Thursday, February 27, 2014

Amelie is 5!

    Last week Amelie turned 5 years old!  We had so much fun celebrating her and spoiling her for a couple of days.  Nanny, Bobby's mom, came into town for the occasion which added to the fun. We began her birthday by Bobby making her a special number "5" blueberry pancake followed by opening birthday gifts.  She spent all morning playing dress-up in her new Princess Anna (from Frozen) dress, making jewelry with Nanny, and painting nails.  In the afternoon, Nanny took her on a putt-putt and ice-cream date.  We ended the celebration with dinner at Lambert's, Home of the Throwed Rolls.  Amelie caught a hot roll thrown from across the room…pretty funny!

     Amelie was most excited about her birthday party on Saturday, Feb 22nd, with her school friends.  We had a Mermaids & Sharks party on the beach.  Apparently, all the kids devised the plan while at school that the sharks would chase the mermaids…and that is what they did for almost the entire time. :)  We were so thankful that she had 3 friends come to her party.  The weather was wonderful, sunny and windy.   I was so happy that everyone seemed to have a good time (moms and kids) and we have a couple of future play dates scheduled.  

     Amelie Joy truly is a joy to us and we are so thankful God has placed her in our family.  She is witty and smart, which keeps us laughing at her antics.  She has been in full blown create mode as of late and is drawing wonderful family portraits, castles, and modern art (various glued/painted pieces).  She is so amazing and I am honored to be her mom!! I don't know if it has completely set in that Amelie will be heading to Kindergarten next year…trying to focus on the time I have with her now!  She loves learning and loves school.  She is writing a ton and wanting to spell.  She is even interested in starting to read!  It's hard for us to believe that she is ready to begin this next big girl stage of her life!

Blue jello with Swedish fish on the spoon handle and on the top.
Maybe it was because we were waiting on the pizza to arrive, but the kids loved these!
I would often find Liam with another cup in his hand, sneaking more!
The Rice Krispies castle seen in the background was also really fun.
The kids would just run by and break off a hand full.
The Shark is circling the Mermaid getting ready to make his move!
DIY Mermaid tails for the girl guests.
These were a huge hit!  If you have a sewing machine and want to make one, I would be happy to share how I made these.  I am a novice sewer so if I can do it, anyone can!  It was super easy and well worth the fun!  It took me a little less than an hour for one tail. My average time could have been shortened had I not sewn the waist hole shut on the first one…whoops! :)   I have to give a special thanks to my mom for finding the fabric and to Bobby's mom for picking up my sewing machine to bring down to me.  Can you believe there are no fabric stores in Gulf Shores?!  :)  My mom found the fabric at JoAnn's and it was absolutely perfect!

After exhausting themselves with running, they took a break to make jellyfish.
We used water colors to paint the top of a paper bowl and then glued streamers underneath.  
Everyone eating pizza.
Watching Amelie open her presents.
If you want to make you own shark fins, just use grey fleece & cardboard and safety pin them onto the shirt.

I love this picture!
I found Liam and Bobby cheap shark shirts at Walmart.
In case you were wondering, Bobby wore a shark fin all day too. ;) 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Establishing Our Beach Living Routines

We have quickly settled into living at the beach routines. When the weather is above freezing (crazy I have to add that clause), we head to the beach for a sunset stroll or a morning spent playing in the sand. We fish, dig huge holes, play tag, collect shells, jump off the sand cliffs just to name a couple of our favorite activities. 

Liam and Amelie love playing with the sticks. 
Near our house is a bridge over to the beach.  Amelie and Liam love racing up and down.  We often will walk to the beach here if we are not wanting to get too sandy.
Amelie and Liam playing in a  large hole/tunnel Bobby and I dug through the sand cliff.
It took Bobby and I over an hour to dig it, but we were proud of our accomplishment.  However, we were too afraid of it collapsing to let the kids crawl through…although they didn't want to crawl through.  

Liam holding a ghost shrimp which is the bait Bobby catches and uses to fish.
Liam loves fishing just like his dad.
Amelie is an expert sand cliff jumper these days.  We race from the sea oats to jump off the cliff.

We have also enjoyed reuniting with our snowbird friends. Bobby fishes with about 4 guys regularly and they all love our kids. What I have found mildly amusing is that even people that we hadn't met last year knew us. I have had more than one person say, "Oh, you're the one who lost the fishing pole out to sea." (story here) Yes, that was me. Glad my reputation proceeds me and we have joined local beach lore. ;) Sounds like that story was enjoyed long after we left last year. 
You can see our friends spread out fishing along the shore.  Liam will walk to each of their buckets to keep tabs on who has caught what.
The town house feels like home even though most of the things within the house are not owned by us. I guess because it is familiar. We did bring a toy box full of toys with us.  It feels like a lot of toys since they were used to only having what could fit in a duffle bag.  The kids continue to love sharing a bedroom. 
Playing in (and destroying) their bedroom on a day it was icy and snowing outside.
Bobby and I have a king size bed which allows us to sleep the entire night without even coming close to touching each other. It's SO nice. ;)  We also have loved having bathtubs again…and huge ones at that. The kids have enjoyed a good number of bubble baths lately.  Since it is a jacuzzi tub, we occasionally turn on the jets which brings forth an explosion of screams and giggles.  

Bobby and I have continued to stay busy with our jobs.  We love who we work for and are so thankful that is the case. We are working normal hours again since we are on the same time zone which has allowed for us to go to bed at a more respectable hour. 

Both kids attend preschool 3 days a week. Amelie absolutely loves going. She counts the days until it's time to go again. She loves her friends and her teacher. Liam on the other hand is not as sold. Poor guy. I'm hoping with time he will enjoy going and not miss his family too much. Bobby and I have been able to focus on work as well as go on some lunch dates. We have found that by the kids going to school, we are able to have more quality time with them when they are at home. I'm thankful the preschool is such an amazing place with good staff. 
First day of school in front of the school's playground.
When it has been uncharacteristically cold, we play inside, drink hot chocolate, watch movies, and make crafts. We also went bowling for the first time as a family and the kids had a blast! 
The ball was almost too heavy for Liam to manage, but he would not accept any help.  He did drop the ball a couple of times but it never managed to drop on anyone's toes.
Amelie spent time lining up her ramp and had her own style in pushing her ball.  
When we are not playing at the beach we are going to story time at the library, playing at the "Wood Park" playground, and walking around the zoo.  Since the large castle themed playground is across the street from their school, we have spent many afternoons there playing.  Some of Amelie's classmates have joined us which makes it even more fun.  Our other favorite after school activity is to run through the zoo.   The kids love feeding the animals.  It's a really nice zoo with a good variety of animals.  We found out that the cats are fed right after the zoo closes.  Since we go an hour before the zoo closes, this explains why they are so active.  One day, Bobby decided to talk to the tigers and he got talked back to…multiple times.  At one point, the tiger stood up and swatted at the fence.  I did not get that on video but I did get the tiger talking a little.  

After 3 cages of tigers and 1 of lions (all who were pacing and vocal), I caught this video of Liam telling Bobby he did not want Bobby eaten. 

We love having the beach for our back yard. We are loving this city as well.  The community is small and offers lots of fun activities for families. We are hoping to get more connected and meet some people our age. ;)   Who knows what the future holds, but for now we are loving beach life!!

Walking on our dock on the backside of the townhouse over the lagoon.

New Perspectives

How do you summarize a year? How do you put your finger on how you've changed when the change has been a slow, ongoing process?  In light of these questions, the purpose of this post is to attempt to write some of what I have learned through traveling this last year.

An obvious truth reinforced has been perspective affects attitude which affects action. Whether for trivial things like the size of the washing machine to big life changers like the blessing of having children, my perspective in the moment shapes my attitude which flows over into my actions. Traveling has allowed me to see this effect over and over again. Acknowledging that I need perspective changes at times has allowed other voices to be able to penetrate in moments when my perspective is off...usually just focused on myself. Here are some things that I have a new perspective on:
  • Peanut butter. Never to be taken for granted again. Such an easy go-to lunch option for kids that much of the world can't tap in to.  
  • Washing of clothes. A necessary household task that is accomplished in a million different ways with a million of different resources. Our current house has an enormous washing machine with a dryer. I can accomplish 2 days worth of clothes in about 2 hours with the only work of placing clothes from one machine to the other.  So amazing!!!  While we were living in Athens, I remember feeling the weight of having to do laundry.  However, that weight has vanished.  Maybe it started by having to wash a small load every day, hang dry everything, and then wait for them to dry. This certainly made it evident to me that I never really had it rough.  With having a dryer again (and having way less clothes), laundry has turned into a 5 min deal every other day instead of a laborious task that takes up my Saturday. 
  • Getting from Point A to Point B.  Bobby would always tell me that stressing over making it to a destination on time does not raise the odds of actually making it there at said time. It's taken me a couple of years, but I think I have finally relaxed about causing tension until we are actually late.  I remind myself frequently that traveling in your own personal vehicle from door step to door step is a luxury.  We like our new car and our thankful that we have this luxury.  But as crazy as this might sound, I miss all the walking.  Give me some time though and I will be completely spoiled and forget how to manage without a car. 
  • Kids will survive with not many toys. When you have a small amount you can be entertained with little (like when traveling on a plane or train). Also technology is amazing at providing entertainment when traveling. Now that we have access to more and it's convenient and cheap to buy more, how do we fight against not having too much?
  • Eating portions. Grocery stores are little in the places we stayed. You do not have endless options. You have your basics and the staples to survive but you don't have an aisle for crackers or a wall of break & bake cookies, crescent rolls, biscuits, etc to choose from. We ate less because we had less to choose from. We ate meat, fruit, and veggies. I've gained weight since being back. It's nice and not nice at the same time to have the comfort and easy access of all foods of home. ;)
  • Name brand versus off brand.  Man, I'm ashamed to say I was a snob before we left when it came to having to have certain brands. I guess once you know something works and you like it you don't want the chance of getting something new and being unhappy. However, while we traveled we always bought the cheapest when shopping. We couldn't read the descriptions so we just compared by price. A good example is diapers.  I had no idea if the diapers were good for 12 hours or for Movers.  We just looked for a size and the cheapest price.  And guess what?  They worked just fine. No rashes, no crazy leaks (thank goodness!). They did what they were designed to do. I'm kicking myself now for the years of buying a certain brand and not buying for price. Oh well, I guess traveling while they were in diapers ended up being a good thing.  
The most important thing I have learned is how important it is to consciously stop and smell the roses (both literally and figuratively).  I tend to be task oriented.  It has been really good for me to stop being so focused on tasks and be more focused on my family (I only had to leave the country to figure this out!).  We have had some amazing experiences this past year, but more importantly we have been able to spend quality time together.  As we settle into a more normal routine of life, we are being intentional to carve out quality time together.  I know that as the kids get older it might be harder to make this happen, but I hope we always make the time to do fun things together.

This is it…the last Split post

As we would leave each city, I would often compose a hodgepodge post of things we did that hadn't yet made it to the blog.  To keep up with that tradition, this last Split post contains a variety of things.  

While in Valencia, Bobby and Amelie were able to make it to a soccer match.  They both enjoyed the experience so much that Liam and I wanted to make sure we went to at least one soccer match too.   Hajduk is the most supported team in Split and we would see support for the team all over.  Going to the match was an experience that will not be easily forgotten.  We all had a blast and there was so much going on.  The intense fans, the soccer game itself, the riot police, the singing, the fireworks, etc.  We were surprised by how many firecrackers and flares went off as we were patted down very thoroughly as we entered.  It will always be a mystery to me.  I am thankful that the ticketing agent did not allow us to buy tickets in the intense fan section…that would have been too much for a family event! ;)  Looking from our vantage point of all of the happenings was perfect though.

So many flares and fireworks went off at one point, a thick smoke filled the entire field of play.
Too cute not to include is this random picture of Liam helping Bobby cook chili one night.    
Just outside the Golden Gate of the north side of the Palace is the statue of Gregory of Nin created by Ivan Meštrović.  Gregory of Nin was a medieval Croatian bishop of Nin who strongly opposed the Pope and official circles of the Church and introduced the national language in the religious services after the Great Assembly in 926, according to traditional Croatian history. Until that time, services were held only in Latin, not being understandable to the majority of the population. Not only was this important for Croatian language and culture, but it also made Christianity stronger within the Croatian kingdom.  Rubbing the statue's toe is said to bring good luck.

The tower of a now long-gone Benedictine Monastery also outside the Golden Gate.
A fair popped up near us in which we frequented a couple of times.  Highlights include Liam riding on his first roller coaster, Amelie recklessly driving bumper cars, and Amelie being a daredevil on the gigantic inflatable slide.

Loving the roller coaster ride.
What a cute train conductor!! 
We hit up most of the museums in Split with our Split Pass.  Being the only people in the museums, we were able to enjoy walking around learning without fear of disrupting others.

Looking at the then and now of the city. 
If you were to ask me which of the cities were my favorite, I would tell you Valencia and Split.  Split is an amazingly beautiful place and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  I hope to one day make it back during the summer months. :)