Monday, June 29, 2009

Camping On Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is an island off the Gulf Side of Florida that is famous for it's shelling. We've wanted to visit there for awhile...but never found the time.

We had a camping trip planned this weekend for Blackwater State Park, 9 hours North in Floridas Panhandle. But then, one by one, all the families we were supposed to travel with backed out...and pretty soon our family was facing going to Blackwater all alone.

I guess thats' not a big deal, but the weather forecast said rain, and Jason was less than thrilled about driving 18 hours for 2 days of we made a quick change of plans. I looked up camping on Sanibel, and found 1 available spot on the ONLY campground on the island. Not hesitating, I totally snagged it.

We were delayed leaving by 2-1/2 hours because of stormy weather...but we FINALLY took off in the afternoon. We got there, set up camp, and headed for the beach.

The campground was was privately owned, and had lots of really cute amenities, like a duck pond surrounded by tropical birds, and a GREAT laundry room, and even a fish-cleaning station! The kids loved the bird (A Scarlet Macaw named "Fred") actually talked and would say about 40 different things to the kids. They LOVED it!! Fred even whistled at Savannah every time she passed, which totally made her giggle and blush BRIGHT RED!! It was SO ADORABLE!!

And they weren't kidding about the amazing shelling!! We collected all kinds of great shells, made amazing sand castles, and played in the warm (albeit a little rough) ocean. And thankfully - there was no rain.

There was, however, lots of HEAT. We were the ONLY tent campers in the park, and right around 11am, everybody disappeared into their air-conditioned campers and didn't come out until then sun went down. And even then, it was STILL hot. hot that sweat was actually dripping off the ends of the kids HAIR hot!!!

In fact, it was SO HOT, that after 1 sleepless night, Jason was ready to call it quits. After a morning trip to the beach, he headed over to the camp office to see if we could get a refund if we broke camp and left RIGHT AWAY. The nice lady said: "Are you the tent campers?"

Jason answered in the affirmative, and she said: "I don't blame you!! NOBODY tent camps in the summer!!" and she gave us a refund for our second day.

So, we broke camp early, stopped for ice cream on the way home, and took the Tamiami Trail, a two-lane scenic highway that cuts RIGHT THROUGH the Everglades, home. We stopped at my favorite backwater joint, Joannies Blue Crab Shack, for some grilled gator, frog legs, fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, and crab cakes. We enjoyed the singing of Raiford, the local yokel who sings and plays guitar and harmonica, and ate our swamp grub. Since we were the only patrons at the time, he played kids songs for Old MacDonald and She's Coming 'Round The Mountain, along with Johnny Cash and the Beatles. Nicolette could hardly keep in her seat. She said: "Look at my feet, mama. The music makes my feet wiggle!!"

I was excited to drive the Tamiami with Jason, because although the kids and I have done it a few times, Jason has never gotten the chance. The scenery is just incredible...there's stuff you just don't SEE anywhere else but here...cypress trees dripping with Spanish Moss, gators sunning beside the road, Indian villages filled with straw-covered homes and long houses, signs advising you of panther crossings, and tons of tropical shore birds. We saw lots of wildlife, and had lots of time to chat. It was really great...and a great weekend away with the family...even if we DID cut it a little short.

We have a LONG vacation to Southern California and Utah coming up in a week, and I'm very busy getting ready. I only took a disposable camera with me camping, so as soon as it's developed, I'll scan in the pics.

I'm also a little slow because we (and by "we", I mean "my husband") purchased a new computer (...which means so much for a new camera for "me", or a cruise for "us"), and now we're in the process of getting it set up and transferring all our important files. It might not get done until I get back at the end of July!!

But don't are coming!! Until then...

Josephs Arrow of Light

Joseph got his Arrow of Light on Wednesday!! We are SO PROUD!!

But I can tell you that we had a lot of was kooky and corny like all Pack Meetings should be. The theme was "A-Camping We Will Go", and the kids and I got to the church early to set up all our tents and camping supplies to make the church look like a real campground. We even built a "bear cave" and filled it with teddy bears, and made fake "waterfalls" over all the doors.

After Pack Meeting, we had Joseph Court of Honor and Arrow of Light ceremony. I told a story about how a Cub Scout is like an acorn...he starts off small and simple...but with great potential. as he grows with Scouting, he becomes strong, dependable, valuable, and helpful...and soon, as he continues to grow in Scouting, he will reach beyond the forest trees and soar with the Eagles (I got choked up at that part and had to pause). Then we awarded him his Arrow of Light.
Then...he changed from his Cub Scout blue uniform shirt to his Boy Scout khaki uniform...

We also made a really cool shadowbox of patches and belt loops to display, and a banner to display his "fun" patches and awards.

This is a close-up of the shadowbox (sorry about the glare...)
And this is the shadowbox WITH the Arrow of Light (above)....

And these are all the "fun" patches that he earned that we put on the banner. Pretty cool, huh?

And to a new adventure...Boy Scouts!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm Going To Cry (But Someone Else Is Going to Eat)...

My computer is (once again) at Best Buy.

I HATE Best Buy. Have you noticed that the Geek Squad pictures posted above their (falsely-named) "Service Desk" show the Geek Squad hanging around a table with coffee, or laughing in the break room. When I first saw those pictures, I thought it was an advertising attempt to help the IT guys look less "geek-y", and more like everyday Joe's.

Now I realize it's just an accurate representation of what they do all day.

They have the WORST customer service EVER...and I am MORE than frustrated about losing my computer. I I am on the brink of another week where I'm supposed to start Summer School...and my computer is GONE. I even missed the announcing of the winner of my Grand Lux Cafe Giveaway!!

By the generated the number "10" as the winner...and the 10th comment is a Ms. Laura Harvey!! Congratulations Laura!!! Her comment said:

"I'm a follower too!"

(And don't worry about the 48 hour thing...since MY COMPUTER fudged the're off the hook about responding that fast).

Keep posted for next months'll be beautiful (or at least help you FEEL beautiful!!)

Anyway - I have lots more to post about...but since I've hijacked a friends computer to even do THIS MUCH, I'm going to have to wait and pray that mine is returned to me SOON!!!!

Love you guys!!

And Congratulations, Laura!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Josephs 11th Birthday

Okay - after all that Mommy Meltdown...I decided to keep it cool for the post about Josephs birthday. I mean - how much reminicing can a group of readers take, anyway?

For Josephs birthday...we had a pool party at our community's pool. We invited several kids for a few hours of swimming and pizza...but it seemed that the weather was not going to let us follow through with our plans. It had been raining for days with no sign of stopping...and not the misty pitter-patter rain of the West Coast, or even the thunderous drenching rain of the Midwest. Nope - this was big, fat, tropical raindrops the size of quarters that were hotter than the air around you, and black booming crashing clouds and wild zig-zags of forked lightening splitting the air between heaven and earth. This was Jungle Rain.

So I ran out and bought TONS of streamers and balloons and decorated the house in the very likely event that we would NOT be able to celebrate at the pool.

But lo and behold...around 4pm, the clouds parted, and the rain ceased, and the sun shone down...and by party time, it was a BEAUTIFUL day with nary a cloud in sight and a cool ocean tradewind keeping the oppressive humidity at bay. It was a miracle.

Joseph had a great turn-out...and everyone loved the weather, swimming, the weather, pizza, popsicles, did I mention the weather?
And my decorations were wasted. BUT THAT'S OKAY!!! I'll take the trade!!

And he has some VERY generous friends...and got some really great Legos Star Wars for the Wii, and a super cool Nerf target shooting game,

...not to mention his new uniform for Scouts (he's no longer a Cub Scout),

...and his VERY OWN CELL PHONE (from Mom and Dad, of course)!!!!

(I know - we're crazy. But he's going SO FAR AWAY to attend his magnet School next year that I just felt safer knowing he can reach me at anytime...anywhere.)

It was a GREAT DAY!!

Happy Birthday, Joseph!!

Josephs 5th Grade Graduation and a Major Mommy Meltdown


Joseph has grown up. This year was his last year in elementary school, and now he has advanced to middle school!!! AAUUGGHH!!

When did this happen? Wasn't I just giving birth to him? Changing his diapers? Chasing him down the street in my bathrobe? Teaching him to ride a bike? Videotaping him catching a giant praying mantis that he named "Microphone"? Teaching him to read? Nursing him through various injuries such as being hit by a car or scraping off his face on the street after trying to jump a trash can with his scooter? Sitting through endless pediatrician, neurologist, opthamologist, audiologist, speech pathologist, and behavioral psychologist appointments as we struggled to help him achieve in school?

Didn't he just start school? Like...a minute ago?

Okay - I'm having a mommy meltdown...I know...and I'm going to pay proper tribute to that meltdown in just a moment...because I don't believe in pent-up angst...but first, I want to tell you about Josephs graduation ceremony.

First off - the whole last week of school was a fun week for 5th graders. They had a basketball tournament, an autograph breakfast followed by a movie day, their actual graduation ceremonies (held at the Miramar Cultural Center), and then an all-day dance party on the last day of school. They got goodie bags with photo albums, frames, a picture CD of the year, and Blockbuster Gift Cards.

They had A LOT of fun...

Tuesday was the graduation ceremony. The brand new Miramar Cultural Center was all set up for our schools graduation...and it was beautiful. There were speeches and awards for Math First, WSLE, Reading Across Broward, Reading Counts, SOAR, and all the extracurricular activities like Orchestra, various clubs, and PAL.

Joseph was awarded 2nd place for his SOAR essay and received a medal...he was just shining from the stage as he looked proudly out into the audience at us. He also received certificates for participation in PAL, Environmental Club, and Beginning Strings.

Then, of course, he got his diploma.

When Jason and I heard about all the goings-on surrounding the 5th grade graduation, I have to admit that we were rather bemused. I mean...c'mon! It's 5TH GRADE. Big deal. It was a whole lotta ado about nothing.

But there, in the Cultural Center, looking at my boy as he smiled at me, and cheering him and seeing him stand so tall and proud...I got really choked up. I couldn't believe that my buddy...was moving on to Middle School.

(And now comes the Mommy Meltdown. Buckle up,'s gonna be bad...)

Here is my sweet, super chubby boy. This was way back in the Valley (AKA California), in our little 1880's Orchard House. He loved his baths...

...especially because "Bath Time" is where he discovered that he was a boy. Can't you hear the cute baby internal monologue?

"Hey!! What's THAT?!?! I can pull it, push it, squeeze it...but I can't quite bend over all these folds of fat to get it any closer. Man!! Whew!! Time to lay off the Pureed Bananas!!"

(He'd kill me if he knew I was posting this on the web. Shhh...let's keep it between us, okay?)

Right away, Joseph showed an aptitude for all things mechanical. And he loved to be in the great outdoors...
"C'mon, son!! Let's get crackin' on the South 40!!"

Joseph was only about 15 months old when we moved half-way across the country from the West to the MID-West...the Plains (AKA Illinois). Joseph was an energetic toddler...

I think this expression says it all...don't you? If that isn't mischief...than I don't know what mischief is...but in case you need more proof, I can submit the following picture into evidence...

Yup!! That's my boy!! (You can see he's even pulled in his little sister as an accomplice!!) Although a little wild, Joseph always had a sweet spirit, and loved his siblings...

Look at what a good big brother he is to share his Fourth of July spot with both Savannah AND Brigham!!

Oh, look!! Josephs first year of preschool!! Isn't he ADORABLE!!! The Plains were a GREAT place for a boy to grow up...there was so much adventure to be had...

There were farms of all shapes and sizes to learn about life, nature, and hard work...

There were seasons to change the look and feel of your home...from chilly and colorful Autumns to frosty and serene Winters, wet and stormy Springs to hot and humid Summers. Every season had a new adventure to be undertaken...

And through them all...Joseph was like a ball of sunshine...and not just because of his boundless energy...but also from his endless curiosity and drive to get out and explore.

See how much he's growing? Even then...I could hardly keep him in clothes. I was always SO GRATEFUL for people who had kids older than mine that would donate their "grown-out-of" attire so my kids wouldn't be naked...

Now here is Josephs FIRST Graduation...from Happy Hands Preschool. He has his diploma, ribbon, and paper plate graduation cap. Now THAT'S a graduation!!!

Here's Joseph on his first day of kindergarten, with his best bud, Javiar. What a team!! You can see things haven't changed much...Joseph still breaks out a kung fu pose when the camera comes out...

Now here's something that we don't see in the Jungle...SNOW!!! It snows A LOT in the Plains...and we had a great hill for sledding down in our own backyard...

Like any good red-blooded Americans, we made sure that our small son was subjected to Monster Truck Racing at an early age...

This is the picture I used for Josephs yearbook this show what he looked like in kindergarten compared to what he looks like now. As you can see - he's still a charmer...

Ahhh!! Here's ANOTHER Graduation...this time from kindergarten. Look at that happy face as he holds his little certificate!!

Shortly after this, our family moved from the Plains to the Desert (AKA Nevada). It was a big change for everyone...but we love an adventure!! Our house was actually big enough for our family, and we were close to grandparents and cousins again!! And Joseph kept growing...

...although some things stayed the same...

Hey!! Here's the pictures of Joseph after that accident with his scooter!! They're taken a few days (a week?) can still see lots of damage...

Although barely visible, Joseph still has scars around his eye (where the dark red wound is) from this accident!! And let this be a lesson...WEAR YOUR HELMET. The street is NOT KIND to your face...

See? He cleaned up okay!! And LOOK!! He's wearing THE SAME SHIRT he wore for his kindergarten Graduation...only now it fits!! (That polo is now in Brighams drawer...)

Joseph was really popular in school. I had been noticing for a long time that he seemed to struggle in reading and writing...his penmanship was illegible, and in second grade, he was STILL transposing letters and spelling phonetically...but his teacher assured me that he was at the top of his class in all subjects. I suspected it was because his school was 98% ESL students, and since Joseph ALREADY spoke English, OF COURSE he was doing better than the majority of his classmates. But Joseph was happy, and I didn't push it as hard as I probably should have...

Right before we moved away from the Desert, Joseph turned 8 years old, and was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints by his dad. We were so proud...

Although Joseph became a Wolf Scout in the Desert, it wasn't until we moved to the Ranch (AKA Texas) that he really got to experience Scouting. He participated in all kinds of great Scout the Rain Gutter Regatta...

...and the Pinewood Derby...

Joseph still loved adventure...

The Ranch turned out to be a really pivotal time for Joseph, because without a classroom full of kids who were learning English, he was no longer the top of his class. In fact, he was REALLY struggling. He had a strict, no-nonsense teacher...Mrs. Boyle, who had a son who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia, and together we had Joseph tested and evaluated. It was long...and hard...and extremely frustrating for us AND Joseph. She was never soft on him, but she loved him dearly...and was there through all the medication switches and side effects...the drastic mood swings, exhaustion, and appetite loss...and she was patient and supportive through the most difficult year of Josephs short life. She was truly a blessing...

We only lived at the Ranch for 9 months before packed up and moved to the Jungle...and we've been here ever since.

Joseph still struggles in school...sometimes with lack of compassion from others more than his learning differences. Joseph still loves adventure. He is still active in Scouting, and still loves things that are mechanical or technological...and he was accepted into the Science and Pre-Engineering Magnet Program at McNicol Middle School next Fall. We're very, very proud of the amazing young man he's becoming.

Yes...he's still young, and a little immature. He has a hard time following through and would rather spend all day on the Wii than crack open a book.

But he's my guy...and first-born son. We have a lot of hopes and aspirations for him...and I know he'll make us proud...

Love you, buddy...Mom

Brighams New Look

My Brigham is SUCH a rebel...and since the boys were in desperate need of new haircuts to start summer, I decided to give Brigham a haircut that fit his personality.

My only regret is that when we dyed it blue, orange, and green for the last day of school, I forgot to take a picture.

Eat your heart out, Sid Vicious...