Sunday, June 26, 2016

Camp Winnataska, Round 2!

The kids have absolutely loved all of their experiences with Camp Winnataska, so it was a given that they would return again this summer.  As you know, Bennett chose to go for two weeks, but they both chose to go the same week as all of their Shades Cahaba friends in June. 

Preston got settled in his Siesta hut quickly, with a fun group of boys, but we knew his counselors were in for a wild week with that crew!  I captured one group photo before we departed, but then Pres was begging me to leave and to take my camera with me.

Cooper, George, Cade, Luke, Pres, Jack, Boone and Hayes (and 1 new kid)

Bennett was in the Cherokee hut again, but this time on the other side along with all of her sweet friends.  We got her settled in quickly, but Walker was not happy about leaving his "B-B."  We captured one group photo (that Walker had to be in as well), and then left with only one child.

W, Caroline, Carmen, Laken, Maddie, Abigail, Madeleine Anne, B and Mary Martin
Though we can send them notes throughout the week, we never heard a word back (except once, more on that later).  Preston did a better job finding the camera so there were many more pictures of him throughout the week, but I can tell from all of these pictures that they both had another terrific time!  Nothing better than becoming more independent, making new friends, creating memories and spending a week away from us to make the heart grow fonder.  Pres welcomed us with HUGE bear hugs and tears, while our big girl was more excited to see her baby brother.  Though we got a hug from her too, Bennett and Walker have a special bond and were happy to be reunited.

Indian Night - mean boys!

Late every night, photos were uploaded to the camp's private portal where only parents who have  children attending camp there can view the pictures.  So each morning it became my routine to sip on my coffee and go through the previous day's pictures.  So you can imagine my surprise when on my birthday, I saw this picture:

This photo made me cry like a baby, and I still well up with tears when I see their creativity and birthday message!  I think Daddy reminded them through email about my upcoming birthday, but what a surprise!  Favorite picture from all week....FOR SURE!

Ed's Pet World came to visit camp

Celebration of all holidays - P was St Patty's Day

Country Night

Holy Grail Night - when they burn the bridge and rebuild it overnight

Bennett always gets attached to her counselors
Finally Reunited!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

All Stars Season

Typically for these posts, I try to be real, yet positive.... because nothing is that bad when you reflect back on it.  However, this year Preston participated in the All Stars post-season baseball program through Homewood, which was so poorly managed that I feel I have to write about it truthfully.

When one thinks of "All Stars," one thinks they are the "better" players of the regular season, right?  Well that was problem number one with this year's program.  They decided they would rather allow anyone who wanted to play an extended season, rather than ask those the coaches who they feel deserve to be on a team.  Preston wanted to play, so we waited.

Initially they were going to divide the boys into three teams, an A, B and C team.  Problem two....there weren't enough "A" players to make an entire team, so the coach that was coaching that team got to pick who he wanted from the pool.  The rest of the regular season coaches then ranked the remaining kids (instead of all of the kids like they should have), and put together a B and C team based on their ranking. 
Problem three, the two coaches who volunteered to coach the other two teams had sons that were both on the "C" team.  So who should coach?  The father of the kid who is ranked higher?  Ask a father of a "B" kid?  Nope.....they decided to just divide up the B and C kids and make two crummy teams.  I knew we should have dropped out then, but Steve thought the extra practice would do Preston good. Sadly, we watched him just get worse and burn out over the course of the season.  It was incredibly frustrating!
Thankfully the season came to an end mid June so we could move on with our summer, and stop living at the ballpark.  Though he had sweet boys (and parents) on his team, Steve and I were over it and ready to just throw in the towel.  The upside...Preston got two cute under armour baseball jerseys with his name on the back that he loves to wear.  He also got to hang with his buddies at the ballpark for the extra weeks past regular season.
Thanks to Mimi, Papa and Uncle Dan for their continued support of the "bad news bears."  Even if they weren't at the ballpark, they helped by watching Bennett and Walker, who had enough of baseball after regular season ended.

Mimi, Papa and Uncle Dan still rooted for Preston

Most of the 7 year old All Star players

Goodbye Gregory

Gregory's extended family

For the past several years, Gregory has been in and out of the hospital, suffering from cancer.  He
was diagnosed at the young age of 18, and sadly lost his battle with cancer at 21 years of age on March 9th.  He was surrounded by his family, and everyone had an opportunity to say good-bye.  We attended his funeral back in March, but the true good bye was this summer when everyone gathered at one of his favorite places, Smith Lake, for a proper farewell. 

Lisa and Greg did a great job

thinking of everything...and all of Gregory's family and close friends were there.  Teresa wrote and sung a beautiful song, and then those that wanted to share a memory (happy, sad or funny) could do it.  Then they used a small boat that Greg built to send some of his ashes off to the lake.  The ashes were wrapped up in one of his favorite handkerchiefs.  They lit tons of Chinese lanterns and sent them off.  The evening concluded with lots of food, drinking and story telling.  I know that Gregory was smiling down from heaven as everyone celebrated his life!

sending lots of love to heaven

Since we were at the lake, the boys (Steve, Pres, Walker and Beck) stuck around for another day of fun....scooting b-b guns, skipping rocks, swimming and just being boys.  I had to depart early to pick up Bennett from camp, but when we all met up later that day...all of the boys were exhausted from all of the fun. 
feeding fish (dirty feet and all)

throwing rocks

Goo giving Preston pointers on shooting

these boys love each other, most of the time

Camp Winnataska - Round 1

After another successful week at Camp Winnataska last year, Bennett asked to go for two weeks!  Steve and I never attended overnight camps when we were children, but it has been really nice having both of our big kids enjoy it so much, and continually ask to return, and stay for longer.  So after much thought, we allowed Bennett to go for two weeks this summer.  A couple of times during the summer, they allow for "stay overs" where the kids can stay on Saturday night with the counselors and truly never come home in between sessions.  We thought that was what Bennett was signed up for initially, but as it turns out - it wasn't. 

However, that didn't affect Bennett's outlook on it all.  In fact, she has gotten so brave about camp.  Initially we thought she may see some familiar faces, but she wasn't technically going with any friends for this first week.  But when we received the hut lists a couple of days before she left, we were shocked to see a couple of classmates not only there for the same session, but in the same hut!  Bennett was over the moon!
B with classmate, Josie Davis

Sadly Steve had to leave for a business trip early, and therefore missed her camp drop off.  But the boys went with us, and we were there to send her off properly.  As soon as her bed was made, she was ready for me to go (she had no use for me at that point).  She was excited to get her week going, and swelter in the horrific heat! 

Meanwhile the boys and I were anxious to return to the comfort of our air conditioned car.  In fact it was so hot, and they were so good at camp, I took them out for ice cream on the way home.

The week went as I expected it would for Bennett - wonderfully!  She had a blast!  She is on mainside now with the other "big kids" and stayed in the Cherokee hut.  She got to go horseback riding a couple of times, shot guns, did a ropes course, went canoeing, swimming, crafts, learned new songs and dance moves and had fun each night at the various themed parties.  Here are some more pictures from her amazing first week at camp:
the girls of Cherokee (right side)

saying our good-byes

"Cowboy Night"

B with Hollis Gifford

Monday, June 6, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Hilton Sandestin
After spring break it is hard to refocus the kids.  We are all done with school, homework, and early bedtimes.  So as the end finally nears, our whole family only focuses on one thing...our Memorial Day beach trip for a week!  This year we decided to book a large house with the Jarmons and the Criggers, and we moved to Inlet Beach to avoid the crowds.  Like always, I began pulling things together mid week, but when Steve asked me late morning on Friday to go down early - we all had to put it in high gear so we could hit the road later that day and stay at a hotel in Sandestin.  I must admit smelling the ocean air (even if it was at 9:30) is incredible, but waking up and seeing the ocean from our balcony without sitting in traffic was even better!

Walker and Miller playing in a pond

After grabbing breakfast, touching our toes in the sand and playing in the pool - we packed up and drove down the beach a little way to hang with Fletcher and Leah Smith and their boys until the rest of our crew arrived.  They were in Santa Rosa (on the way to our beach), and were right on the beach!  The boys had a ball playing together, and it was fun relaxing and chatting.  The rest of the crowd came there upon arrival to hang out for a bit, but eventually we all grew hungry and had to grab a late lunch at Stinky's.

The slogan Steve started the summer before, and our hashtag for this trip!
After lunch, we were able to check in and our official week began!  We had absolutely BEAUTIFUL weather ALL WEEK long - crystal clear water, no waves (which was perfect for Walker) and sunny skies!  The Tanners, Passarellas and Serotskys were all in Inlet Beach too, so our kids had no shortage of friends to hang out with all week, and therefore had a blast!  To top it off, the girls in our house had their own bunk room, while Pres and Walker shared their own room.  With everyone having a little personal space, a pool across the street and the beach two blocks away, we had nothing to complain about it.

Each family took one night to cook dinner, and then we chipped in on the other nights, or ate out.  We did some walking, took bike rides, did a lot of swimming, played in the ocean, hunted crabs and found hundreds of sand dollars!  Each day was great, and our family had a phenomenal time together.  One of the nights we went crabbing, we caught about 10 blue crabs that we actually cooked, and they were yummy!  And for those of you nature preservers, don't worry....though the kids found over 500 sand dollars one day (yes they counted them), they threw all of them back!  Over the week, we saw a stingray, a reef shark and a sea turtle....lots of sea life in our pretty gulf.

Walker, Caroline, Mary Ellis and Jack

William and Preston
Oysters at Dusty's!

Walker loved the splash pad at Alys Beach

Bennett loved crabbing with her Daddy!

our pride and joy!

Sand dollars were plentiful this trip, the kids found over 500 one day!

Lauren, Shanon and myself

The kids with their turtle sand creation!
As always, another great trip to the beach!  Can't wait to return in a month!