Savannah Ogeechee Canal

Family time seems to be hard to come by lately. The kids have become incredibly independent, which is a great thing . . . . but it means most they drop their school bags by the door and shout “I’m going to a friend’s house!” and out the door they go again. My time with them is spent fussing about homework and violin practice and showers. And I realize that the older they get, the more this will be the case. (Though I hope I can stop fussing about homework and bathing one of these days!) So now, while I can, I want squeeze in as much fun family time as possible!

Sunday afternoon we headed out for a walk at the Savannah Ogeechee Canal, a canal built in 1830 to connect the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers, allowing southern plantations to move their stores of rice, wheat and lumber quickly and more safely to market. In 1862, General Sherman’s army camped in the area where the canal meets the Ogeechee River, before attacking Fort McAllister, a few miles to the east. Today the canal serves mostly as a nature preserve. There is a tiny museum (where we found baby gopher tortoises!) and an area where scout troops can camp – something I think we will be doing later this spring!

 

Flying through February

February: baking and homework, warm sunny afternoons after long rainy weeks, homework and baking and more homework. And Alton Brown! Trying to remember to find the beauty in the day to day seems harder in February, but spring is right around the corner . . .

eleven

I still can’t believe another year has come and gone, but suddenly my baby boy is eleven. And what a spectacular eleven year old he is! While our trip to LEGOland over the winter break was his official birthday celebration, we also had two fun-filled weekends to bookend his actual birthday.

First there were sleepovers with best buddy Ben and Lola Gray’s friend Sofia. We all headed downtown for pizza at Screamin’ Mimi’s followed by two amazing documentaries at the Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival. After watching Mission Blue, and despite the fact that it was way past bedtime, the kids wanted to stay and get autographs from the amazing Sylvia Earle.

Schools were closed on Fletcher’s birthday, so we had a lazy morning with birthday pancakes and gifts, then cake and lots of playing with neighborhood friends.

The next day, I took treats to school and got to visit with Fletcher’s class for a while. First I sat in on the tail end of a math lesson, and realized that 5th grade math is way above my level. Then I ate donuts with the kids and listened while they told me all about their field trip to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.

The next weekend, Grandaddy Mike came for a visit. Fletcher was still so excited about his visit to the Mighty Eighth, he wanted to take us all back on Saturday. I’m so glad he did, and so sorry we had not been out there before! It’s a really impressive museum, but what was more impressive yet was Fletcher’s skill as our tour guide. He took us through the entire museum, recounting interesting facts and stories and leading us through the history of WWII and the role that Savannah and the Mighty Eighth played in the story. This is one incredibly sharp kid we have on our hands here.

Saturday evening, Grandaddy treated us to box seats for the Ringling Brothers circus! There’s nothing like a clown nose and cotton candy to bring out the kids in everyone. Plus, listening to Fletcher laugh at the clowns is the greatest thing in the world. Seriously. I love the way that kid laughs.

To cap off the weekend, Sunday morning was Youth Sunday at church. Both Fletcher and Lola Gray sang in the choir, and Fletcher played an incredible violin solo of Simple Gifts. He was super nervous, but he didn’t let the nerves stop him. Despite a few slips towards the end he did an amazing job – and even got a round of applause from the congregation! That’s something you don’t see in a Presbyterian church every day!

I am so blown away by this crazy kid every. single. day. His curiosity, his compassion, his playfulness and his creativity, not to mention his smile and his incredible hugs, have made the world a brighter and more interesting place for the past eleven years – I can’t wait to see what the next eleven will bring for him!

 

 

Colorful

Fletcher and Lola Gray got 2015 off to a colorful start when they ran the Color Vibe 5K! Thank goodness for amazing friends who suggested this and ran with the kiddos. They loved every colorful step of the race but I don’t think I could ever run this race – even just watching from a distance was stressful for me!

Legoland again

Our sweet Fletcher is turning 11 in a few days (eleven!!) and for his birthday this year, he asked to go to LEGOland. Actually, he’s been asking pretty much every year since the last time we went. The kid is LEGO crazy. This year, we made it happen.

The weather wasn’t great, but it didn’t matter at all. We surprised Fletcher with a secret meet-up with his buddy Henry and the entire Wade family, which was great. We joined forces for an incredible Mindstorms robotic class (seriously the most fun thing we did all day) and spent a few fun hours with them before they headed on to south Florida for New Years. The Gaddys stuck it out in the park until almost the bitter end, rounding out the day with plenty of rides, a fun 4D movie, a tour of mini-land after dark, and some amazing fireworks complete with glasses that made the fireworks look like exploding LEGO bricks!

So long, 2014! We’re going to Disney World.

2014 was not my favorite year. Not by a long shot.

2014 was the year of P.A.N.D.A.S. , a year of constant stress and worrying and watching and waiting and doubting. It started in January and ate it’s way mercilessly through 6 solid months. And even once summer arrived and the worst was behind us, I held on to the worry and the panic, held on when I should have been able to move forward, struggled to let go of the “whys” and the “what ifs”. And of course, there were other dark smudges obscuring the shiny surface of our year, sordid, greasy smears that threatened to take away Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas . . .

Yep. 2014 tested our mettle, that’s for sure.

But you know, we made it through. We, as a family, are stronger than all that mess swirling around us. We kicked 2014’s butt! And to celebrate, we packed up the car and headed to Disney World’s Fort Wilderness campground to ring in the new year with good friends.

It wasn’t as warm as we hoped for, and it drizzled on us pretty much constantly. But there was swimming and biking and golf cart rides through the campground, campfire sing-alongs with Chip & Dale, movies under the stars and a New Year’s Eve beach party with fireworks so amazing they brought me to tears.

So. Out with the old and in with the new. Welcome 2015! Bring it on. No matter what you throw at us, we can take it.

 

Oh Holy Night

I love Christmas Eve. After all the gifts have been wrapped and the cookies baked, but before the paper is torn off and Christmas secrets revealed . . . Christmas Eve is this beautiful pause, where everyone holds their breath in delicious, quiet anticipation. As exciting as Christmas morning is for the children, as much as I adore our Christmas afternoon oyster roast with friends, it is Christmas Eve that holds all the magic for me.

And our Christmas Eve this year was perfect.

Fletcher reprised his role as a wise man in the Christmas Eve tableau at church for the last time, and Lola Gray took on a new role as Gabriel. The candlelight service never fails to bring me to tears. After there was an amazing, candlelit dinner on the good china, with lasagna Raymond made from scratch (even the pasta!) and pumpkin pie made by our budding chef, Fletcher. With the kids already in their Christmas pajamas, the meal was the perfect mix of fancy and comfortable. Fletcher said he felt rich, sitting at the table with all the fancy china and crystal. I felt rich too, though the wealth came less from the trappings of the meal and more from the amazing people sitting around the table with me.