Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Oh, y'all. Y'all.

Clearly, I am being tested. Having Abby bust her head open less than 24 hours before Matt left the country was nervewracking, but I handled it and managed to regain my calm. I was getting into the groove of single parenthood, albeit temporary. I even did laundry. Then, out of nowhere, Abby got sick. Bizarre, 105 degree fever out of nowhere sick. Throw up on my bed at 3 AM sick. Needs constant attention that I don't have to give when there is also a manic 3 year old in the house sick. Oy.

After a trip to the doctor to see if she has some sort of infection (and to prove to my mother that Abby does not, in fact, have swine flu) things improved, but slowly. My mom thankfully reminded me that I have another child and made sure he got to Mother's Day Out (and picked him up, and got Abby's medicine. THANK you mom!). Now we're almost back to normal. I am torn between relief and fear over what will strike next. I know that I can't let fear rule my life, so I'm just going to take a deep breath and a sip of my Sonic Diet Dr. Pepper and get on with it.

PS. Is it awful that when Abby threw up on my bed at 3 AM, my first thought was, "Great--now I'm not caught up on laundry any more!"?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hope you have a few minutes

When we were in Alabama, Ann asked Abby a question about what she likes to do when she goes to the beach. I told her that the kids had never been to the beach before, and she promptly looked up the child abuse hotline number to turn me in for neglect.

In truth, I wasn’t sure how much the kids were going to like the beach. Sure, it looks fun and exciting. But in reality, sand gets all up on (and in) you and there are creatures that can hurt you floating around in the water. The water which, by the way, comes right up and splashes you when you didn’t do anything to it at all. I was prepared for us to spend 10 minutes there and then the rest of the week at the safe, clean pool. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ethan found his own personal heaven in the sand—the world’s largest mess, and he was allowed to make it bigger! Abby loved the sand and the water, and spent most of her time on a mission to collect seashells. They were beach bums.

As much fun as we had at the beach, we did lots of other great stuff too. Our house was in a neighborhood that had a 12,000 square foot pool. It was amazing, and we went there almost every day. There were also some fun fountains for the kids to play in. Panama City Beach was just a few minutes’ drive away. They have a really great complex called Pier Park that’s like a mall and amusement park rolled into one. We explored some of the little beach towns around ours. My sister-in-law’s parents live in Pensacola, and they were crazy kind enough to come down one afternoon and watch ALL EIGHT kids so the 6 of us could go to dinner. It was heavenly.

On Wednesday, Matt, Patty and I got to go parasailing. It was FAN.TAS.TIC. I would love to take credit for being adventurous, but it’s seriously easier to do that riding a bike. You sit on the boat. They strap you in to the little seat-harness. You’re gently lifted (far far FAR) into the air. You come back down. You land gently onto the boat. You’re unstrapped. Cake. Since you go 2 at a time and there were 3 of us, guess who got to go twice? ME! Abby doesn’t weigh enough, but the second she does I’m taking her.

Before I started writing this post, I went through the pictures and picked the ones to include. There are a LOT. I love Blogger, but one of the things I do NOT love about it is that its picture uploading process is pretty messed up. You can only do 5 at a time, and they come in a really jumbled order and are a huge pain to move around. I say all that for two reasons: 1) So that you will be eternally grateful for the effort I made to show you my vacation pictures, and 2) So I can justify the fact that I am going to leave them in the random order that they’re downloaded.

So, in really and truly NO particular order, here are the visual highlights of our vacation:

Can you tell I liked parasailing?

Abby's seashell collection:
My too-stinkin-cute niece Natalie:

There was not a single inch of this child not covered in sand. He looked like I had dipped him in cinnamon and sugar.

Required waves picture:

Me and my two great SILs, Siobhan and Patty. My brothers did well for themselves.

Abby's cute, albeit odd, seashell-hunting stance:

The White-And-Khakis. Every day about half an hour before dusk, look at any walkway to a beach and you will see droves of these people heading to get portraits taken. I bet at least half the people who read this (that would be what, 3?) have a picture like this at home. You know who you are:

One evening's bounty:

You throw sand into the water. Then you do it again. And again. And again.

Michael and sweet baby Claire:

Dang, my girl is pretty.

Gorgeous, really.

She even has pretty toes. Especially up next to mine.

Our walkway.

Drew and Josh (they're twins) were fascinated by Ethan's Leapster playing. That Leapster, by the way, was the single thread to sanity on our trip home.

No caption necessary.

Required beach photo:

Aaand another one:

Happiness at the pool:

Those fountains feel mighty strange on your hind end I'm told:

Ethan went the more traditional route of running through them:

Schnuggled with the kids after swimming:

Well. How do I explain this one? Natalie brought a lot of Barbies with her. Abby liked to set them up in "dance scenes." Despite the angle of the photo, I can personally assure you that Barbie #3 is NOT inappropriately touching Barbie #2. It was totally innocent.

Josh and Drew helping with Claire. All the kids made it their personal mission to entertain her.
Jacob, Patty, Michael, Siobhan, me and Matt at dinner.
I had to:
Required beach scene:
After parasailing. The boat ride was rougher than the sailing.
This is how FAR we were from the boat. And the water. And anything but the air.
I took my camera up, of course. So glad I did!

Drew feeding Josh either a cracker or some sand. I made it my mission the entire week to get Drew and Josh to say something, anything, to me besides "No." It was their answer to me for everything, even "Hello!" Josh cracked first--I told Drew he lost his shot at being my favorite twin.
This is my favorite picture, so I'm glad it came last. Our first time to the beach, I ran ahead and got into the water. I turned around and snapped a picture right as the kids stepped into the ocean for the first time (well, it actually came up to meet them). Couldn't have asked for a better reaction.
This concludes the presentation of the 2009 AMEN family vacation photos. Thank you for joining us. Now I have to figure out something else to blog about.

PS. Would it kill you to post a comment? Just asking!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I'm sure everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting to hear how AMEN tore up the coast, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little longer. Most of you know that last night we made another trip to the ER with Abby. This time, she was playing with a friend and they ran into each other headfirst on accident. Abby's head bore the brunt of the impact and popped oped. She got 6 stitches in what eded up being the most traumatic experience of my life thus far (she took it pretty hard too). We got home from the hospital 14 hours before we had to leave to take Matt to the aiport for his 3 week trip to Brazil. As if that isn't enough, we have half a bag of Oreos, but no milk. How much more can I be expected to handle?

I'm a little drained. It already seems like years ago that I was walking on the beach, hollering at Ethan to quit trying to bury his sister in the sand. I shall overcome, though, and tomorrow will be a better day. Mainly because the kids are going to Mother's Day Out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The house that frat boys built

After a relaxing and enjoyable weekend in Alabama, AMEN woke up on Sunday morning and began the pilgrimmage made by bazillions of people every year--we started driving to Destin. It was only a 5 hour drive from Birmingham, which Mapquest had assured me was the case, but I didn't believe because I thought for sure traffic would be awful. Surprisingly we zipped right in.

We were going to Destin as part of a large group consisting of the kids' Aunt Patty and Uncle Jacob and their 3 kids, Uncle Michael and Aunt Siobhan and THEIR 3 kids, and for part of the time, Poppa D and Donnet. Since this makes a LOT of people, we rented a 5 bedroom house. We had had a great experience doing this when we went to Disney World, and saw no reason to change our methods. The pictures and online discription of the house made it sound and look perfect. It was within walking distance of the ocean and a neighborhood pool. It had 5 bedrooms. It had cable. We were set.

We beat my brothers' families to Destin by a couple of hours. We went to the house and used the key code to get in. Imagine my surprise when the door opened to the garage. Ohh, so you have to go up the outdoor stairs to get in the house. Okay, no prob. But wait, what's that door at the back of the garage? Is it a shop space? No, it's what those con artists were calling a bedroom. Check it out:

No windows. No house access. Stunk like cigarrettes. Gross carpet. Oh, and those couches counted as beds for 4 because they both pull out. Where, exactly, are you supposed to pull them out?

To get from this bedroom to the main house, you have to go through the garage, outside, up a flight of stairs, and through the real front door on the second floor. On your way, this is your view:

Once inside the main house, we were greeted with what appeared to be the site of twenty thousand keg parties. The place was just run down. The beds were falling apart, the walls were stained. Here's the dining room table, and I don't even want to think about what made these marks:
Also, the house was a mile from the beach, and while it was in walking distance of the pool, said pool was slightly smaller than my bathtub. Yeah, we were not pleased. A flurry of phone calls ensued. The story is long, frustrating and sordid, but the end is lovely. We got a full refund on the frat house, and managed to find a new house in Seacrest Beach, which is about 45 minutes east of Destin. This was fine with all of us, since we were not crazy about the packed Destin scene anyway. We headed down the highway, and imagine our surprise when we pulled up to our new home:
KIDDING! I wish this had been our place. Can you imagine? It was near ours though, and we gawked every time we had a chance. No, we had a much more normal place, but still quite enchanting.

Turns out Seacrest Beach is one of my favorite places in the world, only I never knew it. It is quaint and quiet and beautiful. People ride bicycles everywhere, there are little ice cream stands in the town center, and kids play catch with their grandpas next to the road, on the perfectly manicured public lawns. I kept looking for Jim Carrey and The Truman Show cast.
I have a few pictures of the interior of our little beach house.
Here are a majority of the kids at the lovely dining room table:

The don't-you-wish-your-porch-was-tricked-out-like-this outdoor area*:

* My brother Mike and the grill had an unfortunate disagreement, which ended up with Michael having to use blunt force in the form of a fire extinguisher to show it who was boss. It was NOT his fault, and he handled it beautifully.

The "tower room", where Abby and Jake (the only two kids over the age of 3) slept:

The view from our front porch:

The house was amazing. It was decorated beautifully and had all the comforts of home. Well, almost. We found the kitchen inexplicably lacking potholders, but the under-counter ice maker more than made up for it. Seriously, that thing spoiled me. You open the door, and you're face to face with all the little cubes of ice you could ever want, and a scooper. Heaven.
With all the house drama, it took us a full 24 hours of being in Florida before we were settled. Then the vacation began!
Up next: AMEN and Co. let loose in FL.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation 09: Cousins, aunts...and ants

Now that we're home and I have waded through the four thousand pictures I took on vacation, I'm ready to start blogging about our trip. There's way too much to go in one post though, so I'll divide it up.

We left bright and early Thursday morning to drive to Alabama. We spent 10 hours in the car, and finally stumbled out at my cousin Robbie's house. Robbie and his fabulous wife Ann live with their supercute kids, Chip and Ramey, in a beautiful house where we stayed for a night. Ann and Robbie whipped up a killer dinner for us. The kids all played together perfectly. The next day we went swimming and hung out for a while before leaving for Birmingham. There we stayed with my great-aunt Phyllis (Robbie's mom). My aunt Linda, great-aunt Adelene and grandmother were also staying there for the weekend. Nearby is my cousin Denise (Robbie's sister), her husband Brian, and their 4 kids, Eric, Laura, Anna and Elsa. Eric, the oldest, just finished his freshman year in college. Elsa, the youngest, is Abby's age. Denise is my hero.

We had a ball in Alabama. We spent a lot of time laughing and watching the plethora of kids play with each other. Matt and I really enjoyed talking with Eric and Laura, who are transitioning from being kids to adults and doing so quite beautifully we think. Eric and Matt start talking about computers and would not notice if everyone else in the house were suddenly transported to Mars. For that matter, they probably wouldn't notice if they were transported to Mars. Chatting with Eric helps Matt forget he is in a house with 10 of his in-laws.

Here are some photos from our trip:

Abby, Ethan, Chip and Ramey. This photo does not accurately portray the combined energy of the people pictured.

Ethan and Ramey. Together, they make one fully dressed child.

Matt and I with Ann and Robbie. Abby took the photo:
The whole Birmingham crew. We were rather obnoxious I'm afraid:

Ethan enjoying a popsicle roughly the size of his arm:

One of the better pictures I've had of me and Matt. Abby also took this one. She's quite the artist.
These last pictures are my absolute favorite. We were sitting around my aunt's table after dinner. From left to right, you'll see Denise, Linda, my grandmother, Adelene and Phyllis. Aunt Adelene told us a story about ants that invaded her retirement home apartment. I won't go into full detail, but I will say that she explained, without mincing words, that she watched the ants "have sex, and then immediately have babies" on her kitchen table. Have you ever heard an 85 year old woman talk about ants having sex? Me either. These photos show the reaction of the table.

I love how serious Aunt Adelene looks. She was really ticked off at those ants!

She finally admitted the humor in the situation.
My grandmother, in particular, seemed to be exceptionally "tickled" by the story.

I laugh every time I look at these. And every time I see an ant.

Next up: the Florida house debacle of 09.