Vacation--all I ever wanted

2009 is leaving me and I feel the need for a final post. Our schedule has been extremely full since leaving Tallahassee for our Christmas road trip on the 20th. We dropped off Bella (our dog) at my parents house, then went on to Brandon to spend time with Jimmy's parents. On the way into town we went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The next day we finished our shopping while Granny and Grandad made cookies with the kids. The next day we took Jackson and Libby on a surprise date to see the Nutcracker. We didn't tell them where we were going until we were in the car. Those of you who know Jackson know that this was killing him. The kids enjoyed it and so did we despite our nervousness about them falling over the side of the balcony which had a barrier of only like 24 inches or so. It was a long drop into the abyss since we were in the nosebleed section. But we escaped with no one falling and I liked the snowflake dance the best.

We led worship at our old church, Calvary Chapel Brandon on Christmas Eve, and then spent the evening at Jimmy's parents annual party. Christmas morning was full of stockings, presents, and a big breakfast, then it was off to my parents house by lunch to see all the cousins and family. We ate a large Christmas dinner as soon as we got there at which I declared that no one else in the entire world has a Christmas dinner as good as ours was that day. Seriously. We should sell tickets. Later we opened presents...this year was the "$3 Christmas" meaning we could only spend $3 on a gift (or re-gift something you already had or give something you got for free, etc.). It turned out to be quite impressive and Jimmy received two identical Mountain Dew hats from each of my sisters. They both got them for $2.99 at Ross. They didn't know they had bought him the same thing until he opened them. Poor Jimmy. But hey, he did it to himself. He likes to flaunt his Mt. Dew obsession. Just a few days earlier he had bought himself Mt. Dew flavored chap stick. (I'm doing him a masculine favor and not calling it lip gloss.) The next day the women went on a day after Christmas shopping trip treated by the Queen for our Christmas (she exempted herself from the $3 rule) and were successful in shopping and escaping the noise for half a day.

The next day was church and that afternoon we spent prepping for Monday, which was a trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios! Yes, you read correctly. We took 8 adults and 10 children to a Disney theme park during one of the busiest weeks of the year! Are we crazy? No! Why? Because we all got in free! My sister Becky's family has year passes, my sister Susan had 9 free tickets, it was Susan's birthday, so we were only short 2 tickets, since Penelope gets in free. My sister Becky scored two more tickets because her husband Jim chaperoned a trip to the Candlelight program last week with their youth choir. So there you go. AND we packed our lunches and ate dinner after we left so the only money we spent was for the kids on some trinkets as we left. It was crazy and tiring and fun and awesome and we didn't lose anyone and Susan got to ride a roller coaster for her birthday! It will probably never happen again and we were all glad we did it.

So that brings us to the last couple days which have involved thrift store shopping, more shopping, shooting, skinning, and eating squirrel, building a bonfire and roasting marshmallows, playing outside, playing the Wii inside, eating really good food, playing games, and watching football. Does anyone else want to come on vacation with us? Yes, it is all I ever wanted. While I am dreading the detox/damage control I have before me when I go home in a couple days, I am thankful for family and the holidays.

I wish I had lots of cool pictures to show but we haven't really had the camera out that much. I didn't want to take my work camera into a theme park. There is the annual "silly picture" of my family which came out great as usual. There are some things you can always count on. And that's partial insanity from your relatives.


Art Class Houses

Wednesday during my Home's Cool Art Class, we made gingerbread houses. It was lots of fun. I was determined to take photos instead of build a house because I knew capturing my little artists at work would make great pictures. They worked hard at creating and then put their entire selves into devouring every piece of their work. At least my kids did. There was this extreme uproar at dinner. It's like they were going to die right there if they didn't get to eat it. Once we just let them at it, all was peaceful. I can hear the oompa loompas singing in my head...Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop, great big greedy nincompoop... The entire photo shoot is on my Julie Alley Photography Facebook page. No, Julie Alley does NOT have a Facebook account. But Julie Alley Photography does. I don't want any friends. Just fans. Ha ha.


Mom on the move

Shame on me for not blogging in a while! It seems there have been no big events by which to spin my tales. Yet a lot goes on around here. So much, it seems like there's nothing exciting really happening. But when I stop and think about it, even ordinary days can be exciting.

Like today, I had exactly 45 minutes until I had to leave with the family for the mall. We were meeting some friends there for kid's eat free at Chick Fil-A. (I talk about kid's night at Chick Fil-A so much on here I'm beginning to think I should have named my blog "Kid's night at Chick Fil-A!") I was really sweaty and overdue a shower (I won't reveal how long "overdue" means in my world) but I wanted to exercise before I showered because naturally, I can't exercise within 18 hours after showering because that would be a total waste of a shower and thus my time. So I wanted to shower, exercise, and get everyone out the door in 45 minutes. I knew I'd be cutting it close. But it's these little challenges I give myself as a mom that make my life interesting.

I grabbed the dog's leash, hooked her up, told Jimmy what I was doing, and took off at a power walk. The dog was so excited that I was semi-running she dragged me all the way down our hill. I round the corner. She sees dogs. She drags me some more. We make it past. Then encounter some other dogs. I let the leash get away from me. She runs to the fence. They literally bare their teeth at me and I'm a little freaked. I make it home. Penelope and Cash are painting black streaks on their cheeks with my eye liner. My compact is missing. I can't take a shower yet because a kid is on the potty. Cash has to go too. The other potty is clogged. I send him to pee off the back deck. I'm telling Libby to hurry up. Searching for my compact. Walking through the house half-naked looking for my jeans in the laundry. Find the foam circle for my compact on the floor next to the toilet. (In prime little boy missing the mark pee territory.) I jump in the shower. Get out, get dressed, brush hair, don't apply any make-up since it's been you know where (I'll wash it out later), put shoes on kids, fool around with Jackson's shin guards (he had soccer later on), and help Jimmy get everyone in the car. Run back inside to get something for Penelope's hair because she looks like a sheep dog. I was on about 51 minutes. Not bad. I had allowed for some cusion.

We're driving two cars because of the soccer practice afterwards. Jimmy lays down a challenge to see who can get to the mall first. Why not? He pulls out first. A total advantage because we have the shortest way to the mall down to a science. But I'm up for it. The kids get into it. I pull a gamble of a move right at the end and beat him with time to spare. Victory! Sometimes, things do go right for a mom on the move. At the mall I get a steal of a deal with a gift card and take three kids home, bathe and bed them with no poop incidents or major melt downs. I even tended to the clogged toilet. Sometimes, you have good days. You exercise, shower, escape cooking dinner and purchase something fun at the mall all in the scope of two hours.

I'm not really sure if it's sad or weird that these things are what constitute a "good" day for me. But this is my life. And although my compact is still missing, I have my years of toddler experience to assure myself that it will turn up. Unless it got flushed down the toilet. In which case I've got experience in that department as well. Don't think I'd be able to reuse it though...