Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer is officially over

Despite the still warm weather and the August date, summer for us came to a grinding halt this morning as the boys eagerly stepped on the bus at 7:30 am for their first day of school! 

There were no tears of lament over the changing of the season - the boys had one of the very best summers of their lives! 
Some of the summer highlights were, of course the beach vacations with the Hightower family and the Etheridge family, and the camping trips with friends...

But we wrapped things up pretty spectacularly with little adventures here at home (or close to home!) with friends and family:

  • There was a family-fun day in Glenwood Springs (including back-to-school shopping, but also a nice lunch and a visit to the hot springs pool!)

  • There were good times with great friends celebrating Iowa sweet corn and August birthdays!

  • There was definitely LOTS and LOTS of time spent with friends...

  • But perhaps the best adventures had this summer (or at least, my favorites!) were the ones Hamp & Sam shared together!

ready for 2nd and 5th grade!!!
(and for the record, YES they are wearing the same shirts as the first-day-of-school last year!!!)

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I never imagined it would be so difficult to simply say "thank you".

But the outpouring of kindness, generosity and charity that we have experienced over the past 5 months has humbled me to the core.

As a dutiful Southern born woman I am bound by etiquette to take a moment and hand write a thank you note to properly express my appreciation for something. And yet the magnitude of both the donors and donations to our family has paralyzed me with shock. So I have laid silent for some time...

I have had to take this time just to process how to possibly even accept all that has come our way.

When a card and thoughtful words were sent ~ I was uplifted.
When a monetary gift was sent while we were in the hospital ~ I was grateful
When a stranger stopped us at a restaurant and handed us a $50 gift card to have lunch ~ I cried

Then the cards and thoughtful words and prayers multiplied exponentially everyday, as did the monetary gifts and kindness of strangers. I became overwhelmed and out of fear of appearing ungrateful I accepted. Meanwhile, under the guise of graciousness I struggled to understand where all the charity was coming from... and more importantly how we could possibly be deserving of it.

Everyone suffers through the trials of life ~ and I can think of friends and family who have weathered greater battles than the ones I face now. Besides, we are so lucky for so much: time with Jason, good health care, health insurance, home-owners insurance, a supportive community, and the love of family. Therefore, I worry that I am not worthy of what others are doing to help our family... and that I will never live up to the generosity bestowed upon us.

But as I consider the names of friends, family, family-friends, friends' families, co-workers, long-lost buddies, high school gangs, in-laws, out-laws, and occasionally the perfect stranger ~ all who have in some way reached out to our family lately with a word, a thought, a prayer, a gift ~ I am compelled to rethink my idea of charity. I must realize it is not something to be earned or even repaid. It is something to be paid forward; it is a way to live. And I realize that the only way to deserve the charity of others, is merely to be charitable in return. That is the cycle of kindness that usurps all the horrible things that people do in this world.

And lastly, I realize that perhaps when someone is charitable there is only one thing they hope to hear:
"thank you".

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beach vacation part II - the Atlantic

Next stop on our whirlwind beach tour: New Smyrna beach!

Here we were able to get some more cousin lovin'  - as well as remain water logged!
The ocean was a little stronger than the gulf, but that didn't stop the boys from surfing the waves.
(what did eventually keep them ashore were the several shark sightings throughout the week! yikes!)
But not to worry, the sandcastle building was a serious endeavor.
And when that got tiresome, there was always time for the pool, which was right off the back door of the condo!
That's Hamp and Uncle Alec out there... no sharks in sight.

Best family night out?
a delicious dinner on the garden patio at our favorite New Smyrna spot, The Garlic!

I did get to celebrate turning 39 while at the beach...
and 'someone' insisted on getting a cake to make it official. I think everyone enjoyed it!

Of course, continuing the vacation theme of FAMILY was wonderful - but there is nothing better than the opportunity to finally meet a new member of your family!
Sweet little Jack, born December 28th, was a joy to hold and play with - everyone loved getting to know the newest addition to the Etheridge clan.

THANK YOU DADO & MOJO for making it all possible!

The entire 10 days between the Gulf and the Atlantic beaches was amazing.
As always, I crave the sand in my toes and the smell of salt water... so it was particularly satisfying for me to get my beach on! But even more satisfying is watching my children play in the sand and surf with their cousins and their aunts and uncles and grandparents. And even more satisfying still is knowing that family is there for you, no matter what. Thank you for taking such good care of us this summer... ♥ 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beach vacation part I - the Gulf

We followed through with our big summer vacation plans this July and it was worth every penny of airfare, every second of travel, and every ounce of worry and stress about travelling!

Getting there was actually not a problem...
and once we were finally in Orange Beach, Alabama - WOW!
Behold, the view from the 29th floor of the brand-new condo complex where we stayed!

But while the beach was beautiful, and the accommodations were extraordinary...
what we really came for was FAMILY!

These sweet faces greeted us when we pulled up to the condo - and the cousins were almost inseparable the rest of the week!

One of the big hits at our complex was the lazy river! Everyone got in...

Best family night out?
Happy hour, playtime and dinner at Lucy Buffett's restaurant (as in Jimmy's sister!)

So, between the lazy river, the water slide, and surfing the gulf waters the kids were water logged:

While we loved the water, the warm gulf sand, collecting sea shells, watching movies while the afternoon storms passed, catching crabs on the beach at night, and listening to the kids all play...

I am simply so glad that there was time built in to just sit and visit with one another and laugh and laugh at... er, with each other! It is so wonderful to have a family that likes to be together and appreciates having time to relax and enjoy life together.

THANK YOU PAPA & YAYA for a memorable beach vacation!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Wish I Was Here

Jason & I are pleased to present the trailer for "our" movie that opened at select theaters this past weekend!

Seriously though, as fans of Zach Braff's work we jumped on the Kickstarter bandwagon last year and gave money to help back his latest movie project... thus the shout out in the preview and the cool tee shirts! Hope you get a chance to check out the film - and the soundtrack!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Into the woods

One element of this summer so far that has been totally excellent has been the frequency of camping trips taken by the boys! 

Just to be clear, I owe all three trips to our dear friends who were willing to bring a couple of tag-a-longs with them on their adventures. I am overwhelmed with gratitude...

It all started with a 2-day, 1-night hike in to Mirror Lake with just two adults and three boys (Sammy didn't make this one!) ~ and for the first trip of the summer it went perfectly! Weather was apparently warm & dry and the fishing was a great success.

Another overnight trip found both boys camping at South Fork with their friends and exploring Spring Cave!

Then last weekend, both boys took off on a 2-night, 3-day back pack trip to Rainbow Lake!

There were two adults and eight boys; Sammy was the youngest and apparently he was quite a trooper!

Of course, I was torn between relief of having a quiet house and time to myself (and having everything stay clean for more than 5 minutes!) and worry of them getting scared at night or getting eaten by a bear.
But I knew better than to be too apprehensive at letting them go ~ there is no better place in my mind for two boys to be in the summer!