Travel and Beach Hack

We have a lot to tote from the van to the beach or on one of our many road trips that you all are gradually learning are part of our existence. Whether we are carrying them or finding room to fit them in the van, it seems that we are always having to choose which things we can do without for the moment.

Two things that we absolutely cannot do without are drinks and a way to keep these drinks cold. Now, we have been at this for a while and have tried all of the methods that we have found. We have frozen our water bottles, bought the Koolaid Jammers and ice packs, and carried jugs of HiC and grabbed cups of ice along the way. All of these end up watered down or too heavy to tote with the sand toys or other items.

Finally, on our Friday trip to the beach this week, we tried something new. Honestly, this was not a genius moment that was planned but rather out of necessity. You see, we were going to be out for the day and did not have any Koolaid jugs and only two Jammers in the fridge. We were leaving early and did not want to face Walmart (which is still crazy post- Irma). We have one of those little rolly cooler bags that don’t quite hold enough anyway, but we had forgotten to put the ice packs back in the freezer from our last adventure.

So, here we were facing Walmart and watered down drinks at the beach.

Until….. (enter dramatic drumroll), I opened the freezer to find these little numbers…

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We all seem to have them. They are cheap, quick, and somewhat reasonable treats. But, on this day, they were drinks and ice! Now, I know…sugar sugar sugar. But, the kids were going to be in the sun all day and running on the beach so I believe we offset the additional calories (not that we actually put too much thought into this), and, with a pair of scissors tucked into the bag, we were set every time one of them yelled that they were thirsty.

At the end of the day, the snacks were still cold and the popsicles in the middle still had ice! We were able to put the “leftovers” back into the freezer without worry for the next scheduled road trip which will take place tomorrow night!

Stay tuned for exciting updates on this journey!

“Gigi”

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How 9/11 Shaped our Lives

I was twenty-three years old with three children and recently separated from my ex-husband. Sitting in my first home of my own, a small three bedroom single wide in rural Virginia, I looked around at the suit cases packed for my “separation celebration.” We were going on our first cruise! My children, 2, 4, and 6 at the time, were starting to stir out of their rooms and pitter patter down the hallway when my phone rang. It was my mother and I was sure she was going to tell me that she was on her way as we were leaving that day from my house to make the drive to Miami, Fl. All I heard, instead of the excited squeal that I expected, was a somber “turn on the TV.”

I remember collapsing. I remember pulling my children close and sitting down on the floor in front of the television unaware of their stares as they watched their mother sob in fear. They, of course, were unaware what those images on the screen meant to their world but I could not imagine the world beyond that very moment.  Everything was over and all I could do was take in these last moments with my children in my arms.

Then it hit me. If this would be their last moments, what kind of mother would allow them to be spent in fear and uncertainty? What kind of mother would I be if I allowed a group of terrorists to take away the last smiles on their faces? No, I would not allow this. I would not be a victim nor would I allow my children to be victimized.

I called my mother back and said to come on and bring her suitcase. When she arrived, we sat for a moment and knew what we should do. I spoke with my father who thought it was a bad idea to go on with our plans and, perhaps he could have been right, but my decision that day made all the difference for my family.

That day, we made a decision to live. We live cautiously, but never scared. We boarded that boat on September 13, 2001, and we set the tone for our lives ever since. Eleven cruises later and I cannot say that I have ever learned more in three days than I did that maiden voyage.

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I learned that there is more to the world than what we see in our daily lives.

I learned that fear keeps us from seeing the most beautiful places, experiencing the most beautiful moments, and connecting with the most beautiful people.

I learned that my children need my strength in order to find their own.

I learned that the ocean is large enough to hold every hope and every dream.

I learned that there it is possible for people from all around the world, even in the face of such events, to come together and enjoy the beauty of the world.

I learned that wars are fought in politics not people.

I learned that everything in life must be learned and that this cannot occur without experiences.

Most of all, I learned that we can all live in fear, as the terrorists wanted, or we can continue to win every day that we choose to experience life.

To those who lost their lives that day, we owe it to you to continue to win!

“Gigi”

 

Blogging Journey Day 18: To New Friends

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

WOW! I never would have guessed that only 18 days into this journey that we would have had a day yesterday with over 500 views reaching more than 1700 views to date. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting us know that we are not on this journey alone.

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

There are so many different avenues that we discuss because there are so many different aspects of our lives that we feel others may also be encountering. A lot of our views have been related to our CPS case and I pray that we are providing a sense of hope for those who are going through this and a greater awareness to those who continue to believe the assumptions about CPS. Ashley has opened up about her relationship with Mikey and has found support from other men and women who have a significant other serving in the armed forces. There is a great pride for their loved ones but also a loneliness that can be lessened through these friendships. Ashley has also been able to connect with other mothers to discuss tips and swap stories. I have met countless of other families of children with Down’s Syndrome and we have been able to discuss the beauty of celebrating every milestone. You all have celebrated my Gloria’s birthday with us, prayed for my dear friend Heather as she nearly lost her life and underwent amputation. You have tagged along to the beach and heard the wisdom of my granddaughter, Clarabelle. There are so many journeys to come and more details to provide. We look forward to continuing to meet others and grow as a community who will overcome all obstacles together!

Together, we are better!

“Gigi”

Save Yourself: Your Children will Need you When they Return from Foster Care

If we would have entered that courtroom having forgotten who we were as a family, then we would not have been able to portray this to the judge. If we had entered that courtroom looking defeated, then we would have been defeated.

Many years ago, we were called the “boat people,” because every time we went into the local thrift store we were looking for attire for our next cruise. This was just our thing to do. Vacationing is a way of life and so many people would ask how we were able to afford this. Well, the first clue is that we were called this in the local thrift store. I mean, seriously, when were we ever gonna wear those dresses again? Vacationing defined us. People were always asking about this trip or that location and we did this on minimal income.

When the girls turned 6 months old (the youngest allowed on a cruise ship), yep, you guessed it, we were boarding in Miami! It was the perfect trip as we convoyed three vehicles from West Virginia to enjoy this milestone, this entrance into the family addiction to vacationing.

In March of 2017, we were approaching the one year mark on our CPS case. The house was empty and our momentum was beginning to decline. The lawyers had told us to stop looking for any other explanations in the case and to just use everything that we had done to show our side in court. The court date was approaching and idle time began to take its toll.

Then, we remembered who we are and how much of “us” the case had taken. We spent time with the children that week at our visits, packed up the van, and my mother (Nanny), my daughter (Ashley), and I made the drive to Port Canaveral to board a ship.

WHAT!!!! People were quick to ask if we had lost our minds. “Won’t this look bad in your case?” “How can you have fun while the children are going through this?” “How can you afford this with all of the legal fees and associated costs?” “This is soooo irresponsible.”

In short, our response was, “we had no choice.”

If we would have entered that courtroom having forgotten who we were as a family, then we would not have been able to portray this to the judge. If we had entered that courtroom looking defeated, then we would have been defeated. We had spent nearly a year looking through medical files, legal cases, attending visits, attending doctor appointments, sitting up at night crying in the silence. This had drained our very spirits and, when there was no more research to do, we felt hopeless.

So, we found ourselves again. We found our strength. We took a moment to remember how important it is to enjoy each moment of our lives and the people who are in them. We laughed. We cried. We stared out into the horizon and envisioned what was just on the other side.

When we came home, we approached that horizon. We entered that courtroom claiming that our family would be returned. And they were!

CPS takes everything that they can from you. They not only alienate you from your children but also from your very being, your soul until there is nothing left of you to fight for. Hold on to who you are because, WHEN your children come home, they are going to need that person to be there!

 

You are Important Too!

“Gigi”

Beach Day!

Earlier in the week, I posted about how my beach trips have changed since having children and I said that I would update you guys on our day.

Well, we get to the beach and it took 3 of us to tote the toys, the bags, and the tent down to a spot on the beach. We get just about to the sand and I hear Clarabelle behind me shout ” mommy, you Have to pick bubby up, the sand is always hot!” I tell her that he will be fine because he has shoes on. “No, he doesn’t mommy!”

This kid walked out of his shoes. So I had to carry him plus the very heavy bags I had down to our spot and walk myself back to find the missing shoes. Thankfully, the man heard Clarabelle scold me for not carrying Elliott had walked around looking for the missing shoes that were about 30ft away from each other. When I got to the parking lot I saw him down by my car waving the shoes in the air laughing.

After thanking him and who I assume was his wife, I get back down to the beach and spray the kids down with sunscreen.

Now, my kids love to play a little game called “see how fast you can cover every square inch of my body in sand.” They’re pros at this game. They even dabble in taste testing the sand, only to turn around and complain that there is sand in their mouth. Then fast forward through the next 2hours of  Clarabelle shouting “THERE’S SAND IN MY BUTT, It’s IN MY BUTT MOMMY!” 

We went wave hopping and we all laughed so much with anticipation of each oncoming wave, and then even harder when one would crash onto their bellies.

And then nap time rolled around. Clarabelle naps sometimes, but Elliott is a real mess if he doesn’t take his. So the tent comes into play. He curls up in there, the wind caused a perfect cool breeze through the openings, and he fell right to sleep.


How perfect is napping on the beach?

We all play in the sand and the water for a while longer. Right after Elliott wakes up, there is a shark sighting (Scary!!). So we go ahead and pack up head home, and recap on a perfect beach day ❤️

-A.

Going To The Beach: Before & After Kids. 


Before I had children, going to the beach meant packing for a weekend trip because we lived up north.

15 different outfits, Lots of makeup, Hair products Selfie stick, and Plenty of cute shoes.

Now that I live down south, we are able to make day trips to the beach. But my packing seemed to double in size! ” How is this possible?”one may ask!

CHILDREN. 

The sand toys themselves are enough to fill your trunk. And they insist on bringing every single one of them. And then you have the snacks. So many snacks. Then there’s the sunscreen, little swimmers, extra clothes, diapers for the drive home. Not to mention the drinks. And back up drinks. And backups for the backups.

It’s still a little over an hours drive to the beach so it’s necessary to take an extra potty break with a toddler who insists that she doesn’t have to go and then pees as soon as she sits down on the potty.

Then when you try to get ready after getting them ready, you have to listen to “can we go now” “are you ready now” “hurry up let’s go!” “Can we go noooooooooooooooowwwww?”

So you end up just throwing your hair in a ponytail and tossing a worn out sundress and your old flip flops and heading out the door.

Because you have kids. And it doesn’t matter what you look like anymore.

I’ll be back later for an update on how the beach day went! Wish me luck!

-A.