressed up – we were so excited as there was quite a bit of build-up.  She walked in and it was about an inch longer than the bun!   In hindsight we knew the bun was tiny, but at the moment in time – we were SHOCKED – “where’s all of your hair” we wanted to know.  “Well now – it’s right hee-yar” She sing-songed as she tugged at the tiny bit of hair.  We giggled and had a few minutes of fun before she dashed out the door to be on her way.

She was like that.  Full of love and joy – yet serious as all.  She had watched the children of others we knew and sometimes told us just harrowing stories of events involving people we knew.  They were not harrowing looking back — but we were appropriately agog and aghast at the things she told.  Once, when I guess my mom was watching the Lecher twins, one of them wiggled right out of my hands and landed on the hard floor on his head – I was devastated – Bessie had a story to tell to show me it was ok….she thought.  “Once a youngun I watched choked on a small marble…it was the scariest thing – it went RIGHT DOWN HER THROAT and she couldn’t breathe…she plum stopped breathin and I had to turn her over my knee to knock that toy out of her mouth and get her breathing again – she cried – land-o-goshen did that little one cry — we were glad to hear it since it meant she was breathin again”.  Terrified me! 🙂 haha! 

She was a little like a live-in Grandma since she was at our house so much and took care of us so wonderfully.  Tucked us in at night, sang songs with us, and always on the go.  You rarely saw Bessie sitting down – only if it was to read to us (usually folding while she did). 

I’d love to have a Bessie in my children’s lives….for now I will just share the memories as best I can.