I’m sitting on my front porch once again. There is a gentle breeze blowing the hanging ferns, a few cars going past our street, but I mostly hear singing birds and happy children at the park across the street. Days with such beauty as this make me feel as though I could live outside! And indeed, we do spend most of our waking hours out of doors.
The girls have been making mudpies out of the bare patches of sandy yard, and Zoe and I have been playing frisbee [which makes us laugh until we bend over because neither of us are any good]. We’ve been reading books on my fire-red bench. I’ve been editing pictures on the computer while watching the girls play in the yard, and blowing out imaginary candles on the mudpie-birthday cakes they make them for me, while they sing “Happy Biiiiiiiiiiiiirthday, dear yoooooooouuuuuuu….”
We are trying to soak in this weather while we can, because probably around the time you northerners get a chance at beautiful spring weather, we’ll be sweating bullets outside and trying to stay in the a/c as much as possible. Our enjoyable outdoor weather is normally about a month in the spring and a month in the fall, so when it’s that time of year, we try not to lose a minute!
Husband is talking of pitching a tent in the backyard this weekend. The fun of camping without the work of camping. You know, make the kids’ entire year without the inconvenience of walking 1/2 mile to the restroom in the middle of the night, or of dragging all the household bedding 50 miles away, or even of getting all the food stuff packed and ready and wonder if I have everything I need. Pancakes made inside, and eaten on the porch? Yes, please. The fun of camping without the exhausting work of camping? Yes, please!
I keep thinking though, of how extremely blessed I am. I can’t stop thinking of the tragedies in Japan, of the seven children who died in a house fire in Pennsylvania [even if I didn’t know them], and of just so many awful things that are happening in the world. I’m not paralyzed by fear for myself; I’m overcome with, “Why me, God? Why am I so blessed when so many people of the world suffer so incredibly much?” It’s almost overwhelming to think of… I want to always be grateful for the many things God has given me, and not take them for granted ~ and yet that’s a prayer I must pray every day, because it’s so easy for me to forget!
I painted a little saying on my front porch recently: “La Dulce Vita” – which means, “The Sweet Life.” I don’t have it there because I think my life is perfect, because it’s not. I don’t have it there because I want people to think I have to together, because I don’t and don’t ever want to even give that impression. I have it there for ME ~ so I can look at it, even in my worst days, and remember how blessed I am. That my life is sweet. Remember all that God has done for me.
And speaking of blessings….
I’ve been wanting to post some pictures of the week with the females in my family. Yes, I do have a father and two brothers ;) but this was “just for girls!!” as Zoe emphatically told her Uncle James. Trying to sort through the 400+ pictures and choose just a couple [because I know my tendency to post WAY more pictures than necessary] was quite a task. I can’t say I chose just a couple in the literal sense of the word, but when you compare 20 pictures to 400 pictures, I’d say that’s “a couple.” :)
This was a very special time together for all of us. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t speak for everyone. Maybe someone felt differently about it. :) I’ll just speak for myself… With me living 12 hours away from my family and trips home only coming about twice a year, and with my sister Jana moving 12 hours away in a completely other direction and knowing seeing her will be more infrequent than it even has been, well, I really treasured this time. Let me say one thing: if someone has all your family around you, treasure it!! You are a rare percentage, and few people have that privilege! :)
These are my three lovely sisters, whom I simply adore. We look all poised and posed…
… but this is what we usually look like! We laugh so often, so much, and so hard when we’re together!
Also included in this vacation was my mother, and grandmother. I also live 12 hours away from my only living grandmother, so this was so very special to stay at her winter home and spend time with. And so special too that my daughters could spend time with her and learn to know Grandma Susan more personally than just the one-hour coffee-in-her-kitchen when I go back home. (home is both north [where I was born and raised] and south [where I moved after I got married], just in case anyone is confused yet! :)
My Aunt Grace and cousin Catherine, who live in yet another state, overlapped with us in Florida by a day and a half ~ if anyone knows Grace, you know she is the epitomy of her name! Just a sweetheart!
My little daughters enjoyed the rides given by Catherine in the big basket of a three-wheeled bike! :)
Sooo, what does a family of four daughters, a mother, a grandmother, and two granddaughters do for almsot an entire week together? Well, for starters, we talk late into the night… every night. And at the end of the week there are still things to talk about together and things we didn’t cover.
We spend time at the Ocean. After all, we were in a coastal city. How could we not visit the ocean? :)
But since I’m not overly fond of exhibiting ourselves in beach attire, and because we like original pictures, we took a few pictures at the ocean that are suitable for viewing. :)
In order of age, except the last two are switched: myself, Jana, Ervina [last], and Claudia [second to last]
Being in the presence of such beauty for a week was incredibly inspiring. And I don’t just mean physical beauty, even though I think my sisters are as lovely as anyone could ever be. :) But these girls are just so full of Jesus, and being around them challenges me in the very depths of my soul. There was a time when I felt like the oldest, you know, the one who was more in a leader-type of situation simply because of my age in the family. But now, I look up to them! They are the ones who challenge me, and press me on to Christ…
Zoe and Olivia loved the sand, the ocean, and the whole beach experience! I, for one, so enjoyed having children at the ocean who were past the sand-eating stage. Zoe literally ran for miles every day, and fell into bed completely exhausted at bedtime!
Apparently we hadn’t been at the beach for quite a while, because on the way Zoe asked me if she could make a snowman there. “Sure, a sandman!” my sister Jana quipped. :) Zoe had some sort of mix-up between what you can do with sand and with snow, even though she wasn’t in snow this winter either.
But who remembered that sand castles could be so much fun?! Normally the sand creations are left to the males in the family, but since there was none around, the lot fell to me. And it really was fun. Who would have thought? Especially when Catherine found a starfish to use as our front door decoration.
Aunt Claudia is SO fun, my girls think… And I know!
What else do a large number of female family members do together?
We have Breakfast at Millie’s, the absolute darlingest, quaintest, most wonderful-tasting breakfast place of anywhere I’ve been. Whenever I visit Sarasota, we make sure to have at least one breakfast there!
Their apricot-stuffed French Toast is a melt-in-your-mouth, take-me-to-heaven-now experience.
However, entertaining young children who have somehow not yet acquired a taste for the finer things in life was a bit of a challenge. Thanks to our dearest friend, Dawn Falb Stoltzfus [who we happened upon in Florida and all were surprised out of our wits], who joined us on this very lovely day, she provided Thomas trains. Actually, my girls played with her son’s trains and he played with my daughters animals. The swap turned out nicely.
Outside of Millie’s. All these people came from Grandma Susan… and this is just the females of ONE family. :) It’s a bit startling to realize how many people could come to be because of me!
And another four-generation picture. These pictures are so special! I know the backdrop has much to be desired, but how very precious is this for my daughters to spend time with their great-grandmother, who is in wonderful health and takes the time to play with them? So precious!
We also went to Panera Bread, and Starbucks. Because when one lives faaaaaaaar away from those places, one can’t resist visiting, at least briefly, can they now? :)
But the most delicious meals were made at Grandma Susan’s house. Breakfast almost every morning was this delicious bowl of yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit, with secret ingredients on top. :) My friend Bethany introduced this to me a year ago and it has become a staple almost year round for me!
And besides more talking, and reading at least 3 books each (at least for those without the two energetic children ~ she didn’t get through more than 2 pages), there was time made for a photoshoot. Well, actually, there was time made for two photoshoots, but well, we reached the location the first night when it was tragically too dark, but we won’t talk about that, because the amateur-photographer-wanna-be’s among us were quite devestated. :)
But we will talk about the one where all was well! And the lightings in the marina was enchanting. And the little boats pulled up on the shore very photo-op-ish.
Oh yes, and need I mention the wind was quite, um, quite very much especially windy? But oh well! :)
^^ I absolutely adore her little vintage dress I picked up at a yard sale. And it was even before yellow was cool. :)
Olivia Caroline, but she mostly goes by “Lovies.” So much so that when Zoe tries to call her by her given name, it usually comes out “O-love-ia”. :)
This picture is worth incredibly much to me. Zoe and her great-grandmother… just brings me to tears!
And some pictures of the sisters ~ there are four of us. And it is perfect. I want four girls too, just so my daughters can experience how wonderful it is! I truly cannot even imagine life without sisters, and I know I’m blessed beyond words to have three of them!
Warning: look out for yelling man telling girls to get off boat.
Thus, new location. New boat. :)
And thus the Happy Time of the Sisterhood was concluded. Quite sadly, because now there is no more trip to look forward to. Sometimes it’s almost sad to actually begin a trip that I look forward to for so long, because then I know it will soon end! But now I can relive the memories, and remember how blessed I am…