We spent most of last week making our children’s dreams come true, as we attempt to do every year.

Okay we attempt it every day but at least once a year we actually succeed – and more often than not, it’s on this trip.


The time had come for our formerly-semi-annual-but-now-annual beach trip with their best friends, AJ and Tessa (and their parents and a babysitter. But our kids may or may not realize there are other people present on the trip.)


We cannot discuss this year’s trip without first going in reverse to look at the prior trips. Because they were just so dreamily adorable.


2008 beach trip



…Including a new addition.




…Had another new addition.




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And 2016, where we now have children the ages of almost 10, 9.5, 7, and 5.5.


And yes, Noah’s wearing the same swimsuit as 2015.


And yes, Noah did smile charmingly for one single solitary picture.


Our two original tagalongs have done a lot of growing, both in their height and their eternal best-friendship.


We went to Florida this year – to Seagrove Beach on 30A, to be specific. The perfect road trip stop on the way to 30A is the gem that is Florala,


and their lovely park.



It’s the perfect place for a quick stretch-your-legs break.


And I do mean quick because it doesn’t take very long to crave the lovely air conditioning of the car again.


We arrived at the beach house and the children were beyond thrilled to find that the owners of our rental house were absolutely obsessed with televisions – there was one in every room, plus one in each of the four bunkbeds in the girl’s room. This discovery led to some epic mixed media chilling – four televisions plus two tablets on vacation where there aren’t screen limits? They found it nearly as exciting as the gorgeous beach.


This was the first year that Noah had his own room (usually we split the kids by siblings pairs, but we let the three girls use the bunk room.) He was a little distressed by this arrangement before we arrived, but once he saw how BIG his bed was, and that he had HIS OWN TV and EVEN A CHAIR in his room and OH MY GOSH IT HAS A BALCONY(!!), he was one happy little man. As were all of his cars, which had plenty of room to stretch out and line up.


Parenting really is all about the marketing.

We managed to drag them away from their many sources of Disney Junior to enjoy the fabulousness of the Gulf of Mexico.


Although the kids didn’t seem to mind, the first day was a bit disappointing for us grownups who were looking forward to the shockingly clear waters of 30A, because there was quite the seaweed population happening.


However, the water recovered by the next day and the seaweed moved on to irritate some other spoiled vacationers, and we were rewarded with the water we had been waiting for.


It is really just stunning to experience in person. All you who haven’t visited the Alabama / Florida Gulf of Mexico shoreline need to give it a try. Tomorrow.

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We were even rewarded with a growing-smellier-by-the-hour puddle/stream that was perfect for placing a sandcastle right in the middle of it.


We took a babysitter again this year, an upgrade that I highly recommend. Giann got to do whatever she wanted all day while we played with the kids, and then at night, when the kids were way too tired to go out to eat, the four parents got a nice quiet double date out.


During the other quite necessary rest times (Florida sun is exhausting, y’all), the smaller pair thoroughly explored all of the televisions,



And the older two stayed in the bunk room doing crafts and perfecting their three different secret codes utilized for sending messages back and forth in their between-bunk delivery system.


Chris, myself, David and Ashley and I used the kid’s daytime chill time to swap up and pair up for runs and bicycle rides, discovering such delights as the house from The Truman Show,


And the local wildlife enjoying the other local wildlife.

I also woke up on our last day and took a long run, giving me the intense enjoyment of watching the sunrise as I ran.



And speaking of sunrise, you know I enjoyed sunset every night. And you’re just waiting for those pictures, right?

Wednesday night was creepy and stormy,


Thursday night was demure,


Friday night was a show-off with its many stages,





And Saturday night was determined, fighting off an incoming storm and wall cloud to get its sunset in first.





As this last sunset was enjoyed on one of our double dates, we swapped out taking each other’s sunset couple pictures – because that’s what you do on a dreamy vacation.



But really. Seriously. The trip was totally for the children.

How PokemonGo Will Make Your Momming Better.

As I purposefully shy away from trends and adamantly avoid hopping on bandwagons, I was ripe to avoid PokemonGo completely.

But I saw potential. Potential for entertained kids and interesting hikes.

I mean, I’m pretty dang good at making hikes interesting. Sometimes we even find abandoned boobs! But despite how AMAZING I am, and despite the fact that they (almost) always enjoy it, my kids still whine and groan every time I say we’re going on a hike or a walk.

Sure it’s July in Alabama and 456 degrees outside. But still. Exercise makes Mommy feel better, kids. Get on board.

So. PokemonGo.

I downloaded the free app Monday morning. Noah was already downstairs but Ali had yet to emerge from her room. I told Noah, “Oh look! There’s a Pokemon in our front yard! Let’s go out and catch it.”

We ran outside and sure enough, there on my phone screen, we could see the front yard and a Pokemon sitting in it.

I hadn’t read any directions or helpful posts about how to catch Pokemon yet, so we failed miserably on our first hunt. Noah lost interest and wandered away to complain about breakfast options, and I sat down to read a Wiki.

OOOOHH….you swipe quickly with your finger. I can do this.

So I gathered Noah again and we went outside and caught ourselves a Pokemon.

After breakfast, I told the kids.

“We’re going on a Pokemon Hunt. Get your shoes on.”


Noah was thrilled, but Ali was skeptical. Usually my less whiny child, she had a problem with everything on this stroll. It was hot. It smelled bad outside. Where were the Pokemon? How long would this walk take?


We found our first Pokemon.

And she was the one who caught it.

Then it became the best walk we’d ever taken.


There were none on our street, but Not-Crazy-Renee’s street was teeming with them.


In fact, they seemed congregated around her house – perhaps they were attracted to her snake.

We came, we caught, and Noah even wore a couple Pokemon.



And it really was the most delightful neighborhood walk we’d ever taken.

Ali, Now PokemonGo’s biggest fan, began naming all the places she wanted to go hunt.

I bet Oak Mountain has 223 Pokemon! Oh! And Aldridge Gardens! There are plenty of places to look there. And Pop and Gramamma’s house. We could find all kinds of Pokemon in their woods!

We decided on Gramamma’s house. It would be a family service, after all, to help her with her Pokemon Infestation.

So we drove out and took Gramamma on a hike, teaching her about the game as we traversed.


See, you keep the app on your home screen, and it knows where you are, and you can click on the bottom right corner to see how close you’re getting to a Pokemon, and then when one shows up, you see it on the screen in the real world, and you’ve got to throw the ball at it to capture it.


We found the ever-frightening Zubat,


Ali slapped a Nidoran,


Gramamma got viciously attacked by the butt end of a Slowpoke,


And Shadow went after,


And then carried away, a Charmander.


We even checked the bridge – just to make sure it wasn’t covered in the monsters, you know.



While on the hike, we found real, live, actual cool things as well, thereby making it totally educational.

Colorful spiders,




And the ever-charismatic Lady of the Corn.





Anyone want to steal a veggie or two from her?

In total, we found another dozen or so at my parent’s house, therefore saving their property from the perils of loose Pokemon.

On the way home, we saw a PokeSpot and a PokeGym on the map, so we pulled off to get special rewards.

And, in the process, discovered the Alabama Veteran’s War Memorial.


And our PokemonGo experience became even more educational.


We talked about all the names and what they meant…


And why no, we could not take any of the flags. Geez kids.


And of course, when Chris got home, the first thing the kids wanted to do was go on a walk – to teach him how to play.

And so. In our first day’s journey of Pokemon catching, we:

– Hiked/walked a total of 5 miles four different places without a SINGLE KID COMPLAINT (at least after the first Pokemon was bagged.)

– Made it to Level 6 and joined Team Valor.

– Saw all kinds of actual nature (including a rabbit, too fast to be pictured.)

– Visited and learned about the Alabama War Memorial.

– Caught 53 Pokemon on my phone – I don’t know how many Chris caught.

– Took turns catching said Pokemon and cheered ridiculously loudly for each other when a successful catch was made.

– Ran my phone battery down four times. External chargers are a nice asset for heavy Pokemon hunting.

– Only tripped while staring at the phone screen a couple times. Each.

– And one fantastic diary entry was created via Ali, an entry that should be able to help if you’re still unsure how to play.



Well, you get the picture.

You’re welcome, Moms of the world. Your summer just got exceedingly better.



Finishing by the Skin of my Teeth.


We. Have finished.

Like the Loaves and the Fishes, God somehow multiplied our days and we got in not the 165 required minimum, and not the 175 recommended, but 176 school days. One hundred seventy-six days of school since I took this picture.


Despite the wreck.

Despite spending a full week and the better part of a month in bed.

Despite 44 trips to the Physical Therapist.

All of the good in this school year is owed to Ali’s ridiculous sense of responsibility, which translated into her deciding she’d get up early every day and try and finish as much school as she could before I even got out of bed. She’s the teacher’s pet for sure.

Noah’s 4K education might not have been as stellar as it could have been, but I’m not too sad at what we accomplished. He can do basic addition and subtraction, and miraculously, the kid is actually learning how to read – despite how adamantly it goes against his belief system.

But, because pictures are more fun than words, before I continue, let’s look at a few more before-and-afters. Because they make me happy. And maybe at least one or two of you happy, too. (I’m looking at you, grandparents.)




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That last picture may disprove my statement of “Noah is beginning to read” but I swear he does know how to tell whether letters are upside down or not. I think.

And yes, in other news, Ali went from being a kid to a tween this year. For sure. (And I never blogged about her getting braces? Yeah I missed that somehow.)

But at any rate, these students are ready for summer. And so is their teacher.


Despite us getting in our recommended number of days plus one (an extra day is like a piece of flair in the homeschool world) AND our registrar emailing me back to congratulate me on being the FIRST mom to get ALL my paperwork filed for the school year,

I kinda bombed as a teacher this year.

I mean, it’s not totally my fault and I shan’t take the blame for it. But even after the recovery, I never could get back in control of my organization. My school records that I so lovingly keep? Uh, yeah. I think that stopped around October. Science Experiments? Not a one. Fun craft projects? Zero.

I get a D- in Fun for the two-turd-fifteen school year.

But because of that, I’m obsessively determined that next year is going to be AWESOME. And so, three days before the last day of school, I was organizing and researching and making decisions and ordering textbooks and creating my own hands-on Alabama History curriculum and….

Y’all really might want to consider getting me committed for a psych eval. I think I’m manic. I’m certainly not myself.


(No but really I’m super excited about my Alabama History plan. Ali is fascinated by Birmingham and Alabama history, and I don’t want to kill her interest by shoving a terrible textbook at her. If anyone else really hates the awful and sparse Alabama History textbooks, comment and let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll share my plans later in the summer, and perhaps blog them separately throughout the school year. So far, the plan includes a vast number of field trips, a good number of library books, historical photo books, biographies, and interviewing some of our older friends and family to see what Alabama was like while they were growing up. And also we’re studying Botany for Science, so that our hikes can serve as history and science outings since most of our hiking destinations are at old iron mining sites. I told you I’m manic.)


Friday was the last day of school, and as such, we planned a family celebration and secret family meeting for that evening.

We ate at one of the kid’s favorite restaurants, La Paz, then guided them out to the ever mysterious and magical clock tower in front of the restaurant.


…It wasn’t that creepy outside when we had our meeting – but it was slightly raining.


We had prepared a two page secret meeting agenda: “Rules of Summer” and “Summer Fun” sheets to inform the children of all that the summer would contain.

Chris and I took turns making their eyes light up,













And hands scramble to write down events in their planner.


They were even excited to hear about the rules of summer, because although we’d been telling them that we were going to have an iPadless summer like last year, we changed our minds at the last minute and decided that they could have limited iPad time during quiet time so that I could actually have time to write and work and stuff without (maybe) Noah constantly begging me to play with him.

As the last item on the agenda, we set them to work making their Summer Wish Lists – what would you like to do this summer?

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(Thankfully neither of them is smart enough to request a trip to Europe, but we did decline a request for a trip to Disney World.)

…And then we went to get FroYo. Because that’s what one does after a Secret Family Meeting under the Clock Tower.

Hallelujah for Summer.