I just spent an hour choosing pictures to put in this post. There are enough pictures for at least five posts, but I've crammed them all into one for your viewing pleasure!
I think that it's fairly common for most people, and it is definitely the case for me, to take a vacation and feel rushed, restless, and irritated that things are not going exactly the way I have daydreamed for three months prior. For me, this has especially been the case since having children. Children don't care that you want to relax on the beach reading a book. They want to dig in the sand (and they need help doing it) and they want to rush into the large waves that could wash their tiny bodies away. They want to climb stairs that they can't handle on their own - over and over and over...They want a snack just as you sit down at your computer. They want you to play superheroes with them. They want you to braid their hair. They are incredibly selfish little people. As am I, as evidenced by my previous words in this paragraph.
The truth is, I'm happy to do these things with my kids. Most of the time I enjoy doing them. I know that these small events that shape our days are the foundations of memories that they will always carry with them (as will I). I wonder what smells, sounds, and tastes will always bring them back to the beach vacation, or the visit to Papa's and Grandma's house. I realize that some of these sensual things will happen on their own, regardless of the hours I spend planning a cookout, or the number of fancy pool toys I buy. Still, I spend countless, collective hours on Pinterest looking for ideas on how to create these memories for them. While I'm doing that, they are entertaining each other, and asking for snacks and help using the potty. These are irritating little interruptions in my very important research. Obviously, I am a flawed mother. Counting my blessings always seems to come in the aftermath. It's when I'm looking back at vacation photographs, that I remember that we really did have a good time, and the nostalgia brings me back to the internet to research and plan our next vacation (can I be unaccountable and blame the computer for my problems?).
Lucky for me, I am writing this with two weeks of vacation left. I look at the pictures that will follow my rambling words, and I remember what is most important. It is what makes living in California so hard. It is why I need to remind myself how lucky I am that we can come back to Kentucky every summer and Christmas (and this year, Halloween!). It is not about how I decorate my house, the meals that we cook, the manicured back yard, the clothes that we wear, or the music that pours from my Pandora app. It's about the people.
It's about family - my dad starting a fire to roast marshmallows, my mom putting puzzles together with the kids, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law playing with the kids in the pool, my brother making a rare visit while we are in town, my mother-in-law sword fighting with the kids, my father-in-law taking advantage of a sleeping Abby to snuggle on the couch, my sister and her boyfriend playing duck-duck-goose again and again, my aunt and mother chatting it up in a corner, my uncle, cousin and her fiance watching a movie together in the theater room, my husband throwing Nolan in the deep end of the pool until he finally says that he has had enough.
It's about friends - getting out together without the kids and making fun of a young Bill Murray wannabe wearing a fedora hat, the painful sound of children happily screaming as loud as they can as they chase each other through the house, opening a bottle of wine together and eating cheese and grapes for dinner, watching the kids take turns jumping off of the diving board and the side of the pool, having a sleepover and a movie night, complete with movie-candy and popcorn, Robert having a movie day (meaning four movies in the theater in one day!) with one of his best friends, giving me the opportunity to get some quality talk time with one of my best friends, his wife.
The effect that the people in our lives have is enormous. It really is what life is all about. I know that this isn't a groundbreaking revelation. No one will read this and think, 'she's right! I need to appreciate the people in my life more!'. I haven't spent the last 32 years, so naive as to have thought this today for the first time. However, I do find that it's easy to forget. It's easy to get caught up in the glitter and the messes. It's easy to get upset that things aren't happening the way that I have envisioned them, and to forget that the human interaction is what matters most.
My goal for the rest of the summer is to try to remember this. I want to absorb each and every sunny, chlorine-filled moment and to help my children do the same.
Nolan with one of his teachers, Mrs. Cerreta on his last day of kindergarten.
Nolan with his other teacher, Mrs. Spencer.
Nolan running to home base in his last T-Ball game.
Nolan's team waiting for their T-Ball trophies.
Nolan standing with his coach, holding his trophy. He was very proud of his trophy, and has described it to many people in Ky (telling them that it was too fragile to bring from Ca - he did ask to bring it before we left) as gold, but not real gold.
This kid needs a hair cut!
His last day of school was on Friday. His last T-Ball game was on Saturday. On Sunday we were on our way to Florida.
We have done A LOT of swimming this summer!
Passing a ball in the pool with Uncle Daniel, Grandma, and Carly.
Robert watching his dad grill food.
Nolan had a new sketch book in Florida with markers that he borrowed from his aunt Carly. He was so excited about them that he got up one morning and began drawing instead of waking us up. That had never happened before, and hasn't happened since, but that morning it was very nice to stay in bed a little longer.
Nolan jumping in while Robert's cousin Brenda watches.
The kids with their great-grandmother, Nanny.
Looking for ants with Brenda and Carly. They put a piece of fruit on the ground to attract the ants.
Abby was so exhausted after a day of swimming that she fell to sleep on the carpet.
Robert moved her to her Papa's lap so that he could enjoy some snuggle time.
Abby as Carrie Bradshaw. My little fashionista.
Riding on the skateboard with Carly and a heart balloon. It was really, really hot.
Nolan playing video games with his uncle Daniel.
Another dress-up outfit that Carly put her in. Abby had a ton of fun playing dress up.
Sword fighting with Grandma.
Back in Ky. Who is that woman? Has she ever been in any of the pictures on this blog? Oh, right. She's usually the one taking the pics.
Bebe swimming in her life jacket.
Mom and dad hanging out on pool noodles.
Look at that face!
Stasia and Rodney.
Aaron came for a visit!
Dad splashing Bebe. She loves to be splashed and tries to catch the water with her mouth.
Hanging out on the alligator. That alligator didn't last very long.
Posing with Bebe.
Getting ready to enjoy a July 4th cupcake.
Our enormous dessert spread on July 4th.
Bebe loves America so much she dressed up for it.
Stasia and Abby.
Robert, John David, and Hannah on July 4th.
Laura and Nolan having more cupcakes.
Julia enjoying an ice cream cone.
Stasia and Rodney
Mom and Joan posing for the camera.
Dad building a fire to roast marshmallows.
The kids waiting patiently with their marshmallows.
Stasia and Abraham preparing the s'mores and helping to keep the kids away from the dangerous flames.
Nathalie watching to make sure that no single-digits got too close to the fire.
There are so many pictures of one or both of my kids zonked out on the floor or the couch. That must mean that they are having a great summer.
Kisses from Bebe.
Abby grew tired of blowing bubbles and decided it would be more fun to spread the bubble solution all over the picnic table.
Riding her trike in style.
We've had many fun swimming days with Joel and Delaney. The snack table next to the pool is always very popular! Look at how brown the grass was! Luckily we've had some rain and the grass is turning green again.
The girls wanted to watch a movie while Lorrie and I made dinner, but Abby didn't last long.
The boys decided to draw instead of watching the movie.
Nolan ready to go swimming in our room at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
This was the beautiful view from our room.
Ready for bed!
Standing in front of the 'Dragon Tree', which stands in front of the the Hotel Del. According to the plaque next to the tree, it was in the Marilyn Monroe movie 'Some Like It Hot'. The movie was shot at the hotel.
I love this hotel! It's very old, and very nice. We will stay there again.
Robert looking at toys with Nolan at Comic-Con.
Nolan standing in front of a Batmobile.
Eating lunch after Comic-Con.
Getting ready to swim at the Hotel Del.
Nolan got a big kick out of ordering room service.
Nolan with massive holes in his jeans. Later, many, many more holes were put in the jeans, but he wouldn't let me take any pictures of him wearing them.
Nolan playing on the boat in the pool with Delaney and Joel.
Nolan jumping into the water.
Abby relaxing on her swim vest and arm floaties. She floats by herself all over the pool.
Abby, Nolan, Joel, and Delaney posing for the camera in their pajamas before heading to the basement to watch 'Zookeeper'.
What do you do when mom says, 'no one is coming over today and we aren't going anywhere' (reaction from the kids, with looks of horror on their faces, 'ARE YOU SERIOUS?!')? You dig out your winter overalls, coats, hats, and gloves and play in the house. Nolan asked if they could play outside in them - it was almost 100 degrees outside.
Nolan in a toboggan, winter overalls, and my gloves, hammering away.
My three kids lounging on the couch.