Life's Sweet Journey: Aunt Mel
Showing posts with label Aunt Mel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aunt Mel. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

September Currently Amazon Finds of the Month

Well, hello there September!

Another new month means another Currently link up with the wonderful Anne. I really love these as a way to look back on our life moments throughout the year. Here's what has been going on around these parts recently... 

{Anticipating} Another trip to Tennessee to get in some mountain air before we reopen Crimson House! I'm also planning to see a friend in Birmingham and another in Asheville and I'm excited to see their faces!

{Collecting} Basically all of Amazon it seems! I never bought anything online pre-COVID. Now I can't seem to stop. I got some good finds this month though that I am loving (totally using that to justify it), but I think my old lady heart is most excited about my puzzle board. 
September Amazon Finds of the Month

September Amazon Finds of the Month
Deep Greens- I actually got mine at our local health food store, but found them on Amazon as well. I have been making some delicious smoothie bowls in the morning by blending this in with frozen fruit, vanilla protein and collagen. I then top with frozen blueberries, crushed walnuts and a drizzle of local honey. These actually keep me going a lot longer than my bowl of Mini Wheats was and I feel energized, healthy and regular (yes, you catch my drift). 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

August Currently Amazon Finds for Eliminating Single Use Plastics

A new month, another link up with Anne
Here's what August is looking like currently... 

{Choosing} To be more mindful about what I am putting in my body and on my skin! I have slowly started to incorporate more organic skin care products into my mostly non-existent routine. I don't do much, but have started using an organic Argon oil as an evening moisturizer and just picked up some organic mascara from our health food store. I am also trying to cut back on processed foods. I had been doing this a little bit before we went on our annual Aunt Mel and Uncle Andrew trip with the kiddos and fell WAY OFF the wagon by just consuming all the foods we were giving the kids. I felt so sluggish, my body wasn't functioning as well as it had been (if you catch my drift) and it only stirred my desire to try harder now that were back. 

{Consuming} Right now mostly fruits and veggies. Trying to have a protein shake for breakfast and a chicken wrap for lunch. We also stocked up on salad kits and I am trying to only drink on the weekends. We're two days in folks, send all the vibes! I can always convince myself that wine is just fermented fruit... haha

{Ordering} Finds for helping us lessen our usage of single use plastics! I have slowly been trying to find things that help us use less single use plastics like sandwich bags (which we use a lot of for some reason!). I have been a metal straw user for a long time, but with July being designated Plastic Free Month I tried to make an effort to start working on replacing more items to lower our single use plastic pile even more. Here are a few of the items I have gotten and loved: 
Products for Eliminating Single Use Plastic

Tomato Saver {$6.28}- I bought this for our tomatoes and am actually going to buy a second, because it's big enough to fit onions too! BPA-free and dishwasher safe!
Beeswax Wrap {$9.99}- I have actually been using bee's wrap for a while, but had left ours in the camper and forgot to grab it. Ordered some for the condo! I love all things bee and someday want to have my own hive, so this makes my heart happy. Plus, how cute is that print?! 
Metal Mermaid Straws {$3.99}- Also been using metal straws for a while now too, but loved these fun colored ones. It took my a little while to get used to, because I'm a straw chewer. I originally started with the ones with nibs, but the nibs kept sliding off because I would chew them and stretch them out. Now I'm purely metal only. Saving both my teeth and the plastic one nib at a time- haha! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Camping with Kids// Adventure Island Fun in Tampa, Florida

Camping with kids in Tampa, Florida? Make plans for a day at Adventure Island!

A few weekends ago Babe and I actually took a camping trip of a much different caliber... camping with kids! We took my nieces camping at LazyDays RV Resort and then spent a fun day at Busch Garden's Adventure Island water park in Tampa. 

RV Resort in Tampa, Florida

Lazydays RV Resort, near Tampa, is where we actually purchased Flo. They had given us two nights of free camping at their resort so we figured we would utilize it with the girls, since they have all the fun amenities like the pool and playground (and looking at RVs for sale)!! 

My youngest niece had been begging to take a trip in Flo (girl after my own heart) and so I told her we would take her and her girl cousin around her birthday. Y'all?! She was so stoked! Told everyone she could that she was doing that for her birthday, so the weekend before she turned 6 we loaded them up (with an early school release and all) and set out for big adventures!! 

While I would have been fine to spend the weekend at a state park, enjoying hiking trails and nature at it's finest, it was actually really nice to be at Lazydays. With the site voucher it worked out well!! We got there midday Friday and spent the first hour or so exploring the RVs for sale over at the dealership (it's connected to the campground). Though this part had originally been for me, the girls LOVED it; going in and out of the RVs they wanted to see, hopping on and off the bunk beds! We then headed off to take a dip in the pool, which was really nice. It's screened in and heated, so the lingering April chill was nothing! Plus they had a hot tub for this tired Aunt Mel, not to mention an attached bar. I love the peace and quiet of a state park, but I could get use to hot tubs and margaritas!! Considering camping with kids is far louder than camping without them, it was definitely a nice treat!! 

Things to Do in Tampa

Babe had decided we should do something a little extra special since it was also a birthday treat, so we looked up things to do in Tampa with kids and decided on Adventure Island (Busch Gardens water park). I will admit that I was a little hesitant. Being Orlando born and bred, anytime I go to a non-Disney water park I am usually sorely disappointed. This time was a far different story... 

This BBQ food truck was a great lunch option!! 

Adventure Island Water Park

Adventure Island is AWESOME!! Seriously, I actually think I preferred it to any of the Disney water parks (and for this #DisneyFreak that's saying A LOT)! It was clean, well kept up and super great for kids and adults alike. We got there when the park opened and got a spot right away. It was really nice not having to fight over chairs! 

While the park did fill up around noon, we basically got on-and-off each slide for the first 2-3 hours. It was so much less crowded than the Disney parks (even once it seemed full) and it also didn't seem like such a trek just to get to the top of the slide. My favorite area (which is where had put our stuff originally) is right where you first walk in. There are 5 different slides, coming out of a waterfall structure, that all spill out into the same pool. The girls were able to go by themselves, if Babe and I wanted to take a minute to relax on the lounge chairs. The waterfall feature was really cool too! You can enter the slides through where the waterfall runs into the pool, making it feel like you are climbing a real waterfall. 

There were tons of other slides in the park- some newer and some my husband remembered from when he was a kid (his dad lives in the Tampa area)- so it was fun to get a mix of the original and more updated fun! I LOVED the toboggan ride they had! It was scary and full of fun for this adrenaline-loving heart of mine! I did it a handful of times, as I could not figure out how to skid all the way to the end without falling off. The last time (after coaching from Babe, "Lean forward all the way down, then lean back once you hit the water") I finally managed to stay on until I hit the end of the water. Mission accomplished!! 

Great Water Park for Young Kids

One other super great perk of Adventure Island was that there were not many slides that both girls couldn't do; praise the Good Lord!! Makaylin (the youngest and birthday girl) was not too happy when she couldn't ride things her cousin could, but there were only about 2 slides she couldn't do. Some of the more intense slides simply required that the smaller kids either be with an adult or wear a life vest. If you have a kid (or ever take a kid) who loves to "do it all" you know what a relief this is!! She was able to do most of the things we all could do and we didn't have to worry as much about having her upset that she couldn't ride something. 

Adventure Island couldn't have been a better pick for our full day of fun on Saturday!! We shut the park down and headed back to the campground, where we actually spent even more time in our suits by taking another dip in the pool. 

While we made dinner the girls played Go-Fish and traipsed around the grounds. We then passed out in bed with tired bodies and happy hearts! Which was better than the first night, as we did have a little "snaffu" over the sleeping arrangements and one girl taking up too much room on the jack-knife-couch-turned-bed, so that we somehow all ended up in our not-completely-Queen-sized-bed during the first night. Given though how things can go when doing anything with kids I will say we came away pretty unscathed! 

I won't say which child took up all the room haha... she gets it naturally though y'all, it took me three years of marriage to stop sleeping sideways! Now just imagine that, for at least an hour, there was also an Uncle Andrew in here. He didn't last long obviously!

Sunday morning we woke up and made a pancake breakfast and then the anxiously awaited moment arrived... the girls getting to help dump the tank! You guys?! The amount of wonderment built up inside those two little girls about the idea of all their poo sitting under Flo, and the fact they were going to get to watch it get flushed out, was something that I can't really even describe. The first night, they literally had their heads inside the toilet trying to see if they could figure out where it went and we took a flashlight-lit field trip outside to explore the undercarriage of the trailer so that they could see the tank all of "it" was sitting in. Thankfully each spot had it's own septic spot, so that we weren't holding up a line of rigs waiting to dump while the girls "oohed and ahhhed" over the whole mess- literally! (Side note: the sites were really nice. They were paved, which kept Flo cleaner given the amount of feet trekking through her, and came with a picnic table) We then, sadly, loaded up and headed home. 

It made my soul so excited to see them loving the outdoors and getting so pumped about all things RV life!! When they said, "we love Flo! We want to live in Flo!" I simply replied "me too girls, me too!!" 

How about you? 
Ever been camping with kids? Any fun stories to share?

Edited memory: I love Friday in all it's end of week glory!! Babe and I were originally heading off to the Florida panhandle today for a weekend of camping a little further away than usual, since I don't have to work this Sunday, but y'all plans changed, because big things are happening. My best friend is moving away!! Far, far away!! To another state, away from me and this is her last weekend here! So I will be spending every last drop of time I can with her. Plus it should be noted that she is making my Disney dreams come true and we will be having a girls night at the Swan and Dolphin and sending her away in style. I am all kinds of excited for her and, given that I plan to visit her very soon after she moves, AND given that if I have anything to say about it we will be on the road, as full-time RVers, sooner rather than later, I am trying not to be so forlorn about her leaving. But given that the only time we have really ever spent apart was during our 4 (ok, 5) years of college this is going to take some adjusting, so to distract my little heart I figured it was time to share our most recent camping trip! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

More Than a Backpack

Our church is hosting a backpack drive. It is something we do every year. Last year my husband packed a backpack for a middle/high school student. This year I was really excited to get my niece involved. So Saturday morning, while on our yearly trip to Big Canoe, Ga. we packed up and after making a quick stop for some produce at the local farmers market, we pulled into the Dollar General.

I let Makaylin know that this was a special day, that we weren't shopping for her, but for another child. She was curious and so we talked about why. We talked about how when kids start kindergarten, like she will in a year, the school asks for them to have a backpack and all kinds of school supplies. We discussed how school supplies cost money and how sometimes there are kids whose families have a hard time affording those supplies. I may be biased, but she's a pretty bright little 4 year old and this seemed to make sense to her.

We rolled into the store and I will be honest, I was nervous. Dollar General is a kids dream! There was so much for her to see, so much for her to say, "I want that." But we headed straight for the school supplies and got cracking. The first thing she saw was a Frozen backpack and next thing I know she was fast at work. Her own little personal mission to make another little girls day a happy one. It was so neat to see her smile and see her little brain work through what she wanted to get. Everything she picked she picked with love.

"Oh she will love this Aunt Mel!!" 
"Oh this is the best! Here let me put it in the cart." 
"The flower folders are so beautiful (giving them a hug). She will think they're perfect (putting them in the cart)." 

If Uncle Andrew accidentally slipped something in the cart, he would get a "remember Uncle Andrew give it to me first." This was big business she was attending to and she had to make sure every item passed her little hand inspection. 

It was a wonderful experience! 

One I am so glad we got to do together. But, it was what came after that made this story not only so much more than a backpack for the general experience, but also so much more than a backpack for our car ride back to the cabin. You see, as we were checking out, Makaylin was telling the lady that the backpack wasn't for her but another little girl. The lady, being sweet and trying to encourage her, said, "your mommy and daddy must be so proud of you." We get this often, people thinking that she (or my other niece and nephew or the kids I nanny for) is our child. It just happens. Most of the time she just says, "that's my Aunt Mel." But this was different. On this day she chose to say, "My daddy is in heaven." 

Now this was probably because we had already been talking about him on the way to the farmers market. She heard his name in a song Babe and I were discussing and said, "don't talk about my daddy." I let her know it was someone else named John, but that she could talk about her daddy whenever she wanted to. And from there the questions came... "Why does he have to stay in heaven? Does God love daddy more than me and that's why he had to go to heaven? When can I go to heaven? I want my daddy to come down." 

It's those questions that wrench at the heart, but it's also those questions and more importantly the answers to them that set us all free... "He stays there because God made heaven so wonderful that we want to stay with Him, but daddy's always watching over you. No, baby, God's heart is so big he loves everyone equally, no matter what we do, God's love is big enough to love all His people. It's not time for you to go to Heaven now, God wants you here with us, we live life here on Earth for a while to learn to love well and to teach other people about Jesus. And I want to see your daddy too sweet girl, but someday we will get to see him again and all be together in Heaven forever, that's how Heaven works we get to live with God and Jesus in a real, never die, forever." 

She had changed the subject after that. Quickly switching from the deep questions of life to thoughts on pool swimming and rock sliding as only kids can. 

So it was there on the surface when that sweet lady mentioned her daddy. You could see the look on the woman's face, but we assured her that yes, we are a very proud aunt and uncle, that Makaylin's parents were proud of her, thanked her and walked out. And then it opened sweet conversation about what her attitude that day revealed. We told Makaylin that we were so proud of her. We asked her who else would be proud of how happy she was to be giving to someone else. She replied, "My mommy." And we asked who else, "My daddy!" To which we replied, "Yes, baby, even in Heaven your daddy can still be so proud of you." And we asked who else, "God!!" "Yes, big girl, God is so proud of you. Did you know that what you did today helped you have a heart like Jesus. You gave to someone else without thinking of yourself. You loved and cared for someone who needed help and that's how Jesus loves us. And God is very proud of you!" 

God is proud of her and I am proud of her.
I am thankful for her sweet heart. 
I am thankful for the chance to have heart talks about her daddy. 
I hope it helped her heart, but I know it helped mine. 
I am thankful for backpacks for a sweet little girl somewhere in Orlando. 
And I am thankful that a Frozen backpack has the ability to be so much more than a backpack. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Disney Lesson: #2 The Broken Ice Cream Promise

The evening started out with a little hesitancy. When I picked my niece up from school her teachers told me she hadn't napped.

"Oh, no!" thought #1! 
It had also been water play day... water play + no nap = "Oh, no" thought #2. 

The last time I had planned to take her to Disney and she hadn't napped, her response when I asked her if she still wanted to go had been, "Not today. Let's go home and eat yogurt." Then she had been asleep by 8 (which can be early for her). So needless to say, I was a little nervous about how this Disney evening was going to go! But she said she wanted to go, so I booked us some FastPasses and away we went.

Oh how God most have known that I needed a wonderfully, magical Disney evening!! The night was perfect! We flew through our FastPasses, the lines were short, we booked more FastPasses and then by miracle of miracles May was tall enough to ride the Goofy coaster! And she loved it!! We went 4 times!!
Note the before pictures skepticism and the after pictures enthusiasm!!

Uncle Andrew finally completely defeated Zurg!! We watched fireworks while riding on Dumbo and we shut the park down!! What I had assumed would be a quick, cranky trip had turned into all night fun without a single whine or complaint! We were all smiles, all the time! And we had no stroller!! People, it was perfection! Well, almost...

You see, because we were all so happy and she was so good I told her she could have an ice cream. We planned to get it on the way out of the park and enjoy it on the way back to the car. Well, the final parade was making its way down Main Street USA and that held us up. While fighting the parade crowd and squeezing through tiny spaces Makaylin had put her head down on Babe's shoulder and was somewhat drifting off. They had gotten ahead of me and when I finally caught up they were at the popcorn stand, where there was no ice cream like he has assumed there may be. So he says to me "she will be ok, I doubt she will even remember" (the ice cream had been promised much earlier, while we were eating dinner) and I thought to myself - this probably isn't wise, but maybe he's right- and so I said "alright". And just like I am sure you are all thinking, as soon as we stepped one foot out of the park she asks "Aunt Mel, what about my ice cream?" And my stomach just sank!

We walked to the ferry and I told her that I was so sorry, that we left the park but that maybe there would be some on the other side. I could have sworn there was an ice cream cart over there before (Dear Mr. Disney, I promise if you put one there it will be utilized). The whole boat ride back she only asked once for the ice cream, but the look on her face just broke my heart. It would have been perfect; just a little Mickey Ears ice cream bar in hand for her ferry ride back! She had been so amazing and the night had been just what I needed in the midst of a pretty rough week. And I felt like I failed her.
We got back to the transportation station and we go in the little corner shop where I am praying- praying- that they have ice cream. They don't. So I am starting to let her pick out a candy treat, when the guy behind the counter says "wait! I think there is an ice cream vending machine around by the bathrooms. It's not Disney brand, but it's ice cream!" We shout"thanks" as we head out the door. And there it is in all it's ice cream glory... except it's the one vending machine that doesn't take credit cards and what do you know, we only have $2 in cash and the ice cream is $2.75. And so after getting her hopes up again, I have to tell her we still don't get ice cream. She asks why, and that is where our lesson began.

So I tell her what happened, that Uncle Andrew thought she was going to fall asleep and so he left the park without it and that we made a mistake. We talked about how good she had been and how sorry we were she couldn't have her ice cream, but how proud we were of her for being such a big girl. And she looks up at me with her sleepy little eyes and says "he made a mistake?"
"Yes, baby he did. Everybody makes mistakes, even Uncle Andrew." Note: I am somewhat letting him take the fall.
"Ok, well dat's ok. I'm sorry he made a mistake, but it's ok. We can have my ice cream another time."
God love her! God love that night! God love Disney! 

We went back to the shop and walked out with an Ariel Pez. We loaded the tram, ran to the car as we always do (me trying to catch the two of them, always unsuccessfully) and she was asleep within 2 minutes. And while we did learn a little bit about mistakes and that it's ok to make them, I think the biggest Disney lesson from this trip was...

Lesson #2: If you promise the kid ice cream, follow through! Especially because, when they take it so well and don't throw a fit, it hurts your heart that much more!!
*********************************Inside Disney Tip!!*********************************
Dumbo is our new favorite spot to watch the fireworks inside the park! If we stay for the fireworks at all, we will usually try to head over via monorail to the Grand Floridian and watch from a chair on the beach. We don't like the crowds and prefer to watch in a more secluded spot. Dumbo and the circus area were perfect for that!! They felt like they were right over head and the area had very little people in it. There was absolutely no wait for Dumbo. She loved it there and we loved it there! I would highly recommend this spot for anyone looking to enjoy the fireworks without all the fuss!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wedding Weekend Peekin'

My brother got married this past weekend! It was a beautiful (early) sunrise wedding. It was simple and elegant and sweet. It was also Father's Day. A day to celebrate the fabulous fathers and father figures in our lives and to remember those who couldn't be with us. It made for a wonderful weekend. Here's just a little peek at the festivities. 
1.)  My baby brother is a married man! This is crazy to me. He was just this scrawny little kids the other day, right?!
 2.)  Oh my family! Bless them; myself included! But mostly, bless the sweet, docile girl kissing my brother. She may have some idea what she is has gotten herself into, but probably not all that is in-store. Welcome to the crazy clan Katie!!
  3.)  Oh, this picture and how we tried to get one with all smiling children! I guess this is more fitting anyways. It may be note worthy to know that we never got the smiling picture, but just one “make a crazy face” picture and we were set! It’s just how we roll.
4.)  My daddy! God love him! I couldn’t be more honored to be this man’s daughter. He inspires me, believes in me and taught me how to be loved. I am quite fond oh him! I am proud of his strength, his vulnerability and his drive. 
5.)  Beach weddings- I think they are great! Especially with children involved. The day went so smoothly. And while we are not typically an early morning family, we were all up and there and not in our pjs (I must say I was a tad worried) in time for a sunrise wedding.
I mean, really?! It doesn't get much better for a flower girl when you can attend the rehearsal wrapped up in a beach towel and get to draw on the windows with water and a mulch paintbrush during the reception! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hot Mess Mamacita

I was at the beach with my family a while back and took the picture below. I had planned to post it earlier but then began the challenge to blog everyday in May and this post just didn't make its way into the mix. So I shall share it with you now, partly because it was already written and I have to be at work by 7:30 and partly because I haven't seen my niece in a couple weeks and am missing her. 

This is my beautiful niece; I call her Lele or, on occasion, mamacita.  This picture was taken at the beach, hair all askew, eyes as red as if she were related to a Cullen, and in great need of a nap.  I absolutely love this picture! One, because I love this little girl with my whole heart but mainly because it represents how truly related we are.

Heaven help us, this child is the exact replica of her mama and me... please pardon me while I take a moment in prayer.

Please keep her safe from herself! She is so much like the other women in our family and we were all blessed by Your good hand with just a little bit of 'cray' and impulsiveness.  We have the uncanny knack of always finding that "fine line" and riding it just as long as we can; please keep her toes on this side of it.  Protect her from men with the perfect combination of gorgeous eyes and smooth words.  You know what a disastrous recipe that can be.  Make her strong enough to not be a welcome mat that gets walked all over but hospitable enough to always keep the door unlocked for a friend on a rainy night.  And when I say unlocked, what I really mean is bolted tightly until she has looked through the peephole once said friend has knocked, because while I hope she is trusting I already know she's not stupid.  Thank you for putting a good size brain in her head.  Keep a hand firmly on her shoulder and a guard over her heart.
- Amen

Now that I have a good bit more help on her side I feel a little more at peace.  Man, if she doesn't have it cut out for her though.  I think it is seems like she got all the impulsivity and stubbornness in my soul and the impulsivity and stubbornness in my sisters and they combined to create a firework of independence! She's like the Fourth of July that child - feisty as all get out - but she is also sweet and kind and caring.  She can turn up the charm like a leprechaun on St. Patty's Day and has her Unca' Andrew wrapped around her little finger (ie: "Aunt Mel can I have a lollipop" "No, sorry you may not." Two minutes later... "Aunt Mel?!" And she's peeking around the corner of my bathroom with a sucker in her mouth. I hear Babe shout from the kitchen.  "Lee? I said don't show Aunt Mel". See what I mean?! That so would have been me at her age.) Bless any sweet daughters I may have and help me to keep them from being spoiled to death (Lord, can I please just have one.  I will take all the boys You are willing to give, but just one daughter please?! I am not sure it I can handle any more than that). Thanks!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Moments and Memories

Since today's post from Jenni's challenge is supposed to be a moment in our day and since I am actually writing this in the past and not today because today is the future and I am off in some foreign land that Babe has whisked me off to as a surprise I am going to share a moment with you from a completely different day altogether.  Ok, did any of that make sense to you?! I don't know if it did to me.  Basically, since I am gone to some unknown destination this post was prewritten and scheduled.  I am hoping (as my past self writes this) that wherever I am as you read this I am embracing whatever unexpected place I may find myself.

Enjoy these pictures from a recent moment in one of our days... dinner with the May May (one of our nieces).

I realize I am not actually in any of these.  My moments in time typically take place behind the camera (or in this instance the iPhone). She melts my heart though and I have to capture that!