Will’s life as a big brother defined.

Will’s life as a big brother goes something like this:

1. Kids are independently playing in public space.
2. Kate is run over by big kid.
3. Will is tasked with watching over his little sister.
4. Kids proceed to play extra cute.
5. Kate falls.
6. Will helps her up.
… and …

Poor kid. Every darn time.

Mi Familia
Parenting

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While the bugs were biting…

… this is what we were doing.


Family Photos

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Beach Week

Bugs or no, I am a beach girl.  I love the water, the sea shells, the sounds, the smells, the sand, and the sun.  At the beach, I can wake up and walk in the morning.  My hair naturally lightens.  My skin clears.  I loosen up.

Pools help, too.  Actually, in our scheme of beach days, pools are an absolute necessity.  Our perfect schedule: Beach first thing in the morning.  Move to pool late morning for snacks.  I go up to make sandwiches around noon.  Eat lunch around the pool and drip dry, then head upstairs for naps.  Late afternoon swim, movies after an early dinner, and everyone to bed at a reasonable hour.

We built different sand castles each day.  Here is the octopus.

Will and I snorkeled, used a net, or just reached down and grabbed up sand dollars and shells to decorate whatever creation Paul and Kate supervised on the beach.  (The big guy above has round shells on the ends of his long arms and sand dollar eyes.)

We took days off, too, to give us all a little break from the sun.  One morning we drove to Destin.  After missing out on a fishing boat trip (it filled up before we arrived), we went to play in the water fountains in Destin Commons, took our first-ever build-a-bear experience (Will’s dog has stars on him, has a surfboard and is named “Fred”, Kate’s dog has a t-shirt and is named “Boy.”)  Then we walked over to the movie theatre and saw “Up.”  The kids hugged their dogs, wore the 3D glasses, and took in all the movie without incident.

(This particular trip wasn’t without sacrifice… after we missed the boat, we had a little parking lot fender-bender.  Guy flying into the lot didn’t stop at the stop sign and Paul backed into him.  No damage to our car; his passenger door bent in.  We exchanged insurance information and Paul reported the incident immediately… we’ll see what happens next.)

Will and Kate were great play partners, particularly in public.

I had no idea there was a National Flip Flop Day.

I found at least 30 hermit crabs.  They were all over the sandbar, in every single shell I picked up, no matter how large or how small.  I took a few to shore for the kids to look at.

And also because this shell was the COOLEST SHELL EVER.  Paul called it Goth Crab, which was very appropriate.  The shell was actually darker (the umbrella is red and casts a red reflection on everything) — actually a black color — with spikes along the edge.  Seriously cool.  I secretly hoped this guy would hop in another shell or Paul would let us take him home.  (Both were equally unlikely.)

Isn’t that shell cool?

We let them run around in here for about 20 minutes before setting them free.

Here is the big fish.  Originally the idea was the have a HUGE mouth and put Kate inside.  Instead, Will and I found pointed sand dollar pieces to use as teeth on the bottom of the mouth (hard to see due to their color, but they are there!)  The boogie board became the fin, gills defined the sides.  He reminded us of the piranha fish in the Amazon.

Another off-beach day was at the Pensacola Air Museum.  Initially we were meeting my Mom here to bring her back to the beach with us.  She didn’t show, but we enjoyed the museum so much we returned on the way back to New Orleans on Sunday (with me limping along).  During our first visit we watched the 3D Grand Canyon IMAX movie, River at Risk, which we heartily recommend.  Both kids were awesome.

And they loved the overwhelming museum and the amazing exhibits.

The ocean was calm for the majority of our trip — so calm that we found it impossible to sneak out to go sailing (something we’ve been trying to do now for over a decade).  Well, technically we were thinking of going on our last afternoon after having an early dinner.  But we made the mistake of splitting a frozen adult beverage and were a little too fuzzy to sail afterward.

It was so clear that seeing all sorts of fish was incredibly easy. Just beautiful.

Will was determined to catch a fish.  I caught a jellyfish for him that he took to the beach and studied with several beach-friends, but managed to only catch fish when Will wasn’t around and I wasn’t trying.

The fish nibbled our feet.  It tickled.

We made drip castles, with steep walls in the front so that the water had to slowly work under and around the fort before taking it out.

I found another full sand dollar and a huge side of a shell.  Neither were found with the snorkel, though… my new friend is the net for shelling! (This makes me want to spend more time snorkeling there in the future — maybe out farther once Will is a little bigger and a bit stronger swimmer!)

Paul brought a shovel and dug wide holes in the shade for the kids to play.

They built castles and put chairs in their holes.

We didn’t sail, we didn’t kayak, we didn’t walk the Pier… but we swam, snorkeled, shelled, walked, flew kites, crabbed, watched movies, and had a wonderful time!

Family Stories
Special Family Moments

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No-See-Ums. A Public Service Announcement.

Beware an evening on the beach.  Sure, the sand is warm and the sun is gently fading.  The light may be perfect for those family photos you’ve been wanting.  Maybe the breeze has picked up and your husband wants to fly his kites and your kids want to play in the sand?  All of those things are tempting.  And possibly so distracting that you won’t notice much else.

Until 3am that night.

Before bed they were tiny pricks of red, almost like a rash.  EVERYWHERE.  And then when I woke up with fever and nausea and intense itching, they had arrived.  I counted over a hundred just on my lower right leg and lower right arm.  When I lifted my shirt and saw my abdomen and chest, I started counting proper, but lost count somewhere in the 400s before getting to my back or hands.

Here is my lower right leg now.  I had some prednisone (enough for a proper dose and taper) and began taking them as soon as we got home.  Antihistamines, of course, are part of my daily regimen.  Topical anti-itch, camphor (Calamine), and some-sort of topical antibacterial are all part of the arsenal… along with scalding water and freezer packs.  Anything to dull the burn and itch.

There were no-see-ums (also called sand fleas, midges, and a bunch of other things I can’t remember but are equally horrible) in Honduras and they were BAD… but I knew they were going to be there and wore proper repellent (which helped), avoided the beach as much as possible (never left the water), and wore long garments covered with DEET.  I had no idea there were in Pensacola Beach… the very beach where we’d spent the past week plus previous weekend.

Here is the public service information about them:

Sand fleas feed on organic and decaying plants. A favorite treat is seaweed on the beach. Whenever seaweed washes to shore, there will be a large number of sand fleas around and a sand flea bite is likely to occur. In general, the sand on the beach is a popular location for these fleas to live.

A sand flea bite is most likely to occur at dawn or in the evening and night time hours on the beach or other sandy areas that are near water. Wetlands, swamplands, creeks, and lakebeds are other areas where sand fleas can be found. Sand fleas generally stay close to their breeding ground. They never wander more than 350 feet or about 100 meters from their breeding area.

The fleas will jump onto the feet, ankles, legs, and then bite. They are very persistent and quite annoying. Because of their small size, a sand flea bite occurs before individuals even know any sand fleas were in the area. Like a mosquito, a sand flea bites to suck blood. ….  The sand flea bite involves the injection of saliva to thin the blood, making it easier for the flea to take blood from its victim. This same saliva triggers the body’s immune system to react.

Despite its size, the bite from a sand flea is quite painful. In fact, most of the time the bite is more painful than one from a typically larger mosquito. In addition to pain, the bite causes a large welt or rashes on the skin that can persist for several days. A fever may also occur. The welts or hives produced from bites are very itchy.

Also?  On my arms, in the middle of all the bites, I have (relatively small, comparatively) jellyfish stings (these don’t bother much).

And?  The edges of the plastic tubes of anti-itch cream make for excellent, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head excellent, scratching.  It’s about the only thing those darn things are good for.

Was the beach angry that we were leaving?

Am I really that tasty?  (I’m the only one with bites.)

Is this just really, really bad luck?

Suggestions.  Ideas.  Stories.  Information.  People with long, sharp nails.  All are welcome.

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Pensacola, take two.

It is Break Week.  The week between school’s end and summer camp’s start, when families are suppose to take off and Be Families.

Here’s our secret: find owners directly and work out last-minute deals.  Granted, even if this weren’t my secret mode of finding fabulous rates, we’d end up here since we can’t seem to make any decisions about travel until the last minute.

Beach trivia and travails:

– Will reports having “like, 102 girlfriends” to his potential beach buddies.

– We may need to go the Speedo route for Will, who is prone to salt/sand rash on his inner thighs.

– Kate’s preferred hat is Will’s swim cap.

– We saw the new Grand Canyon IMAX at the Naval Aviation Museum.

– Paul and I (finally) watched “Juno” and are going to watch Slumdog Millionaire next.  I think that seeing these two will completely catch us up on current films, right?

– I found a whole sand dollar (dead, not live) at our last beach trip and do not believe I will trump that shelling moment on this trip, despite trying.

The view is a little different this time (1 floor down, on the other side of the building, interior unit.)

Other plans: Pier walk and sailing.

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Pensacola Beach

Weekend trip, Friday afternoon to Sunday evening.

2 Dads.  3 Moms.

7 kids. Ages 12, 7, 6, 5, 3, 3, and 2.

Out of tequila the first night.

Will rocks the beach.  He’s all about the accessories.

The beach was incredible.  I learned that winds from the north make the best beach days.  Absolutely no surf, perfect.

Our empirical findings were that ear plugs remain in the ear for 2.2 minutes longer with the head gear.

Plenty of time in the sea kayak.

Even for Bait.  I mean, Kate.

Kate loved the boat.  Plenty of opportunity to order Paul around.

Paul and I took a few trips out in the kayak together; once with the camera.

See the fish jumping?  They do that when there is a predator in the water.  We didn’t see anything.  Of course, I didn’t see the shark on the sandbar I happily swam out to, either, so my observational qualities may be lacking.

View from the 16th floor.  Bay on the left, gulf on the right.

See the sandbar?  It’s close.

We didn’t get out to the pier this visit.

We saw plenty of sailboats, particularly on the bay.  Maybe we’ll try and go sailing again next time we’re at the beach?

Kate asked to be a mermaid.

She LOVED being a mermaid.

I brought Plaster of Paris and the kids made hand prints (foot for Kate) in the sand.  They stuck shells from the beach in the plaster casts as they dried.  We did this last year so I guess it’s our new beach tradition?

That’s Kate’s foot and Will’s hand.

Paul brought the stunt kite, so when the wind picked up from the south on Saturday afternoon, he flew the kite a bit… with an audience.

Next week is the week between the end of school (tomorrow is Will’s last day) and the start of summer camp (on the 22nd).  We’re considering going back…?

Art & Photography
Family Photos

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Photohunt: Warm

Paul and Will, Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

For more Photohunt, visit it’s home.
For more of my Photohunts, visit here.

Art & Photography

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Photohunt: Wide

Wide.

Wow, this kind of photography assignment could be dangerous.  Where and what (who?) can I capture as wide?  (My mind panics thinking of the picture of my backside Will took with my camera while I we were decorating the tree last night — mental note, deduct fee from college savings as retribution.)

In this case, what HAVE I captured that speaks to WIDE?  Just saying the word makes me think of the Dixie Chick’s song, Wide Open Spaces, of which I only know the words to that particular phrase in the song.  And I love me some ‘chicks, but whoa, I just can’t get past it while on That Word.

So “wide” in terms of “space” was on my mind as I hunted photos.  And this is what I found.

Wide, open, everything in front of them totally and completely open to them and for them.

Paul and Will, flying a kite, Fort Walton Beach.

Beach.

No more Dixie Chicks in my head now, as my thoughts have switched to the all-consuming question of why is it, again, that we don’t live there?

Art & Photography

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Because I need a happy place.

Jen, Mad and Su have Just Posts up for October — these are social justice and activism oriented posts nominated by readers — and I am flattered to be among the offerings. I learned of these through the talented and mellifluous Alejna, who is fun to read not only because of ThThTh, but because she is an endless source of pants-related humor. (Become the mother of a toddler and pants become very funny. Really.) The Just Posts have been a big source of inspiration for me over the last few months and this month’s posts were no different. I loved Jen’s writing about the impact of the tropical storm-related flooding in Belize, which has devastated the rural community she and her husband bought property within and are moving to in January of the coming year. Magpie’s charge inspired me to donate $25 to charity. My own sister-in-law made a strong argument about how the legacy of slavery is still a very real presence to school children attending schools named after slave owners. These are just a few examples.

I enjoy reading the Just Posts because it helps me to connect to others who are aware of the world around us and look for ways to make a difference. A little happy place in the internet.

The beach is my other happy place. So, here are a few pictures from the beautiful Gulf Coast, featuring my favorite kids. Because there is where I want to be right now…

Art & Photography
Special Family Moments

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So proud.

Thanks to our time at the beach during the lead-up to Tropical Storm Faye, when the ocean was completely still and clear, Will learned to snorkel.  I knew he mastered it today, when while swimming face down in the pool with his mask and snorkel on, he burped audibly through the snorkel and without raising his head from the water, sent up through the pipe a muffled: “‘cuse me, I burp-ted.”

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