Monday, June 29, 2015

Annual Fort Morgan Beach Trip

We left Destin and drove about 4 hours to Fort Morgan, AL. We go with the same group of friends every year- we were all friends in Birmingham when our husbands did residency together. Now, we live in 6 different states (none of which is Alabama), but we all meet together once a year in this house at the beach! It is really one of our favorite weeks all year. 

12 adults and 16 kids! 

We actually started going before any of us even had kids, but a few people had to miss for various reasons in the past. But, this is our 4th consecutive year going to the exact same house.

The picture makes it look overwhelming and chaotic. But, it is really much more intimate and relaxing in real life. It never actually feels like that many people. 

2013 and 2014.


Note for next year: do not try to do pictures at 6pm. It was so hot and sunny, but the kids were such troopers.

This was my timehop one of the days we were there- 6 years ago! All of our now 6 year olds were just tiny babies. 

The guys got matching NEON shirts with the UAB dragon embroidered on it. Oh, and also "Fort Morgan Sand Bar Patrol." I cannot even make this up. And, at one point, they were apparently all piled on the golf cart, and someone stopped them to ask them for help. I just can't.

And, we had matching tank tops! 
I know some people will think we look ridiculous and like we are 15, but...haters gonna hate. We loved them, we rocked them, AND, we actually managed to ALL be at the beach at the SAME moment with no children attached to our legs or boobs. #winning

The ice cream man is a genius and came veerrrryy slooooowllly through our neighborhood twice a day. It was a definite hit with the kids. It was also a hit with the dads, and more than once I saw Hughes sprinting up the sand trying to catch him before his jingling music passed us.

Reese now randomly requests, "Ice cream truck?" as if I can just magically make one appear.

This guy. Going to a beach (twice) with a two/three month old isn't what I would call relaxing. But, he is a really good baby. I definitely missed out on quite a bit of beach time and hang out time in the evenings (he still doesn't have a bedtime, and he STILL wakes up at least twice at night). He is so smiley and snuggly and perfect, though, so he makes up for it. 

So much food. All junk. And, all right at the kids' level. They were living in paradise. 

We had the 3rd floor, because it is 2 rooms and perfect for our age of kids. There was an elevator that mostly worked, which is the ONLY way I was able to get to our floor, because I usually had both Reese and Levi with me. 

The balcony view is gorgeous, so the kids ate snacks out there a few times. 

My two shadows for the entire trip. I barely saw Lily, because she was swimming, having a dance party, getting herself dressed, getting her own snack, not breastfeeding, etc... #itdefinitelygetseasier

It was HOT, so the frozen otter pops tasted more delicious than they probably would have in any other situation. I ate quite a few myself. 

Reese didn't want to nap, and since I needed the room for Levi anyway, I just set her on the back porch and went to get her a popsicle. She fell asleep by the time I got back, rubber ducky in hand. 

I spent a LOT of time with this guy.

The other kids were sooo sweet to him. I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to set him down, but they were all very careful. 

One day, we got babysitters to come and sit in the house with the older kids while the younger ones napped. It was the best part of the trip! Obviously. I still had to leave to go nurse Levi, but I got to actually SIT DOWN with a DRINK and just enjoy being on the beach for that little bit. It was one of the few times all 12 of the adults were together, so I asked someone else on the beach to take our picture. It is so crazy that we don't see these people more than once a year, but it is completely normal when we are back together. It's like we all still live in the same city. 

Water Balloons were a HUGE hit this year. Lily can tie them, but they just resorted to filling them up and then throwing them, untied, at each other. Each year just gets better and better as our kids get older and entertain themselves more. 

Cracking Up. 
This is Hughes in the hot tub, probably imparting his wisdom to these poor souls. I am not sure how he ended up as the lone adult in the hot tub, but it is pretty funny.

There are two pools, about 10 feet from each other, but this one was ALWAYS packed, and the other one would just have a random float drifting all alone, like a tumbleweed. Now that many of the kids can swim, it is a game changer. 

Connor was the second youngest, and Reese LOVED him. "There's Connor!," she would proclaim, as if he was lost and she found him. Multiple times a day.  Jess has 2 boys and they spent almost all day, every day on the beach. 

Rubber Ducky and Tiny Bear. 

If you are thinking, "what would be really fun to keep up with on the sandy beach?" these two tiny objects are NOT the answer. Tiny Bear became a casualty, but we came home with Rubber Ducky! There were a few close calls, but we ultimately prevailed. 
I can't decide if I should be proud of us...or sort of appalled that we spent so much time making sure the tiny objects were safe. 

At one point, Jess told me, in complete seriousness, "Oh, I don't know if you saw, but Marshmallow is outside." I ran outside and grabbed it immediately, relishing a little in the knowledge that it was saved for one more day. I love that our friends were helping us keep up with them. (Marshmallow is a tiny white wooden cube- the size of rubber ducky. She also had purple marshmallow, which completed the quartet of tiny lovies). 

Eric was so sweet to Reese and had serious conversations with her about her tiny objects. She even let him hold them a few times. 

Reese and Ella Kate, Maggie's sister. It was like a little deja vu moment for us to watch them, because they both look so similar to their older sisters. It was like watching Lily and Maggie in the baby pool 4 years ago. 

Ross brought water balloons and a slingshot. And, they attempted to shoot the other guys on the beach. They never grow up, apparently. 

Little bit of Daddy time.
(He despises all things social media/blog related / and proof that he has feelings. So, please never mention any pictures like this to him. 

This was definitely the longest stretch Reese spent on the beach. 

Reese hates the beach as much as Lily does. Reese has a very different personality, and is significantly less intense/angry/persistent as Lily was at this age. Reese definitely has an opinion, but she is usually pretty tolerant and go-with-the-flow. She is approximately 263 times easier to parent than Lily. So, she would cry a little and repeat every few seconds, "Go inside. Les go inside, Mama. Bye bye beach." But, she would usually just sit there and say that. She didn't tantrum about it, even though she wasn't happy. We did give in and let her watch Max and Ruby on our phones (don't judge- it's her vacation, too).   A few times, she did take matters into her own hands (feet?) and just get up and start walking toward the house. 

I found this on a blog post from 3 years ago. Lily has never liked the beach. it's really pretty funny how much she hates it, like maybe in some former life she was attacked by a shark or something.

Ross had to chase the ice cream truck down one time on the golf cart, because he passed us. 

Worth the chase!

Sweet Maggie. 
Since I see Lily every day, she doesn't look older to me. But, seeing Maggie only once (or twice) a year makes me realize how big our babies are getting! 

Jack and Ella Kate sharing Lucky Charms. They are precious- these two little blonde haired twins. I loved watching them and seeing their bond but also their differences. It makes me sad that we don't live in the same city, but I am so grateful that Emily and I have stayed so close. 

Lots of crafting on our side of the house. 

Marshmallow and Rubber Ducky. 

Emma and Cole, the 4 year olds. They are so precious, and it was so much fun watching them be a year older and hang with the 6 year olds. 

The Sheltons, about to embark on a golf cart ride. 

Mack, the youngest Bowers (brother of Ellie and Emma)

Max. He was not at the beach, but Melissa sent me this picture of him, and it was on my camera roll. He is too cute not to include. 

Hughes got Lily a little disco ball type Bluetooth speaker. It plays songs from her iPod through it, and the lights sync to the music's beat. 

I DO realize how ridiculous I sound, referring to a 6 year old's "toy."

It was a HUGE hit, and the kids had dance almost every night. Many of the kids are old enough that we can just let them go upstairs and do it without us even having to check in. I still had Reese and Levi who had to stay downstairs (I didn't trust Reese on the bunk bed ladders), but this gives me SO MUCH HOPE for the next few years as my kids get older. 

As far as I could tell (I tried to avoid it as much as possible for fear of getting asked to bring a snack or to stay and help), they alternated who were the judges and who were the dancers. 

A video Caroline took of Lily dancing to "Bad Blood":Lily Dance Party

A glimpse into the madness: (at the end, Lily is yelling at me to leave). 

Lily, Ellie, Caroline, Maggie, Emma. 

Until next year...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Family Beach Trip.

This about sums it up.

We went to Destin with part of the family. Melissa and her crew didn't come (variety of reasons), but they were there in spirt. I  called her every morning about 5:30 am when my kids were up, and I knew hers would be, too. Zack, Amanda, Kyler, Noah, and my crew were there for the whole week. Mom and Pops came down on Monday.

The above picture is after we spent about 6-7 hours in the car from Hoover (and about 6 hours the day before, too). We were all so excited to be at the destination that it could have been a Walgreens, and we would have been elated. But, there are few things more exhilarating than that first breath of beach air, with the salty tinge of the ocean.

Also, Levi's first palm tree selfie. 

He is our easiest baby, no competition.  I am really glad that someone went ahead and gave him the heads up that nobody was really going to have time for him, so he better just come into the world pretty chill.

(Whale outfit, courtesy of Aunt Manda). 

One night, we went to the area that has Harry T's in it, and the kids had a lot of fun. They got to run around dancing, gem-mining, and doing a scavenger hunt. 

Super cute surprise- courtesy of Aunt Manda. This was the best picture I could get of the two of them.

This is one of the few pictures of me on the trip, and it sums up my role perfectly. 

Definitely a framer. Just living the vacation dream.
(And, yes, I am aware my posture is terrible). 

Fireworks with Aunt Manda. This was my favorite night for sure.

When you go to the beach, and your kids "hate, hate that stupid beach" (quote by Lily), you have to find things to do to kill time. So, we ended up at Publix a few times for free cookies, balloons, and shopping cart rides.  And, the truth is that Publix feels like vacation to me. #ihatefoodcity

Luckily, I had good company, since my dad also prefers to be inside. We spent over an hour playing with Lily's DIY charm bracelet kit. By "we," I mean Pops and me, while Lily sat on the couch and watched Monster High. Pops is apparently an excellent be-dazzler. 

 (If you know a girl- or a grandpa- who loves charm bracelets and to craft, it was super cute! And, it was only $11 when I bought it: Alex Charm Bracelet)

This guy got even more cuddles than usual.

Me: "Come on, let's go to the beach! It will be fun!"

Girls: Crying, begging, pleading to not have to go.

We only went to the beach on Sunday and Monday, and then I just quit bringing up the idea, since I didn't actually want to walk in the heat and carry all of our stuff and deal with the sand. It was actually relaxing in a way to not have to run out and go anywhere.
Also, they look super Asian in that picture.

And, yet, there are so many hours in the day when your kids wake up at 5:30am on vacation.
We found a cute splash pad/playground. Rubber Ducky had a lot of fun sliding. Reese kept pushing it/him/her down the slide, and I would panic, thinking some kid was going to run up and snatch up R.D. (that's how Hughes refers to it). Then, I was going to have to chase a 4 year old and demand she hand over the tiny duck. Lots of anxiety on my part. Thankfully, we made it through the entire trip (and the next week!) with rubber ducky still in Reese's grip.

Snow cones!

It is so hard for me to believe how old these boys are! I love that they still call me Aunt Cole. We did a really terrible job of taking pictures, but this was a good one.

We took Lily to Build a Bear and spent about a year's worth of college tuition on a stuffed animal. 
She has only been to Build a bear once- a year and a half ago with Sissa when she got Lucy.  So, she was ECSTATIC! She took it very seriously, pumping the fur, kissing the heart, making a wish, etc... I texted Melissa this picture, and when she saw Hughes was there, she texted back something like, "He is going to let her get whatever she wants." And, he did. Lily never asks me for toys, because she knows I will say no. She doesn't even have to ASK Daddy- he just starts showing her Elsa robes and slippers and crowns and backpacks. 

Lily gave her the very creative name of: Elsa Bear.

She was soooo appreciative and very concerned about how much money it cost. She felt really special to get some time with just us (well, and Baby Levi) while Reese was napping. But, she was also sad about Reese not getting one. 

Reese LOVES Bop. OBSESSED. As soon as she saw my parents, she was freaking out and just kept climbing on them saying, "Bye bye mama. Go with Noni/Bop."

Doing a little dancing one day.

Hughes HATES pictures, so it is so hard to get him to pose with me. 

This was my favorite picture from the whole trip. 

Noni and these people, watching TV, avoiding the beach.

Reese semi-tolerates the pool, but mostly just likes to walk around it and throw random stuff in for Lily to retrieve. Lily loves to dive and get said items, so it was a really perfect game. 

I know some parents make their kids sit on the beach and deal with it, but it is my kids' vacation, too. And, it IS hot and crowded and sandy, so I just don't really blame them for not loving it. The beach trips are definitely still Lily's favorite weeks of the entire year, though. She LOVES spending time with family. 

HOURS and HOURS were spent in this bed every morning. It became a sweet little routine, actually. About 5:30, they all woke up, and I would go in here with them. Lily would go downstairs and get suckers and gummies and Capri Suns for everyone. We would watch SpongeBob and take turns kissing the Mister. 
I am clearly very concerned about my kids' eating and TV habits. #spongebobforhours 

Lily and I walked down to this little restaurant one day, and she got her own Diet Coke. 

On Tuesday night, my Aunt Paula and my cousins came to visit! They live in Memphis and were vacationing the same week! I love my Aunt Paula! 

I think Lily's favorite part of the trip was when Morgan came to swim and eat hot dogs. Lily is constantly disappointed that she doesn't have about 45 cousins, so she clings to Jacob and Morgan (who she only sees once a year) as cousins. They are her third cousins, but she includes them in her family lineup.*

*Do other kids constantly make family lineups and count how many family members they have, almost in a hoarding fashion?

Michael, my Mom, Shannon. These cousins (and Keith- now in Vegas) were an integral part of our childhood. #kickball

Aunt Paula lived next door to us when we were growing up, and they were such a major part of my childhood and life. I love that my kids get a chance to meet her and get smothered in kisses by her.

Shannon is boy-mom-extraordinaire, so she got some grins from this guy. 

We went to the Tracks place one night, and everyone had a blast. 

Aunt Manda and her shadow. 

Lily followed her around all week- except when Amanda was at the beach, because even her love for Aunt Manda isn't strong enough to overcome the beach hatred. We keep waiting for the attachment to Aunt Manda to fade, but it just keeps getting stronger. 

I just cannot even handle him. 

Noah was always up for some pool time.

Reese in the middle of a heated volleyball game. MVP, I am sure. 

Lily and Aunt Manda drinking matching smoothies (one without alcohol).

My nephews got redneck airbrushed tank tops and wore them. It's what they do.

Selfie with the pacifier.

I love watching my brother with my kids. He would definitely win some sort of Uncle contest. 

One week down. 

Loaded up and headed to our second beach week! 
Also, Rubber Ducky shout out. 

Truth- looking at these pictures makes me exhausted. #vacationwithsmallkids

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